So on the drive home from a networking event today, I was thinking about the ways you could kill your business. Here are my ideas:
- You Place Too Much Investment in One Person. If your business is critically dependent upon one person then there's darkness on the horizon. Spread the knowledge around. Don't make one person the linchpin that you can't live without. Not only is it a bad bargaining position but it could hamper business continuity should that employee go on vacation or get hit by a truck. Don't deliberately make your business dependent on anyone, especially you.
- You Fail to Automate/Outsource Routine Business Processes. Why is your company still processing anything by hand? Take the low-hanging fruit and get rid of it: payroll, invoices, payables, and receivables - classic business processes - can be entirely automated. Think about cost-shifting to providers who can manage these processes for you at a stronger economy of scale. BBSI out of Vancouver, WA is a great example of a payroll processor for small businesses. The faster you get the invoice out the door, the faster you get paid, the more likely you can take advantage of early payment discounts, and why not take advantage of electronic funds transfer instead of depositing checks? Companies who're not doing this will comparatively spend more in labor, make more mistakes, have a longer cash-flow cycle, and be more difficult to work with.
- You Ignore Self-Service. Transfer labor away from you and push it to your customers. Really, they don't mind. They expect it. Empower your customers with web-based tools. Heck, empower your employees with similar web-based capabilities. In what ways can your business put nearly everything a customer (or even an employee) needs to do business with you online? Or even mobile, like a smartphone app?
- You Ignore Search and Social Media. It's time to start thinking about SEO/SEM/SM strategies. If you don't know what these concepts are and what they mean to you in terms of being found by consumers, and retaining customers, start asking questions now: you're behind the curve. A great local guy that can help is Matt from Fringe Media Web Design in Vancouver, WA. Your customers are most likely to find your company through search engines and by asking friends on social networking sites. If you're not planning for this, your competitors are, making them easier to find and interact with than your company.
- You Assume the Best. Right. You should be planning for the worse. I've written about the state of the economy numerous times. You may already know that, in August 2010, the nation added approximately 26,000 private sector jobs; and you may also know that the country needs to add ten-times that (250,000) new private sector jobs consistently every month for three years to just re-employ the 8 million unemployed... bringing us back to where we were in 2007... and that's not even counting all of the newly unemployed added to the ranks since that time. This is all very unlikely to happen. Thus, it's time to face the music: barring some economic miracle, if you're not already learning how to do more with less consistently (indefinitely), you're at a competitive disadvantage to those who are. Your competitor is learning how to be more productive and efficient, and how to be more profitable. If you're optimistic and waiting for the tides to change, and just waiting, you may be waiting too long on the shore as the ship sails away. It's time to go on the offensive and to consider how to drastically reduce expenses while extending the highest value to your customers, and, achieving the highest efficiency.