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Checklist for business survival

IMG_9254bar (2) (164x250)How healthy is your business?

With year-end fast approaching, now is the time for business owners to run a health check on their business and determine whether it is on course to achieving year-on-year growth, says Douglas Driscoll, CEO of award winning real estate group Starr Partners.
“Assessing whether you’re business is hitting established KPI’s is essential in generating annualised growth. If you’re not doing this, you run the risk of having a false sense of security about your business performance,” says Doug.

While profits are a genuine measure of success, Doug insists that high margins don’t necessarily equal a healthy business. “One of the biggest oversights among business owners is to be either too complacent about results or preoccupied with outputs. Sometimes, it’s how you make your profits that count; the most important being how well you service your customers,” says Doug.

To help achieve year-on-year success, Doug has developed a checklist for business owners and managers to use as guide for assessing the health of their business:

1.    Do you have you an established identity? Your identity is your brand asset. Any business without a clear vision, offering and service promise is doomed to lose its way, says Doug. “Your foundation is your core and should be established at the outset; without this, how do you expect to build a positive perception among customers?” Business owners need to research their local market, define their market segment and then build their operations around market needs. Defining your service pledge will also help you monitor consistency in business inputs and will assist you in setting, not following, best practise principles.

2.    Are you adaptable to change? The ability to adapt to changes in market conditions and customer needs is a fundamental challenge but imperative for business survival. “Change is inevitable, progress is optional,” says Doug.  No matter what industry your business operates in, owners and managers need both a proactive and reactive approach to customer service. “Whether it’s making more calls, utilising technology to enhance your offering, or seeking feedback from potential customers who engaged your competition; it’s important your business is flexible and responsive to customer needs. I would also caution business owners not to rely too heavily on seasonal booms, such as Christmas or the New Year, and understand that growth can take place at any time,” says Doug.

3.    Is your business relevant? Do customers identify with your brand? If not, why not? “A common error I see all too often is business owners paying too much attention on what competitors are doing. While it’s important you understand the competition, trying to reinvent-the-wheel or mimic the business down the road can veer you off track and not lead to sales. Public opinion is your important most ally. Do your due diligence. Survey your market, find out how customers perceive you and identify their needs. This will help you refine your approach to sales and customer service,” says Doug.

4.    Are you embracing technology? Advances in technology, including online capabilities, mobile optimised content and content apps, are changing the way we do business. These tools are not gimmicks, says Doug, but instead enable us to improve our services, efficiencies and streamline processes. “Adapt or die. The majority of your customers are now on mobile and are no longer searching for services and products the way they did a decade ago. Investing in your online presence and mobile capabilities to reach and engage customers is critical and should complement your on-the-ground activities,” says Doug. 

5.    Are you market driven or marketing driven? Success is dependent on your efforts. While you may have made strong annual sales, if market conditions are favourable, your competitors will likely be in a similar position to you and the status quo will remain the same. “Don’t take positive conditions for granted,” says Doug. “If the market takes a turn, your business could be vulnerable. To increase your slice of the pie, business owners should benchmark their performance on market share. Owners and managers must also consider the amount they reinvest in advertising. As a rule, businesses should reinvest 10-15 per cent of earnings into marketing – with a focus showcasing business wins and customer service,” says Doug.

6.    Do you measure staff accountability? Whether it’s the number of calls made, securing leads, or your customer service ethic; KPI’s for all team members need to be set and benchmarked, says Doug. “A structured approach to performance and career development is essential to assist employees in taking ownership of their role.” Business owner’s also need to include themselves in KPI’s to ensure the office culture is equitable. “Business owners should also consider seeking guidance from an external mentor, not only for professional counsel but to assist them in being a role model and team leader,” says Doug.

7.    Do you have a healthy business culture? Cultivating a positive business culture not only sets the day-to-day tone of the office, but fosters staff and workplace well-being. “A positive workplace is a productive workplace,” says Doug. Workplace rewards and incentives are a great way to recognise staff achievements and keep the team motivated. I would also encourage agency owners to attend group training days with their staff, host team social events, and always have an open door policy,” says Doug.

“It’s never too late to review the health of your business and make adjustments. I encourage all business owners to run a health check annually and benchmark results. It could be the difference between success and failure,” says Doug.