Building a successful business is easier if you find and implement best practices. “Best practice” describes the most effective method or methods for reaching your business objectives. Leveraging best business practices within your startup will help you avoid mistakes, reduce costs, improve operational efficiency and increase performance.
Of course, what works best for one company may not be the best solution for yours, but there are some universal approaches to business that typically yield benefits – not only for the success of your business, but it’s operations as well. You’ll be doing yourself and your business a big favor if you take the time to learn from others within the business world, starting with these best practice basics.
It all starts with planning. From product development through to marketing and operations, strategic planning can make the difference between success and failure.
- Know your market. There’s no point launching a business if there’s no market demand. The most successful businesses are those that respond to an unfulfilled need in the marketplace or create an unfulfilled need by developing the next big thing people can’t live without. You need to know your target audience, your competition and how to target your niche market.
- Start with a business plan. Your business plan is a strategic planning tool that will lay out the requirements to reach your business goals. It should outline your strategy, tactics, budgets and milestones to help you stay on track for a successful startup and beyond. The best business planners don’t stop planning once the business is successfully launched. Your business plan is a work in progress, constantly evolving as your goals and the marketplace changes, to keep you moving towards your business objectives.
- Use data for decision making. You wouldn’t purchase a new car without thoroughly researching the make and model would you? The same goes with all aspects of your business. From financial planning to marketing and IT, there is a wide range of information available to help guide decision making. This may be your own company’s data or it might be sourced from third parties. Review as much as you can, particularly when it comes to major decisions.
- Develop a brand. When it comes to business, especially large scale, you need to think more in terms of building a brand, rather than products. Yes, consumers are buying your products or services which must fulfill a need or add value to their life, but their affinity for your specific brand is what will ensure their success. Make branding a key aspect of your strategic planning. This includes creating the brand, identifying the right marketing channels, and a plan for staying on message across all of them.
- Constantly measure performance. If you don’t develop benchmarks and monitor performance against them, you won’t have a clear idea of how your company is really performing. Forecasting is another great tool – and something you should also be undertaking – however, with the use of benchmarks like Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), you can measure progress across a range of objectives such as sales, market share, profitability and Return on Investment (ROI). Consistently measuring performance against KPIs will allow you to see where tactics are working, where they are not, and change your strategy to make improvements.
Manage More Effectively
A successful business is built by the people running it. If you don’t have the right people working towards shared goals in a positive work environment, it’s going to be very hard to build a successful business.
- Foster open communication. Everyone benefits from open lines of communication. When people are empowered to speak up, they are more likely to share information, discuss challenges and new ideas. This fosters an environment of problem solving that not only helps avoid potential pitfalls within business operations, but makes employees feel valued. Here are five ways you can help encourage open communication.
- Develop clear goals. People who know where they’re going are better equipped to get there. Goals are most effective when they are challenging, but achievable – and include timeframes. The other important part of setting clear targets is rewarding achievement, especially with big or important business goals. Keep your people motivated and appropriately rewarded for their efforts, and you’ll be hitting one target after another.
- Set Expectations. Setting expectations and accountability is different from goal setting. Making sure teams and individuals fully understand their roles and what is expected of them is imperative for setting employees up for success. Clear communication of responsibilities and deadlines allow everyone to be on the same page, and mutual expectations around conduct and accountability build strong foundations from which your team can operate more effectively.
- Ask for feedback. Don’t assume because no one has come to you with issues or ideas that they don’t have them. Actively gathering feedback from your employees allows you to get a better understanding of operations, address inefficiencies and discuss opportunities for improvement. This will not only help build your business, but also a positive work environment where staff feel like valuable contributors.
- Choose a good team. The first step to choosing the right people is knowing your own strengths and weaknesses. Especially starting out, you might not be able to employ all of the talent you need, in which case you will need to decide what roles you can personally fill and which require experienced staff. Whether you outsource, hire, or a combination of the two, focus on identifying the key strengths the role demands and choose your talent accordingly.
It is rare to find a business that cannot improve operations in some way, whether big or small. Here are some key areas to consider when evaluating business operations:
- Optimizing operations. From purchasing to stock control, supply chain management and delivery, to quality control, administration and customer communications – and everything else involved in your company’s day-to-day operations – there are always opportunities for optimization. The key is to always be assessing how (and why) you’re doing something and considering ways to do it better. Here are five ways to optimize your business operations to get you started.
- Get and stay organized. When you have clear, easily accessible records you gain a better view of your business’s operations and performance. Transparency is key to monitoring performance and identifying potential problems before they occur. While this is especially true when it comes to financing, good record keeping is important across all areas including human resources, compliance, legal, operations and customer information.
- Provide training and development. Regardless of how big or small your business is, staff training and professional development will be important. From on the job training to attending industry events or undertaking a specific course or training program, there are many opportunities to help your employees further develop their skill set, which will in turn help your business perform better. While you may not have a formalized training program that doesn’t mean you can’t provide high-impact employee training based on business objectives.
- Focus on customer service. One of the most important things you can do for the success of your business is provide outstanding customer service. This critical component of operations can make or break your reputation within the industry and the likelihood of retaining customers. Ensuring your customer service professionals are properly trained, empowered and engaged will go a long way to keeping your customers happy.