During the past two decades, I quietly sat at the back behind the scenes, learning from large organizations, watching, listening, and trying to understand the nuts and bolts of how they became so successful. Here is an insight into large scale organizations to apply to small businesses.
You have to listen.
Listening to the voices of the unheard when no one else could or would actually hear them, I watched as some people succeeded and others did not.
No matter how some companies worked and tried to communicate — some companies became triumphant, and others were bought out with half the employees, then made redundant.
Finding the most essential part of any business.
What’s the most crucial part of any business? You may have the smartest minds in the business, with consultants lining the corridors. There may be many, many amounts of resources with an SOP for everything from visitors entering the building to how to use a printer.
None of these resources and persons matter unless you have everyone singing from the same piece of music — connected — believing something they all believe in.
What keeps your team engaged in your company?
I have seen employees become so disengaged from what is happening in their company that they become uninterested and bored, ultimately causing a loss of revenue from sick leave or general poor performance.
I have seen companies have the best directors and general managers, but senior and middle management let everything fall to the ground. What is strange is that these incidences are mostly unnoticed by upper management.
The main reason these companies fail is a lack of communication, or their key messages are getting lost in dialogue over semantics.
Lack of communication is especially true in these uncertain times. Teams can evaporate due to competition, changes in structure, targets, sales, and the lack of communication about these issues. Some teams keep trying to fix something that is not broken.
Pressure and stress from ensuring targets are met and innovations are created.
Everyone wants to be the best of the best and have the largest market share because they have the best technologies and creations. They want to be the ‘go-to’ company for what they’re selling. They are right, of course.
The thought process is exactly right. Except they lose themselves and their employees while they are clamoring for the top spot. However, we didn’t need COVID to learn these lessons. I have learned these same lessons from my two decades of work in tech.
Lesson 1: Keep it Simple
The larger the company, the more money that leaks through the cracks. Large enterprises often have too many cooks.
Keep processes and protocols as simple as possible.
Keep management teams small. Communicate with your employees and gain trust. Not for the sake of it, but to develop a true connection.
Delegate where possible, and do not be afraid to outsource if you do not have the skills in house. Don’t leave your company in the hands of someone who may NOT be capable.
Pay for expertise. Alternatively, teach those who might benefit from new skills, and you will have someone with that skill the next time you need it — in house.
Lesson 2: Invest, but do it wisely.
The worst decision you can make is refusing to spend money on a project, even when your business needs it.
Always remember, it can be expensive to buy cheap! Don’t be afraid to invest…. but do it wisely and on good advice.
Engage in lean processing to cut down on costs and maximize profit where possible. Recognize the value of profitability and road map the process of improvements and growth in this area.
Spend on digital marketing tools and techniques to increase the customer base and brand awareness and reputation to demonstrate reliability and the strength of a local business.
Spend on engagement and networking to ensure strong relationships are encouraged and developed to promote your business.
The amount of money I have seen wasted on events, campaigns, sponsorship, or unnecessary positions is nuts!! Yes, I know some of those spends are controversial, mainly because this is the way the world works — but it is simply not sustainable.
While the sentiment behind such events, especially team-building exercises, is somewhat understandable — I don’t know one person I’ve interviewed who wouldn’t prefer the money to be handed to them directly. But a quick get together for lunch works almost as well.
Lesson 3: Employees
The most essential part of any building is its foundation. What it’s built on and the materials they are made from. Your business is something you’ve worked long and hard to create. You may have started it from the ground up.
Make sure that what you put inside your business represents a long-term outlook and strategy. Understand that your long-term strategy doesn’t just mean product.
I have seen many managers make the mistake of choosing the person with the most extended list of qualifications. Some businesses want to make sure they have a necessary degree and the exact skills to meet with the job spec.
Yes, everyone may require a degree at some point or another. But they also need experience. Often you don’t get one without the other, so it’s a chicken or the egg scenario.
I could go on at length here about how to choose the right people. However, your very gut instinct will never lead you wrong. Think, run through the people, and go with your first instinct. That is your gut.
With employees — make sure you ‘click.’ Make sure they are hungry for the job. Not cocky, not overly clever with their words. Don’t be afraid to choose the underdog.
My very first “grown-up” job — I was in no way qualified. I knew the day they gave me the job I was a little bit in over my head (nothing new there!). However, I got the job, and I never forgot that. I was so thankful that I worked harder and longer to get to where I needed to go. I will never forget my first opportunity.
Sometimes hunger and drive for a position will show up as your best employee. Give that someone you have a “feeling” about a chance. You never know — but I believe that person will end up being one of your best decisions.
Lesson 4: Expectations
As an owner and manager of a business, don’t expect the moon out of your people.
Take time to get them vested in your vision. Most people don’t care about your business as you do, especially at first. Why would they? They don’t own it.
It is often forgotten that those working as part of a team or an employee need to feel valued. Feeling appreciated makes me work harder, and it helps me to enjoy my job more when I know that I am doing a good job.
Customers will always know that they are getting the best from you and your company when engaging with happy employees. They want to feel appreciated and given a handshake or appreciation for a job well done. A thank you doesn’t have to be for every little thing, but never underestimate the value of a simple ‘thank you and well done.’ It goes a very long way to ensuring engaged employees.
Lesson 5: Rewards
Pay people fairly and above-average rates if possible. I have had many conversations about unfair pay than I care to admit across various organizations.
While it is not the “done thing” to speak about who gets paid what — the talk happens and can make for some difficult conversations and bad feelings.
Finding out that I was being paid 20k less than a male colleague for the same job was like getting an actual punch to the gut. Gender inequality is something that I have witnessed first-hand, and I am not the only one. Get ahead of the game and pay every employee fairly.
Reward good work where possible. Have an employee of the month, Best Sales Person of the Year, Best Innovator, Best New Idea, Most Customer-Centric. Awards in some industries may be past their sell-by date, but when asked, it is highly likely that anyone chosen for an award is very proud of the accomplishment.
Others may disagree and tell you that it is archaic and not adding any value what so ever. Ask your employee’s/team what they think if you are not already doing something similar. Awards can make a team thrive, add to productivity, and help people feel part of something bigger.
Lesson 6: Involvement
Engage with your stakeholders, especially your employees. Ask your team’s opinion on the business. What they think is highly valuable as they are working every day in the center of the operation and may see things that you have not.
Your employees know your customers and have long-standing relationships. Involve them right from the start of any changes.
You might get some pushback, depending on the idea. However, it is better to keep your team involved than to present changes unexpectedly. Don’t ask for opinions just for the sake of involvement.
People will see right through you. The culture in which you work is very important and can have an impact on employee productivity and satisfaction.
Lesson 7: Comfort Zones
You decided to open a business. You know what it’s like to get out of your comfort zone, make a huge decision, and work for yourself. You don’t need any lessons here.
That said, we can all find our comfortable areas and unpack there in our comfort zones. However, these no longer exist if you want to build a business. Forget they did.
If you are not feeling like you are a little in over your head you are not doing it right. Say yes to something you don’t know how to do yet.
Agree to a task even though you’ve never done it before. Learn to do it after. It might mean some late nights filled with YouTube tutorials for an app or a tool you’ve never used before. Nevertheless, once you find your feet being uncomfortable, great things will happen.
Lesson 8: Business Sustainability
Don’t spend more than you need to on anything. Spend some time thinking through whether you need anything that you feel like purchasing.
Is the item, something you could learn to do yourself? Before you decide on expenditures, you need to figure out if you have both the time and people resources to take on the task. Can you build your website and manage it? Do you have the time it takes to build a marketing campaign? Or do you need to hire someone for this?
If money is tight and you are a small business, you might consider hiring a marketing intern. I have taken lessons here from previous companies where hiring a marketing intern is a very common practice.
You may also need some help in terms of a personal assistant but you may not want this person full time or in an office location. Remote work is becoming more common in today’s workplace with many customer service representatives working from their home office.