I would be suspicious if someone offered to give me some magical powers, particularly if it was supposed to help my business. Nevertheless, I have discovered a technique that will, without a doubt, improve your chances of accomplishing more of what you want to with your business. It's practically guaranteed. Everyone I know who has tried it has succeeded or made significant progress toward their goals. I want you to try it, too. I know it will work for you.
Take Out Your PenThe first step in acquiring these magical powers is to take out your pen. I guess you could use a computer keyboard if you wanted to. Anyway, you must write down your goals, plans, dreams -- whatever you want to accomplish. In fact, that is what gets you the magic power: writing it down. Doing nothing more than writing down your plans or what you want to accomplish -- and nothing else -- will actually increase your chances of getting that task accomplished.
Let's look at the details. There are a few other tips that will further increase your odds of accomplishing what you really need to get done in your business. So let's look at how you reduce what you want to occur to writing; then let's select some of the things you may want to consider writing down.
Make a PlanIt's not popular these days to spend time making plans for your business or setting goals. Apparently, there are many other activities that have a higher priority. Most of us just don't want to spend time looking ahead or identifying specific goals we want to achieve in our business. I can understand why; there are many pressing matters that need our attention. Customers to deal with, technicians to motivate and monitor, financial matters that need attention -- all are more urgent. However, if you never take the time to look ahead and determine where you want to take your business, you'll be living day-to-day forever.
It's difficult to accomplish a higher level of achievement for your business, whether it's more sales, more customers, fewer complaints, greater margins, more trucks, etc., unless you stop for a few minutes and decide where you want to be. When you do, write it down. That alone will help. What's next?
Step TwoAfter you choose a goal (you can have more than one) and write it down, you will further increase your chances of accomplishing it with a few simple follow-up actions. Let's pick a goal and use it as an example. Say you want to increase the profit on every job, increasing your overall profit for the year. First, we write that down or print it from the computer. Now, the following step is already easier, because we know our goal.
Next, we identify two things: 1) what actions do we need to take that will move us toward that goal; and 2) what resources, investment of time, training or other contribution do we need to make to enable those actions to become reality? Let's fill in those items in step two right now. (We should write them down to increase the chances they will occur.)
First, what can we do to make more profit? I only know of three possible alternatives here. More profit results only when you charge a higher price and keep costs the same, when you keep the same price and reduce costs, and when you increase the number of jobs with the same spread between what you charge and the cost of providing the service. Any one of these would work. All three would work best, but let's not be too ambitious -- we just started and we have only a few words on paper.
More Profit, Greater MarginAfter "more profit" on our paper, let's choose the method to be used to accomplish the goal. I'll select keeping costs the same and charging a higher price. I picked this one because I know it's scary for some business owners, but I also know it works. I have heard so many times that "all my customers will leave me" and so on. Almost never happens.
Now let's identify the second thing that will enable us to accomplish our goals -- the resources, time, training or whatever else will help us accomplish our goals. It's worth pointing out now that keeping everything the same and expecting a different result is unrealistic. So, if you want to do everything the way you have and raise prices without committing some other effort, expertise or technique to accomplish the job, you may have customer resistance. And you may not meet your goal.
Your InvestmentAll right, what are we going to contribute or invest in our plan? Let me give you a couple of suggestions. Learn ways to improve customer service -- make the customer king. Have technicians: 1) wear a clean, professional-looking uniform; 2) greet customers using a standardized, courteous statement; 3) follow a routine of analyzing the customer's problem before they even hint of a price quote; 4) use a flat rate manual to show the customer the price so there's no mystery from where it came. There are many other aspects of customer service, but these will get you started. Learning the best customer service techniques and training technicians is our investment, our commitment to our goal.
Better service and professionalism on the part of your technicians will be noticed by customers, who will then be willing to pay more for the service they receive. That means no resistance in increased prices. With the same costs and higher prices, you have met your goal.
Putting It TogetherSo far we have only done a few things and we have increased the profit your business generates on every job. Let's review how we did it and look at other potential goals we can accomplish just as easily in our business. By writing down our goal (increase profits), and by picking a method (same costs, higher prices), and then deciding on our contribution (learn about and train technicians in the best customer service), we have been successful. Interestingly enough, what we just did for your business is a complete part, maybe all, of a strategic plan. What will make it actually happen in your business is taking the trouble and a little time (not much considering the return) to put the simple plan on paper and then follow it. Put it where you can see it. Look at it every day. Commit to following it. Make the investment necessary to make it work, and it will.
Other GoalsNaturally, choosing increased profits as a goal is hard to argue with; it's a winner. However, there are many other approaches to accomplish the same objective and many other goals that are worth addressing. Ultimately, of course, most relate to the bottom line profits in your business. Some can help give you more free time, or even piece of mind, and less discomfort in running your business. Let's see if you recognize one that will work for you in your business.
Boot the DeadwoodSome businesses have a person, or several, who are relying on the other employees to do their work. Or maybe there's a person who, despite all your patience, all your counseling and maybe some disciplining, is just not cutting it. These employees are not performing close to what you need to justify their paychecks. Sound familiar? How long are we going to let them slide by? I have heard the excuses, the rationalizations and the denial that keeps us from doing what we must: cut the deadwood loose, discharge the person. It's not fun, not comfortable, nor even pleasant, but it must be done.
We can use the same simple goal process in accomplishing a task like firing a non-productive employee as we did in boosting profits. Just follow the same steps. Remember to write it down first. That part gives us the magical power we need to accomplish something we know we need to do, but have been delaying. Delay no longer, you now have power you didn't have last week. Get moving.
Reach More New CustomersAnother goal that many businesses have is to attract more new customers. More customers mean more business, which should mean more profits. So, how do we start? First, write it down. Next, pick a couple of ways we can accomplish the goal. How about referrals from current customers? Maybe simplify our advertising message, more focus on a certain type of work -- your specialty. Possibly participate in a mailer to consumers in neighborhoods where you would like to increase business. Do only new customers count? You also could identify ways to contact past customers to see if they need service and repair work. One of my favorite ways to do that is to offer service agreements. (Call me at 1-800-344-MAIO if you need more information on these contracts.) I think you get the idea. Pick the goal, write it down, determine how it can be achieved and then commit resources, time or other investment toward accomplishing it. Then go on to the next objective.
Reduce CostsWhen you examine the cost structure of most businesses, you find that there usually are several areas in which the business could save money. Maybe it's excessive inventory; or possibly poor vehicle maintenance, causing premature component failures; maybe it's offering too many choices to customers so you are required to stock dozens of unused parts on your trucks. Sometimes technicians or other employees aren't held accountable for parts and equipment, so their attitude about keeping track of them or keeping them in good repair is lax, costing you money.
Automating inventory control and accounting functions saved my company a bunch of money. We reduced errors and found we needed fewer people to do the same job. Such systems today are economical and pay for themselves quickly. We have even reduced our dispatching costs by switching to numerical paging systems. They are a lot cheaper than radios or cell phones.
Look at your business and see where you can cut costs. Simply identify any reasonable goal and follow the plan. First, however, you must write down the goal.