Every business owner spends a significant portion of their time just thinking, dreaming, and in some cases, worrying, about their business.
You wonder whether you’re making the right decisions; should you buy that new location?
Should you absorb that smaller company?
You even wonder if your employees are happy.
Success requires this level of attention, and you aren’t wrong to mull these topics over each day. Unfortunately, unfocused worrying isn’t productive; if you’re worried about the wrong things, you’re taking two steps back.
So what should every business owner think about? This short list is by no means exhaustive, but it does focus on some of the most important quandaries you should consider each day.
But How Do You Make Money?
If you ever tune into the show, you’re sure to hear his signature phrase ring out: “But how do I make money?” Although it might seem caustic and impersonal at first, he has a point; if your business isn’t bringing money in, you will struggle and potentially even fail. How you plan to get in the green and stay there is one of the biggest questions for business owners in any niche or market.
That’s not to say that there won’t be times where your business barely brings anything in. In the first year or two, most businesses are lucky just to break even or not resort to bankruptcy. These are the most challenging financial times for business owners, but that only makes it even more important to focus on funds.
When you’re making deals, considering expanding, debating taking on a new product, or even debating selling your business off to the highest bidder, always as yourself: “Will this make me money?”
And if the answer is yes, “How much?”
Company Culture Matters
Is your office more like a cozy studio space where everyone has the ability to get comfortable or is it more like a prison?
Research shows that company culture (including both the look and feel of your office) matters.
Poor culture leads to infighting, lack of motivation, and employees doing the bare minimum to get by. It also sours people on coming to work in the first place, something that can increase absences and result in the loss of valuable, talented individuals.
Cultivating good culture isn’t always easy. Above all else, it starts with a willingness to recognize that the people who work for you aren’t just employees; they’re people with emotions, lives, struggles, and personalities.
At its heart, good cultures focus on communication, ensuring that all people within the company feel useful, needed, and able to contribute to the company’s growth. It also includes ensuring that you aren’t pushing any one or more employees past their breaking point; burn out is your biggest enemy.
If you find yourself having to bring employees in early and then have them stay late, you’re not managing your culture or your employees effectively and you risk burnout.
Micromanagement is Poison
No one likes a nagger. That’s true in marriages and in business, but it can have even more devastating results for businesses.
Within this specific scope, it often comes in the form of supervisors, team leads, and business owners that are constantly dictating tasks and looking over employee’s shoulders to see if they’re getting everything done.
A micro manager wants tasks not only completed but also completed in a very specific way.
It often stems from uncertainty about employees, the business, or even plain and simple control. Micromanagement only focuses on the process, neglecting to consider other options regardless of whether or not another approach may be an improvement.
The result is that employees feel incapable and constantly scrutinized.
Instead, provide opportunities for your employees to get inspired and stretch their wings. Assign tasks, and wherever possible, allow them the freedom to find the best way to get the job done. They’ll feel like a bigger part of the business, and often, will provide better results, too.
Organization is Everything
If someone asked you for the tax files for 2014, could you find it in less than five minutes?
If the answer is no, it may be time to reorganize your business.
This thinking point refers not only to documents or items but also to your structure; your business should run in a way that makes it easy for any one department to access needed information from another. If they can’t find what they need easily, they can’t do their jobs effectively.
Take a look around offices and workspaces. Where and how do you store the tools of the trade? Do the right employees have access to the right items? Are people having to file support tickets that take three days to address simply because they’re locked out of a computer? Perhaps there’s confusion over who uses what equipment, or who goes to lunch at what time. All of this adds to office chaos and breeds negativity amongst staff, so work to streamline your business whenever possible.
Markets Change Constantly
When was the last time you assessed your market viability?
If the answer is more than 12 months ago, you don’t have the information you need to make solid business decisions. Market evaluation should be constant; in our unstable economy, some niche markets can go from viable to obsolete in just a few weeks. If you don’t anticipate those changes, you can’t modify your business to stay alive throughout the instability.
For smaller businesses, simply keeping an ear or two on the ground for rumors and information may be enough. But larger businesses should dedicate a small portion of capital each year to market evaluation. Have whoever runs your market research also keep a close eye on potential boons, not just downfalls; there are often golden opportunities hidden among the thorns of a struggling market.
Adaptation is Vital for Growth
Segueing from the previous entry is the need to consider business adaptation.
If your largest partner tanked tomorrow and declared bankruptcy, how long would it take you to recover from the loss? Could you recover at all, or would it grind your business to a halt? If it’s the latter, you aren’t as adaptable as you should be.
Start thinking about Plan B’s (and C’s, and D’s, and E’s…) and what you might do if “worse comes to worse.” Have backup plans for your backup plans, and then have backup plans for them, especially when it comes to elements of business you can’t control.
Another way to look at adaptation is with regard to technology (if it plays a role in your market). Remember that just because you’re offering the next best thing today, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll still be the latest and greatest two years down the road.
The now-ancient MySpace website is an excellent example of positive and negative adaptation; in its time, it was the most popular social media website online. But Zuckerberg’s FaceBook eventually came along, beating them into the dust. MySpace is still viable today on a lesser level because they chose to focus on a specific niche rather than watering down their market. Overall, though, Facebook’s rapid popularity cost them dearly because they simply couldn’t adapt to the additional pressure.
Boredom is Your Biggest Enemy
There’s a strange thought process that permeates the business world sometimes; many of us believe that we need to be formulaic and incredibly boring in order to be professional.
Be wary of cultures that focus on a similar mindset. Practiced processes and finely honed procedures are one thing, but if your employees feel like they come to work and simply “work the factory line” they’re most likely bored to tears. And boredom, unfortunately, is exactly what leads to unnecessary sick days or high turnover rates.
You see this often in large-scale operations like call centers; everything is scripted and exact and polished. Employees come in, sit in a dull, boring cubicle, read the same words and access the same systems day after day. The monotony can legitimately lead to depression, while the stress of dealing with unpleasant customers can lead to stress disorders.
Identify problems like these and find ways to make the experience more pleasant for your employees.
Perhaps you allow them to keep a small fish bowl with a single fish on their desk. Or, maybe you install a video game console in the aisles and let them blow off some steam together during breaks. You might even do something altogether different, like mixing up the work they do so they get to experience other facets of business for inspiration. Whatever you do, just remember that monotony and boredom will kill your productivity and theirs.