Recently I was having lunch with a second generation family business owner. We were talking about the difference between the employees they’ve hired over the past 2 years and the employees they hired 20 years ago. He commented, “It’s so much different today than it was then. In fact, initially when we started recruiting 2 years ago, we carried forward our recruiting practices from the past two decades. It was really difficult. We made some bad hires which ultimately cost us a lot of time and effort. We had to change the way we recruit employees or else we were going to become less viable as a business going forward.”
The business landscape has been on an accelerating change curve over the past decade. Companies that want to be relevant in the future need to constantly consider how change affects their business and how they’re going to adapt and thrive.
In this post, I’ve listed 3 reasons why future-proofing your business is important and the first steps you and your team can take to future-proof in specific areas.
Small businesses are facing a growing talent crisis
Attracting good employees is increasingly difficult. Whether you’re trying to recruit junior workers with a great attitude who will need training and lots of coaching to succeed or you’re trying to recruit an established star in your field, these people are hard to find.
When you do attract good employees, how are you going to get them up to speed and keep them? What will stop your competitors from poaching your best team members
The first way to future-proof your business against a talent crisis is to deliberately become a better place to work. This sounds so obvious yet so few small businesses actually strategically set out to become an employer of choice and even fewer execute on such an important strategy. Those who do, win big.
The second way is to engage your employees. This one is perhaps a little less obvious but it is equally rewarding and it is actually an important part of becoming an employer of choice.
How to get started? In your monthly or weekly management meeting, discuss with the team what they think it means to be an employer of choice with engaged employees. What would it take to become that company? Then create a one year plan as a team, add that plan as a pillar in your company’s growth strategy and make sure you and your team execute on the plan. Discuss the plan frequently, track progress and adjust constantly to compensate for the inevitable changes on the horizon. If you plan and engage, the results will come.
If you need an extra bit of motivation, read this quote from Harvard Business Review on engagement.
“Engaged employees work harder; are more productive; and most important, feel
successful. Employee success and business success are inextricably linked. Yet most companies lack formalized, structured, and transparent programs that continually drive employee recognition and engagement in a fluid workplace.”
Harvard Business Review “The Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance”
Most important takeaway – Create a strategic employee engagement plan and a supporting process to ensure the plan is executed.
If your business processes aren’t improving, they’re getting worse and they’re costing you money
Your business is comprised of many processes that your team members follow throughout the course of the day, month, year and so on. From billing and new employee recruiting, customer support, service delivery, accounts receivable, to safety meetings and shutting down the shop for the night, every process is a very important cog in the machine that is your business. Processes that slide into neglect tend to cost you money as they create errors, re-work, internal strife and customer dissatisfaction.
If you want your business to be successful for years to come, you’ll want your processes to be able to deliver good value to your customers, help your employees do great work and be adaptable to new employees and new business realities.
How to get started? Document your most important business processes step by step with the people who are involved in the process day in and day out. Make sure the team understands and agrees to what is happening with the processes and give them the opportunity to propose improvements. Do this on a regular basis (put it in the calendar!) and you will find that your employees and customers are happier and your company is putting more cash to the bottom line!
Better yet, leverage broadly available small business software tools to automate steps within your processes so that no one has to do them manually and put even more money to the bottom line. Let the computers and the internet do the work for you. With less manual, tedious tasks to attend to, your employees can engage their substantial brain power to help customers and co-workers in more meaningful ways!
“The trick is to automate the heck out of your business and allow yourself to focus on what you love, such as shaking customers’ hands, planning your long-term vision, designing that next revolutionary product or service and spending more time with your staff.”
American Express Open Forum “How Will Automation Affect Your Business?”
Most important takeaway – Create a process for improving your core business processes. Also, don’t hesitate, automate!
Small business is now firmly in the information age and it’s only getting worse (or better!)
In the early 90s you could walk into an office anywhere and find that many people did not work with a computer. Access to instant information was the domain of corporate giants who could afford massive computer systems, ranks of data processing staff and dot matrix printers producing report after report. Ouch!
Today, small business has access to enterprise-grade computing power and security at bargain basement pricing. Yet many small businesses still plod along on outdated, slow, expensive and unadaptable technology. Worse yet, they force their customers and employees to live with the consequences of this technology backwater.
Small business employees and customers demand access to information on a timely basis. If you’re not giving it to them, they will go somewhere else. Customers want to be able to book appointments, check invoices, purchase products and comment on your business from the warm glow of their computers or mobile devices. Employees want to be able to access the information they need to make decisions and do good work for you and your company. They also want the company they work for to be relevant in the digital spotlight cast by Facebook, Instagram and so on.
How to get started? Get together with your team and discuss how they think customers would like to use technology to interact with your business. Also, talk to your team about how they would like to leverage technology to do a better job for clients and for the company. Develop a technology planning process that ensures you are regularly revisiting your technology so that you can be on the leading edge of meeting customer and employees needs instead of being in catch-up mode.
If you’d like an idea of the technology tools available to small businesses through the web you can find a multitude of “Top 10 Small Business Web Apps” lists available through Google or you can click on this link which takes you to Zapier’s app page. From here, you can find many options for each area of business from accounting to sales and more. Better yet, these apps can all talk to each other automatically using Zapier’s amazing “zaps” tool.
Most important takeaway – You are in the information age. Don’t fight it. Embrace it! Come up with a technology plan and a technology planning process so that you can be ahead of the curve.
About Tacklebox Solutions
Tacklebox is a process automation consultancy serving small and growing businesses in the greater Vancouver area and beyond. We help our small and growing business clients simplify and automate business processes so they can spend more time on growth.