The 4 Corners You Must Never Cut For Success In Your SME
What’s your business strategy? It’s a question many nascent or would be entrepreneurs ask themselves. Any enterprise worth pursuing needs a direction to head in. Any journey worth taking needs to be carefully mapped out when that first step is taken. What is it that your business aims to achieve? How can your business achieve these aims better than your competitors could? What is your ultimate goal? How will you know whether you’ve achieved it? All entrepreneurs strive for success, but in order for all that striving to be worth the effort the parameters for success need to be clearly defined.
It’s important to think long and hard about your business goals, and it’s okay if it takes you a while to find them, but here’s a hint… It should never be “make lots of money”. Monetary wealth may well be a product of success, but it is not a definition of success itself. Of course, being an effective entrepreneur means that you box clever with your business’ finances, maintaining a healthy cash flow and making the capital investments that will facilitate growth. Likewise, overheads should be carefully managed so that they don’t impinge on your cash flow without offering any substantial return on your investment. Focusing on money for its own sake, however, can lead to a potentially unhelpful mindset. It can cause us to focus too heavily on scything down costs regardless of the fiscal multipliers they may represent.
Keeping costs manageable is one thing, but cutting corners is never acceptable and can as likely as not impede rather than facilitate success.
Your business, your reputation!
In the digitally enlightened social media literate age, businesses are more accountable than ever to their consumers. Your reputation can make or break you, and compromising on quality can bring your business to its knees. Your in-house complaints procedure may not be able to contain the fallout if your product fails, your employees fail to demonstrate good customer service or a lack of proper planning and management compromises your brand in any other way. Approximately 55% customers are likely to call out brands on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter if their product does not live up to the promise that your branding makes.
Cutting corners may result in an initial monetary saving, but at the expense of your reputation and your integrity. Imagine you run a construction firm, and your project collapses due to a rushed and inaccurate post tension analysis. Irrevocable damage will be done to your reputation to say nothing of the safety implications. The consequences of cutting corners in your chosen field may not be as serious but you should underestimate the dangers of cutting corners at your peril. Cost analysis most certainly has its place but there are 4 corners that can seriously impede your business success when cut…
Your employees are your brand. They will be the point of contact through which your clients and customers will experience your business. They must embody what your business stands for in their appearance, their interactions with customers and each other and the skills and experience they bring to work every day. Hiring the right people can make or break your business, and while most entrepreneurs are aware of this, sometimes the practicalities of running a business get in the way. Sometimes employees quit unexpectedly or are fired and vacancies need to be filled at short notice (while it’s good practice to have a notice period there’s no federal law stating that employees have to work it) or employees need to take extended leaves of absence unexpectedly. Thus, we can make snap decisions on recruitment or rely on external temp agencies. Don’t let these circumstances push you into making rushed or ill informed decisions when it comes to recruitment. Sharing responsibilities for absent or terminated employees among your team may not seem ideal but it may enable you to take a little longer to make sure that you find the right person for the job.
Lots of other businesses may do what you do, but only you do it the way you do it. It’s very often a business’ processes that determine the quality of their product or the customer’s experience. Thus, they need to be carried out by all employees to the letter without taking short cuts or cutting corners in the name of efficiency (which too many people use interchangeably with haste). That’s not to say that processes can’t be streamlined or made more efficient. Indeed, it’s important to take a step back from the operations aspect of your business now and then to take a look at your processes and identify areas for improvement. Ensure that quality control is an endemic part of your processes so that your employees are constantly checking their own and each others’ work as a part of their duties.
If you’re involved in construction, manufacturing, software design or even the catering industry, your product is your business. Nobody will patronize a beautifully appointed restaurant with charming and helpful service staff if the food tastes like garbage, just as nobody would use a garage that routinely fits chap and faulty parts to their car. The quality of your product is of paramount importance and is intrinsically tied to your brand’s reputation. As with your processes, just because you shouldn’t be cutting corners doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look into ways to improve efficiency of production without compromising on quality, which brings us to…
Your research and development
Your business may be doing well today, but how will you ensure that it continues to thrive tomorrow? Or next year? Or in 10 years’ time? Markets are in a constant state of flux, with new technologies causing widespread changes to entire industries on a regular basis. Only by investing your capital back into research and development can you work towards future-proofing your business, ensuring that it preempts changes in your chosen field and is well prepared for tomorrow’s challenges while your competitors flounder in your wake. Cut corners here, and you’ll be consigned to the history books.