The Business Success Checklist: Creating a Strong Foundation
The path to a successful business is never straight. There are forks in the road along the way that are often identified as challenges or problems. Every successful company has a unique path that was followed from conception to reality. Another company in the same industry trying to follow that exact path would most likely fail because the combination of corporate culture and customer dynamics is specific to an individual business.
There are some things that are universal to successful companies. They include a solid foundation, systems, processes, tools, and best practices.
Prior to the Internet, business success was often achieved by being the first to market. Sometimes, first to market was accomplished with the introduction of the new product or service. Others, it was finding new markets to serve with established products or services. The Internet changed everything.
Today, every product or service is a commodity that can be found in a similar form usually at a better price. Successfully competing in a global economy with hundreds (maybe thousands) of channels or platforms requires laser focus and top-notch customer service. Any lackluster performance opens the door for competitors to grab market share.
The companies succeeding today are using systems, processes, and tools to maximize productivity and deliver consistent quality service. For these companies, marketing and service unite to create specialized customer experiences. The one objective that takes precedent over all others is continuous improvement for the benefit of the customer.
Logistics, systems, processes, and tools are rarely exciting (except for industrial systems engineers like me) but they are very effective in creating a solid business success foundation. People tend to postpone doing things that are less fun and don't have immediate results. This gives the companies that invest in the foundation a competitive edge. Over time, the foundation lowers costs, improves service, and gives team members more time to focus on growth strategies and individualized customer care.
Now is a good time to start building that foundation. Here are a few items to get you going:
Improve your transactional emails - People open transactional emails because they want to know the status of their order. This is an excellent opportunity to provide additional information about your company, products, and services that will help build a relationship with your customer.
Invest in education - The more your employees know, the better they can serve your company and customers. The Internet is filled with opportunities to learn at little or no cost. Provide opportunities for your team to listen to webinars, read articles, and when appropriate, go to conferences.
Streamline processes - Review every process in your organization to ensure that it provides benefits. This requires validating every step along the way. Eliminating steps reduces time and cost for completion.
Reevaluate social media participation - Monitoring and responding to mentions is mandatory across all platforms. Participation is optional. Limit activity to the best platforms for connecting with your customers and prospects.
Provide more information on your website - People like self-service. Use your website to provide the information customers and prospects are seeking. It is inexpensive and effective.
Create a fun place to work - Employee turnover is expensive. Ask team members for input on how to make their work environment better. Develop and implement a plan of action to improve morale and keep employees happy.
Dig deep into your customer acquisition and retention numbers - High acquisition rates can hide a mass exodus of established customers. This has a long-term effect because the new customers tend to be less profitable than established ones. Left unchecked, costs will rise while sales drop.
Improve productivity - Look for opportunities to use systems, processes, and tools to reduce manual labor. The right solutions save money, improve service, and reduce boredom.
Once you get started building the foundation, it becomes easier. You'll find that team members have more time to focus on important functions because they are spending less time fighting fires. Adapting a continuous improvement mentality encourages everyone in your organization to contribute to making it better. The things you do now will have a positive effect on your future.
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