You want your business to be a success. You want it to be profitable and you want it to grow, so you have more opportunities to reach out to more customers in the future.
This is a truth for all businesses - nobody goes into business wanting or expecting to fail!
There are many different subjects which go into whether a business succeeds, fails, or simply stays static, and some of them are often overlooked. If you want your business to hit the high growth and success stakes, you need to cover all bases, including the small ones which don’t seem so important at first.
This guide is going to give you the low down on what you need to think about and cover if you want your business to do well.
What you want to achieve is a personal thing; some businesses want to remain local and serve the community, whilst others want to spread their goods and services further afield, perhaps even going global. Knowing your aims is key, but also being open minded to perhaps doing far better than you ever thought too!
It Starts With Your Management Team
You can have the greatest team of employees in the work, some of the best talent around, but if your management team is sub-standard, the whole thing is going to fall apart. Every single employee needs to have leadership, and a high quality management team can be the difference between a business exceeding expectations, and a business which fails after the first couple of hurdles.
A poor manager can also be one of the prime reasons why employees leave. You’re not going to be successful if you’re literally haemorrhaging staff! Check out this infographic which features some quite startling statistics.
A good manager knows not only how to lead his or her team, but they also know how to get the best out of them. This means learning about the different personalities within the team and understanding how they react to different situations and challenges.
A good manager is also supposed to be a role model for all employees, but especially for younger, less experienced staff.
The main features of a quality manager are:
- The ability to inspire and motivate their employees
- A role model to those who need it
- A great leader
- Someone who is relatable and always has their door open, but also someone who is able to be firm and be unpopular when the good of the business calls for it
- The ability to make firm decisions
- Creative and a good problem solver
- Can think on their feet
- A good listener
- Excellent communicator
- Understanding of differences in personalities, and can tailor their management style accordingly
- A hard worker, and not someone who simply delegates all their tasks to employees around them
- Supportive and fair
- Someone who possesses great analytical skills and can see past the original problem, and can into the bigger picture
A quality manager cannot be part of the team on the ground level. This doesn’t mean looking down on employees and barking orders, but it means leaving a slight amount of distance between them and their employees. This is a professional way to be a manager, because there are always going to be times when hard decisions need to be made, and it could make you unpopular. In this case, if you’re too close friendship-wise to your employees, the ripple effect of the decision will be ten times worse.
A business’ success really hinges on how effective a manager is and how well they are able to lead their team. Conversely, a poor manager will sink the business faster than anything else.
To help you avoid the biggest management pitfalls, check out this interesting video below.
Of course, management isn’t all about leadership, it’s also about making tough business decisions for the good of the business. A little later in this guide we’re going to talk about understanding competition and customers, as well as how to market your products and services towards greater success. Management make all the decisions on these issues, but it’s certainly worthwhile asking your employees’ opinions if you want to open the net to more possible suggestions!
Your Employees Are Your Greatest Asset
We’ve talked about the fact that management counts for a lot in terms of whether a business does well or not, but what is the greatest asset of any business?
Its employees of course.
A business cannot run well without great management, but it will completely run into the ground without great employees. Part of the reason we highlighted poor management forcing employees to leave is because these two areas are the biggest pieces of the business success puzzle.
Employees do the work, they might not make the business decisions but they are the ones that implement them by doing the tasks required. Employees are your frontline, they are the face of the business and the ones who converse with your customers and clients.
If this part of the whole deal isn’t right, you’re not going to keep your customers and you’re going to be losing clients at the same time. Again, business failure!
Business success is reliant a huge amount on how well your employees perform, that means ensuring high morale, giving employees a comfortable and supportive space to work in, treating them as adults with suggestions and ideas and not as numbers within a business, and also focusing on their health and wellbeing. A healthy employee is a productive and happy employee, and that means higher profits for the business.
In fact, you could argue that everything links back to morale. When employees are happy, they:
- Work harder
- Work faster
- Make less mistakes
- Generate more ideas
- Work more creatively
- Have less days off sick
- Collaborate more effectively
- Are more likely to go the extra mile for the business
Check out this infographic which highlights some very useful ways to increase office morale, if you find that your levels are a little on the low side.
An important point to mention is that you should listen to your employees. How do you know that all the good ideas are coming from management? How can you be sure that one of your employees, sitting on their office chairs, aren’t going to come up with a business-changing idea which could revolutionise everything your products and services offer?
Ideas come from everywhere, and your employees are the ones completely submerged in the work of the business. That means they’re far more likely to come up with creative solutions to problems and innovative new ideas than anyone else. A little later we’re going to talk about collaboration, and this is one of the key ways to generate those game-changing ideas.
What you need to do however is listen to the ideas that your employees come up with and don’t simply cast them to one side.
Ask their opinions, consult with them on possible changes before you make any decisions, and find out what they think about it all. Several heads are far better than one or two!
Of course, the final point on this sub-section is health and wellness. Think about your car. It’s probably your biggest and most important possessions outside of your house, right? And with that in mind, would you drive it around uninsured and not thinking about having that strange clunking noise fixed?
Of course not.
Think of your employees in the same way for a second. If your employees are your business’ biggest asset, surely you should invest in their health and wellbeing? This ensures less sick days, a higher amount of morale, and that they are actually firing on all working cylinders and not only doing the basic amount because they’re riddled with back pain, headaches, RSI, and other health ailments.
Look at the working environment, invest in ergonomic chairs, and ask their opinions on how things could be improved. Offer counselling for personal issues which may be taking focus away from the job, and make sure that regular breaks are taken to boost health and concentration.
Focusing on your employees is one of the biggest steps towards business success and growth, and if you ignore this vital step, you’re going to find yourself in the realms of failure pretty quickly.
Employees Outside of Your Office
We’ve talked about the employees you have within your office, working within a specific office desking system, but are they the only employees you need?
More and more businesses are employing flexible workers, i.e. freelancers and remote workers, in addition to their regular workforce. Offering flexible working to existing employees is also a good option, but you can supplement your workforce and save cash on office furniture and overheads, by employing staff who aren’t physically within your work space.
Freelancers and remote workers aren’t employed by the business in the regular way. Some remote workers can be, i.e. they are employed and they simply work away from the office, but most tend to be contractors who provide a service to a business for a fee.
They aren’t paid holiday money, they aren’t given the regular perks such as pensions and healthcare, and they don’t have a space in the physical office. Having said that, they can pop into the space for catch ups occasionally, and this is when a touchdown area could be a good idea.
A touchdown area is a small space, usually close to the entrance to the office, where employees can quickly hand in work, check emails, and have quick catch ups, without interrupting the main office space.
Freelancers and remote workers who may call into the office on occasion could therefore use this space, without affecting regular work. You would simply need to furnish the area with a computer, perhaps a modular office desk which can be moved around easily, and comfortable seating.
If you’re not sure how employing freelancers could contribute to your business success, check out this insightful video.
Being able to tap into expert skills when you need them is one of the biggest perks of hiring a member of staff who isn’t physically within your workforce, and could be a great push towards extra business success.
Making an Impression in Your Office Space
When you walk into an office or reception area, do you think nothing of it, or do you quickly scan the space and make a quick first impression?
Human minds are programmed to do the latter. It is thought that a solid first impression is formed within just 7 seconds of meeting someone or entering a space, and if that impression is negative, it can be very difficult to shake it.
The reason this is so important in terms of business success is because if a client or customer walks into your reception area and they aren’t treated well by the receptionist, the modern office sofas in the space are dirty and unkept, and the reception chairs are super uncomfortable, they’re not going to feel positive about the entire experience. They’re also likely to link the quality of the products and services you provide with the first impression they got. They’re going to assume the rest of their experience with you is going to be the same.
In this case, they could walk away and end up doing business with one of your closest competitors.
Understanding this very simple fact is one of the biggest routes towards ensuring customers stay with you, and also in terms of attracting new ones. By making a positive first impression, you’re helping to expand your client and customer base. In addition, you’re creating a comfortable, supportive, and attractive space for your employees to work in, which goes back to the morale issue we mentioned earlier.
So, what do you need to know about creating the right type of office environment for both visitors to your space and your employees?
The office space needs to be:
- Clean and well looked after
- Modern and fits in with the identity of the business
- Light and airy, and not dark and damp
- Featuring plants and other natural elements if possible
- Creative and spacious, without desks and office storage causing a safety hazard
- Featuring everything employees need to do their job healthily, comfortably, and productively
Office design trends come and go, and it’s not always the case that you need to keep up with them. The basic requirement here is that you have an office design which is attractive, clean, and something which fits in with the identity of your business. Thinking about an office renovation can be an expensive subject, but it could also be one which pulls back the money pretty quickly in terms of less sick days and more customers as a result.
If you can incorporate furniture items such as standing desks, so that your employees can benefit from a more active way of working, whilst also creating zones for different types of work, e.g. individual or collaborative, you’re on the right track. You should also ensure you have the right type of seating for each individual space, making sure that nobody is forced to sit on a chair which is uncomfortable or causing them aches and pains.
Aside form the ergonomic options we mentioned earlier, you could also think about a mesh back office chair, which allows air to circulate around the person sat in it, and you could incorporate office tub chairs for discussion areas, which allow total comfort and support at the same time.
Think carefully about how to design your office, ask your employees for their opinions, and make sure that it is a cheerful and uplifting design, and not one which creates a dark and negative feel. Mood is extremely important within an office, and visitors can often feel it when they walk in. Ensuring the mood is positive will create a better impression and a better place for your employees to work in.
In terms of the reception area, it’s not all about office design, and is also about how the receptionist greets the visitor. Check out this video with highlights some of the biggest no-no's in reception etiquette.
Some of those points might seem funny when watching, but can you imagine being subjected to them in real life? It wouldn’t make you want to return!
Understanding Your Customers And Your Competition
Business success and growth isn’t all about what goes on within your business, it’s also about knowing what is going on outside of it.
A successful business needs to identify who their primary customer demographic is, what they want, what they don’t want, and how to give it to them. In addition, they need to know who their direct competition are, and what they’re up to at all times.
Customers these days know what they want, and if they can’t find it from one business, they will happily move on until they do. This is partly due to the rise of the Internet, and the fact that we can research anything we want within the touch of a few buttons. In order to give your customers what they want, you need to know who they are and what calls out to their interests.
Social media is a wonderful way to connect with countless customers and potential customers, but never underestimate the power of word of mouth even in today’s technological age. A bad review by one customer could be enough to put off five potential customers from coming your way. We listen to the experiences of others far more than we ever did before, and we’re far less likely to take a risk on an unproven business for our goods and services as a result.
So, what do you need to do?
- Market research is vital - Find out who your primary demographic are, find out what they want, what they like, how they like to communicate and do your best to get into their heads.
- Surveys and opinions - This is mostly going to be done online nowadays, as paper based surveys are quite the old fashioned trend! Regularly ask for opinions, conduct surveys to find out how things could be improved and new ideas that might come from your customers. By asking opinions, you’re showing that you care, and that reinforces customer loyalty to you and not your competitors.
- Communicate well - Again, social media and websites are great for this. Social media is perfect for creating a personal connection between the business and its customers, and allows sharing of information which may generate further sales. By doing this, you can also obtain extra information on what your customers actually want.
- Have an excellent customer service process - We already mentioned about reception area etiquette, but you need to have a high quality customer service process in place. This means responding to customer enquires quickly, answering complaints, and communicating in a kind and helpful way.
The fact that we have social media and online forums to help us get to know our customers these days is a huge leap forward.
In days gone by, we had to rely upon paper based flyers and cold calling!
Keeping One Eye on The Competitors
We’ve mentioned knowing who your customers are and understanding them, but what about your competition?
There is a fine line between stalking your competition and monitoring them. You are going to be monitoring your competitors, having a passing interest, that is all! Again, the online world is the way to do this. You can look at their websites, find out what new deals and services they’re offering, check their social media feeds, and all of this will give you information on how best to go one better, and maintain your customer base.
A successful business identifies who their main competitors are and they keep an eye on them. That is all. It’s about being subtly different, not the same as anyone else. By having information on the deals and products your competitors are creating, you can ensure that you’re still giving your customers what they want, but in a different way, a way which doesn’t encroach or double up on what is already out there.
Why Collaboration And Teamwork is Key
Ideas can come from anywhere, and that is something we already touched upon a little earlier. In order to generate more of those ideas, you need to create and environment which inspires them.
Collaboration and teamwork as a whole has been shown to boost business success, thanks to the generation of new ideas and creative solutions, but also because it boosts morale and therefore productivity. Check out this interesting infographic which expands on this statement.
One of the single best ways to encourage collaboration, whilst ensuring that work requiring a more individual touch is still completed, is to create an agile workplace.
This is a type of office design which covers an open plan office space, but is separate up into zones. An agile workplace normally has:
- A quiet zone - For individual work which requires concentration, perhaps incorporating booths or office partitions for extra privacy, and maybe acoustic panelling to absorb noise
- A collaborative zone - For brainstorming, collaboration, and general work discussions
- A touchdown area - An area for visitors entering the office for a short time, e.g. we mentioned about freelancers using this space if they visit the office for a catch up. This is usually furnished with bespoke office desks, a computer, and seating only
- A breakout space - A multi-functional space which can be used for collaboration, discussions, catch ups, or simply for those who need a quick five minutes’ time out
- Meeting spaces - Incorporating equipment for video conferencing, perhaps with a boardroom table with cable management, so devices can stay charged up without wires trailing everywhere
- Relaxation spaces - A space where employees can go to relax on their breaks and refocus
This type of environment is ideal for flexibility and productivity, because it provides a space for every type of task. The agile workspace is also designed with the task in mind first and foremost, so employees won’t have a set desk and they will choose a desk or area they want to work in which will allow them to complete their task to the best of their ability.
This is a more active working environment, a more creative and colourful space, and also a space which encourages collaboration, ideas, and information sharing.
A huge facet of business success is the ability to bounce back after a difficult period. This could be down to several reasons, e.g. an important employee has left, a product didn’t do as well as you would have hoped, a marketing campaign yielded less results than expected, the list goes on.
It doesn’t really matter what the issue is, it is how you deal with it and move on. Damage limitation is vital, and this is something which management will need to create a plan for, but it is vital that you discuss all of this with your employees and keep them informed on anything which is going on. This can be a formal chat, or an informal discussion around the office coffee tables. Whatever works best for your employees.
When employees hear whispers that something hasn’t gone according to plan, it’s easy for anxiety and gossiping to set in. This does nothing for morale and can result in a very negative working environment. Mistakes when then occur which may make the problem ten times worse.
It is far better to focus on accepting and acknowledging the issue, holding up your hands to the problem, and then working out a way to deal with it. Customers are also not going to appreciate a company who try and hide their mistakes; we’re all human and we prefer honesty at the end of the day. The same goes for businesses who either make mistakes, or find that a situation didn’t work out as well as they predicted.
Learn from the problem and create a plan in order to improve next time.That is the single best way to ensure business success and growth. There are very few businesses who have drowned due to one mistake, but many which have when they didn’t learn from it.
Marketing your goods and services in the right way will ensure that your business continues to grow, and doesn’t remain static, not moving from its current point, or even worse, failing behind competitors.
Continuous market research, understanding what your customers want, staying up to date with changes in market demand, and continually evolving and developing your products and services is the best way forward. There is another option - agile marketing.
It seems that everyone wants to be agile in some way, shape, or form, these days, and it’s a true buzz word. We’ve already talked about the agile workplace and how that can seriously help a business to encourage teamwork and collaboration, as well as creating a pleasing place for employees to work, but what is agile marketing exactly?
Check out this video which explains agile marketing in a bit more detail.
Agile marketing allows you to stay up to date and abreast of everything, meaning you don’t miss out any information and you’re always focused on how best to market and sell your products and services. With constant changes and reviews, you can respond to market shifts far quicker and more effectively too.
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide, but all of it is vital in terms of developing and sustaining a business which is not only successful, but one which continues to grow year on year.
Knowing your business aims and what you want to achieve is a vital point. You can’t measure your business growth and success if you don’t have goals, and these are things which need to be constantly reviewed and developed on a regular basis. In the business world, nothing stays the same for very long, and that includes your aims and goals over the short and long term.
The final point to mention is that you should always look to do better, always review, and always try to improve on where you are now. Customers appreciate businesses who strive for constant improvement. This shows a commitment to doing better, a commitment to pleasing customers.
Improvement can be anything from developing a new product to opting for white modular office furniture to make the office space look better, it’s about simply not staying static and always striving for better. If you can do that, and look after your employees at the same time, you’re already your way to total business success.
Thank you for reading!