Everything we operate has an operating system – a way to operate it. The more complex the operation, the more complex the operating system. We are told our small business is a complex machine requiring sophisticated marketing, detailed finance, state-of-the art operations and efficient human resource practices. It doesn’t matter if you are selling coffee, haircuts, accounting, clothing, or consulting.
Big business may need that kind of complexity, but small business is more human. Small business is simple: buy low, sell high.
The Small Business Operating System I designed is simple. Focus on the people in your business: you, your customers and your staff (or contractors). Design the journey through your business that includes attraction, engagement and your business serving & delighting each of those people.
Everyone who has started a business can picture that and can make that happen. What do you get when you do that?
Who are your favourite customers? The ones who bring a smile to your face. The ones who thank you as they hand over their payment. You want more of those ones. According to the Pareto Principle,those are the 20% that bring in 80% of your profit (and take 20% of your business resources). Don’t be afraid to fire the customers who aren’t happy, who make your life hard and who complain when they pay. Your business will be easier and more profitable. And those customers will find the right fit for them somewhere else. Or not.
Think about how your best customers come to you? What is it about you and what you offer that they most appreciate? In fact, ask them. Many marketing exercises have you create an avatar so you can design a marketing funnel to attract those avators. The thing is, you are close enough to your customers you can identify the best ones and ask them about their journey with your business. Tell their story. Better yet, let them tell their own story and broadcast that.
Your staff want more than to trade time for money. They expect that the journey they take within your business will enrich their lives. They want to learn and grow. They want to know that they are making a difference.
Here’s the thing. You want that, too. You want to make a difference. You want your staff to step into and engage with their role in your business. You don’t align those desires with an employee handbook. You align them with a deliberate and planned journey in mind for each one of your staff. The best staff are attracted to your business because you offer them opportunities to grow. Your job is to instill your values, to support them in doing the best work they can and to help them see the world in a better way.
Staff will leave. That is the nature of business these days. When they leave, they can leave as ambassadors and promoters of your business. They can carry on the great work you do.
Have you seen this one:
CFO: What if we train our staff and they leave?
CEO: What if we don’t train our staff and they stay?
You don’t have to be a finance expert, a Human Resources guru or an operations maven either. Let’s face it, none of us is. We are great at what we do. Very few of us are professional business managers, too. So why pretend to be one. You are great at making your customers happy.
We are told to work on our business and we are told that means working on marketing, Finance, Operations and Human Resources. Doing that gives you better marketing, but not more of the best customers; accurate financials, but not the numbers you need; more efficient work, but not the most effective work; and it gives you an employee handbook but not necessarily happy and engaged employees.
Relax into your business and do what you do best.
How many times have you heard that you need systems in your business? You may even know on a fundamental level that they will help you. BUT, who has time to figure out what systems and then design them? Especially when you aren’t a professional in any of these things. (see above)
The best systems are like paths in Holland. In Holland they build parks and wait to see how people use them. Once people have worn paths in the grass, the crews go in and make paths where people walk.
Your systems are merely the way you do things. How do you open up? How do you cash out? How do you order? How do you follow up? Once you know what works for you – write it down, make a video (on your phone) have someone follow you as you do it and let them write it down or make a video.
Do you see the distinction? When you come at it from Marketing, Finance, Operations and Human Resources you think about those disciplines and the sheer weight of the mountains of information behind each of them.. When you come at it from the place of making yourself, your customers and your staff happy, you know what that means. You can cherry pick the bits of business management theory that make the most sense in your situation. It’s the difference between filling your cart at the grocery store and feeling like someone has given you the grocery store and you have to take out everything you don’t need.
You won’t be wasting your time working on things that don’t make a difference to your profitability. How can your business not be more profitable when you have engaged staff and the best customers?
When you focus on Marketing, Finance, Operations and Human Resources you get a business that is managed better.
When you focus your time and energy on making your customers and your staff happy you make more money.
Bad stress comes from feeling like you aren’t in control. By feeling inadequate, like you don’t have enough resources, and like you can’t possibly do all you have to do. We are told that to have a great business we are supposed to have perfect marketing, finance, operations and Human Resources. But no one can do that. A big business with divisions for each of those functional areas still struggles to get that all right.
Let it go! Work from your strengths. Focus on making the owner, the customer and the staff journeys the best they can be. That is something you can get your head around. That is something that you can continue to work towards. That is something that makes sense.
Focus on what is really important. Work on your business by making the Owner, Customer and Staff Journeys better. When you get those journeys working, your business supports you in the life you want; your staff are engaged and making your business run better and your customers are attracting more of the kinds of customers you really want.
One of the most important determinants to happiness is a sense of belonging. Many business owners I meet tell me about how lonely they feel. The traditional Marketing, Finance, Operations and Human Resources paradigm pits you against your staff and your customers. These management systems focus on controlling and manipulating your staff to do what you want and your customers to choose you and buy what you sell.
Creating the staff and customer journeys with their best interest in mind (which is the only way to create journeys that work) puts you and them on the same team.
By creating your business to support your Good Life, you are creating a clear path forward to the life you want.
Happy days all around!
If you are like most people, you started your business to solve a problem, yes, but also so you can have control over your life. But that shouldn’t mean the control to decide which 14 hours you work each day. You can choose to live your life on your terms and that means having a business that lets you do that.
If, like me, you prefer to wake without an alarm clock, your business should let you do that. If you choose to be creative alone in the mornings and meet with people in the afternoons, then do that. If you want to travel; build that in. Not someday, but in a foreseeable future and taking steps along the way to make it happen.
The owners journey like all journeys is about attraction, engagement and being served & delighted. We are attracted to a business idea, we engage with the research, testing and beginning of that business. Somehow we never get around to deliberately deciding what a business that serves & delights us could/would look like.
And so our business becomes a behemoth that craves and takes all of our time and energy. It doesn’t have to be that way. You choose how your business should be. Make that choice support the life you want to live – your Good Life.
You future is coming, but many business owners get so caught up in the day to day they can’t see past next week. Next thing you know all your high school pals are retiring.and you are looking at having to continue this lifestyle to pay the rent. If your business is supporting your Good Life, then why would you stop? I tell people I don’t know if I will never retire or if I already have.
So you can have more of the same, or you can deliberately design your Journey through your business.
Are you doing what you love? Are you making a difference? Are you making a living?
By making your business about your solution not about what a business should be you are able to bring your best to the world. You solve problems for your customers and you support your staff in building their Good Life. You get to be an example of a better way to do business that doesn’t focus on profit at any cost, but rather on focusing on people which leads to making more profit.
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