This article might seem a bit strange coming on the heels of 2020, but that’s precisely why we’ve decided to run it. If there has been too much of anything lately it has been endless struggle. However, as we approach the tail end (hopefully) of this pandemic we, as small business owners, have opportunity on the horizon.
Many industries have seen their competition shrink because of things like government shutdowns etc. For those who are still fighting their way through this mess this means that there is market share ripe for the taking. Your competitor’s customers will need somewhere to go, let’s make sure that YOU’RE who they choose.
Which leads us to the article below. You must be mindful to capitalize on market share without sacrifice.
Out of the Box Advisors
As a small business, is there such a thing as "too much" success? After all, your goal is to grow, so it seems counter-intuitive that you could have so much success that your business suffers. Believe it or not, it’s actually a quite common conundrum for small businesses.
If you are not able to adapt quickly in response to growth, your business could end up taking a significant step backward. As you bring on new customers you may end up not meeting the expectations you set for them. Existing customers may lose faith in your ability to deliver despite years of reliability.
Your small business’ success requires you to keep on pace with increased demand. Let's look at how success can be hurting your small business and how you can meet these challenges.
Unable to Effectively Take on New Clients
If you are growing rapidly, you may reach a point where you cannot take on new clients because you simply don't have the staff to manage the work. This all comes down to capacity to deliver. As you sell your product or service at an ever-increasing rate the threat of diminished quality runs in parallel.
Your ability to provide quality service for your customer base directly translates into your ability to maintain that customer base. If a competitor runs aground and you begin taking on their customers, you must ensure that you service them at least to the quality level they were accustomed to. If not, this sudden influx of sales could permanently tarnish your reputation via online reviews etc.
It is extremely important to recognize and scale your staff as needed to meet demand. Your small business strategy should include having plans to onboard new employees and give them time to get up to speed. Also, ensure that you calculate the time-to-effectiveness (TTE) for your specific needs. The higher skilled the employee, the earlier you need to trigger your capacity building strategy.
Relatedly, it is recommended that you tie your hiring strategy to objective, measurable data points. As a simplified example, if you operate a service-based business you may want to tie your hiring to something like Active Customer Count. For every 10 services per day, you’ll need one technician for example.
It is a fine line between over-staffed and under-staffed. Of course, you want your staff not to have downtime, but when they cross the threshold into "overwhelmed," it can quickly deplete morale. Have discussions with your staff about their bandwidth so you can assess when you may need to hire.
Inefficient Business Processes
If your staff are spending a lot of time on manual processes or multiple systems, it stands to reason that they aren't as productive as they could be. It is also obvious that an increase in workload will only exacerbate this problem. As you grow, you can take a close look at the tasks your employees are asked to perform along with the systems used.
1. Do tasks still make sense, can they be eliminated, can they be modified?
Example: Are you still scheduling your services in outlook or google? While those tools work great early on, as you become more successful, they often start causing more harm than good. Perhaps it is time to look for a scheduler system that offers up some automation or route planning functions?
2. Do roles need to be redefined?
Success will undoubtedly lead to your phone ringing more often. If, for example, your receptionist also posts on Facebook or plans events, then likely one of those sub-tasks will suffer since more time will be allocated to answering calls. Splitting out those tasks to new positions could be a solution.
3. Do your employees already know the issues / solutions?
Chances are high that if you simply speak to your employees and ask them how you can make their life easier, they will provide you a fountain of ideas. Some more workable than others, but likely the solution is hiding in there for you to improve your processes.
Look for integrated solutions or automation which will allow you to scale operations. Ensuring that your employees can perform optimally will allow you to take on more work without increasing your staff.
Poor Customer Service
Nothing turns off clients more than poor customer service. If your staff are swamped, phone calls and emails may go unreturned. Or, if you rush to onboard new employees, you may have inexperienced workers who cannot help your clients to the quality expected.
If your clients are unhappy with the service they receive, they will go elsewhere. They will only tolerate so much, and at some point, no amount of apologizing will offset their frustration.
Take a two-pronged approach to scaling your customer service abilities.
Step 1 – Train your employees and/or reinforce your company’s culture.
Every employee should have a solid understanding of what is expected of them with respect to customer service. Build your on-boarding of new employees such that a portion is dedicated to customer services training. Additionally, implement a regular schedule of training for all employees to remind them of the proper procedures and quality levels.
Step 2 – Launch of Voice of the Customer policy
If you are not regularly surveying your customer base right now, that should be your priority this month. Surveys provide your customers the opportunity to both praise employees as well as provide quality feedback. As a side benefit, typically if you survey your customers post sale, they will be less likely to report poor experiences publicly since you provided them an outlet to be heard.
You must maintain focus on the level of service that you provide even as your business grows. You want to show your clients that you have not lost sight of their needs, even as your business expands.
Fuel Your Business Success with a Small Business Coach
You may recognize your growing small business's problems, but how do you tackle these challenges? Should you focus on service, or your processes, or both?
Business coaches provide your growing business with both experience and executive capacity. This article is about growth being a limiting factor for your business; a business coach provides your detailed solutions for the problems above and all those not listed here. Their primary goal is to maximize profitability and success for YOU, the small business owner.
At Out of the Box Advisors, we focus on small business coaching. We have the knowledge and experience to guide you through your business's growth. Contact us today for a consultation.