So here are my personal resolutions for 2013: I resolve to start to eat better, exercise more, spend less, save more, schedule more date nights with my wife and spend more time with my kids.
Whew. That was easy.
Wait a second. Those were my resolutions last year as well.
So what did I do wrong? It’s not what I did, it’s what I didn’t do. Knowing what to do wasn’t the problem, it was doing what I knew needed to be done.
Your business needs to get ready for 2013 with some soul-searching and resolutions of its own. That starts with you, the owner. Here are five resolutions your small business might benefit from making.
Quiz your staff
I don’t mean give them a test, I do mean, sit them down, individually and in small groups, every now and then, and ask them to describe the things about their work that they wish was easier or not required at all.
You might be surprised by what you hear. And I bet you’ll be able to quickly alleviate some of the issues; if you’ve never asked the question, you’re probably hearing about any issues for the first time.
Also, others see things that you can’t because their jobs are likely extremely focused on one part of your business. That’s experience that you probably don’t even have – or haven’t had since the good ol’ startup days, when everything was your job.
Improvements arising from these quizzes always produced cost savings, quality improvement and happier staff at my shops. The best part? Its free.
Mind the books
Most entrepreneurs I know find bookkeeping and accounting tedious, annoying, and at best, resulting in a historically insignificant set of artifacts that shine little on the excitement of the coming year.
That’s the wrong way to go. Look at receivables daily . Close your month-end quickly and review the profit and loss and balance sheets monthly, while they are still fresh.
Even if you don’t know accounting terminology, you do know your business, and I promise you’ll find financial line items that jump out at you, begging for clarification. The numbers don’t lie and you’ll find ways to run your business better if you pay some allegiance to this data.
Delegate yourself out of a job
You’ll always feel like it’s faster to do everything yourself, rather than spend time to others how to do it. Plus (gasp), they might make a mistake.
This is unsustainable. Your business will be more fun to work at if you can focus on the strategic and business-building work. Get out of the weeds and enjoy the blue sky.
Run your business as if it’s always for sale
Besides delegation, you need to get good at systems. I don’t mean big IT infrastructure, policies, procedures and paperwork that suck the life and culture out of your business.
I’m talking about simply communicating a repeatable, standardized way to do the things that make your business tick.
The truth is, you are doing repetitive work in all kinds of areas of your business already and there is a presumption that how it’s supposed to be done is understood.
Don’t presume. Jot it down, communicate it verbally and test it periodically. You won’t just be managing better, as a side effect, you’ll find lots of ways you can improve, as well. It’s your business at the end of the day, but act like someone is watching and waiting to buy you out.
I know you love your business. I know that if you divided the hours you’ve worked over the years by the money you’ve pulled out, you’d have made less than minimum wage. I know you have a lot of irons in the fire and this New Year is going to be amazing, but you’ve got to spend some time obsessing about profitability.
Margins. Expense control. Sales. I’m not asking you to get greedy all of a sudden. I’m telling you its okay to make money. The business is a living and breathing entity – bigger than you and it needs support.
How are you going to attract and keep great employees with a business that’s running too tight to break even? They’ll never get raises or promoted.
How are you and your business going to be socially responsible if there are no profits from which to donate to your community? How are you going to save for a rainy day or a downturn if your best years aren’t all that profitable?
You didn’t just buy yourself a job, you built a business – and if you don’t focus on making that business as sustainable and generous as possible in 2013, who will?
Special to The Globe and Mail
Chris Griffiths is the Toronto-based director of fine tune consulting, a boutique management consulting practice. Over the past 20 years, he has started or acquired and sold seven businesses.
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