When a business is streamlined and runs smoothly, everyone wins. The morale of employees lifts when they are able to do their jobs with the minimum of mixed signals, boring tasks and unhappy customers. The people who buy your products and services respond positively when inventory is readily available, staff are knowledgeable, they feel valued and appreciated, and the checkout process is fast and secure. As an entrepreneur, you benefit when your profit margin increases, your employees feel good about their jobs, and your customers keep coming back and bringing their friends. Below are some ways that you can make your business more efficient.
Ensure Everybody Has a Purpose
This might sound obvious, but many businesses drown because they lose their sense of identity. When owners and employees lose sight of the focus of what you are passionate about, your trusted group of workers can be disastrously transformed from a well-oiled machine into a many-legged organism vainly attempting to go in eight different directions all at once. To solidify your purpose, dust off your original one-page business plan. Ask yourself if you and your staff are complying with the expectations expressed in that document. If your focus has changed, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing; however, it is important to get together with everyone involved to go over what is and isn’t working and to review, renew or revamp your goals. While you’re at it, look at everyone’s job descriptions, helping each employee to understand exactly what you expect. Most people thrive when they know what is required of them, especially when you recognize their successes and give constructive feedback on where they might be falling short.
Figure Out What Isn’t Working
If your business is like most, there are probably many things you are doing right. Of course, you want to continue along that path, but there are most likely other areas that need improvement. You have many tools at your disposal to help you gauge the places where you may be missing the mark. Use your point-of-sale (POS) system to generate sales reports, giving careful attention to what isn’t selling. If a product line is failing to grab customer interest, jettison it in favor of something else. Take some of your cues from social media and sites such as Pinterest, which often spotlight up-and-coming trends that you can jump on and bring onto your sales floor. Go online to see what your competitors are doing, and ask trusted customers and business contacts for their honest opinions.
Make Your Money Work Harder
Many of your customers, including some of the most loyal, may not be able to pay for their purchase all at once. You want to continue to have a business relationship with them, so you do what many retailers do and allow them a certain period of time to pay. While this tactic is a good practice, it means that you don’t have access to the cash you are owed, sometimes for months. Now and then, you will encounter the unpleasant situation of a customer who simply defaults on their debt, in which case you need to resort to drastic measures such as turning the bill over to a collections agency. However, in many cases, customers have every intention of paying. They may even simply forget to do so. That’s where keeping in touch in a friendly way with people who owe you money can be invaluable. You can even provide incentives for paying early or on time. You also probably owe money to your own suppliers who provide you with the materials that you sell to others. Getting low-interest loans and good credit terms can enable you to have more cash on hand to make the purchases and capital improvements you need.
Use Digital Technology to Automate Tasks
Have you fully tapped into all of the features of your POS solution? Many entrepreneurs don’t realize just how many tasks it can take over, including payroll, inventory management, customer relationships and loyalty programs. Once you have your system set up properly – and your merchant account provider can help you with this task – you can turn over many routine activities to your POS, thus freeing yourself up to give your own personal touch to running your operation. While you’re at it, consider developing a native mobile app for your business. It’s a great way for your tech-savvy customers to have an ongoing relationship with you, and it also allows you to seamlessly integrate with the social media platforms and review sites that can be invaluable marketing tools.
Whether you are located at the end of a country road or in the midst of the urban jungle, your retail establishment should make its mark as an indispensable part of the community. The products or services you sell fulfill a specific need, and it’s your job to let the world know about it. Fortunately, this task is made much easier by modern internet technology. From online reviews to social media, to mobile apps and location-based notifications, you have the power at your fingertips to make and grow your own community of loyal customers. Studies suggest that when consumers are linked into these bonded groups, they spend about 19 percent more, and that’s a trend you can take to the bank.
Outsource and Automate
You now know the power of your POS to take on daily tasks by means of automation. In addition, you can remove even more of the burden from your shoulders by outsourcing. By no means is this an admission of defeat. Instead, it is a recognition that your time is both valuable and finite and that you can only do so much in a day. Given that fact, why not devote your precious hours to the things that only you can accomplish, such as enhancing your personal relationships with customers and employees or finding ways to advance your business? A perfect example of what we’re talking about here is tax preparation, a detail-heavy task that should be done right the first time by someone familiar with the intricacies of IRS codes and laws. You could either do your best to muddle through this job or hire a freelance CPA who is licensed and accountable. For many entrepreneurs, it’s an investment that pays for itself many times over. When you can recognize both your strengths and your weaknesses and act accordingly, your business will operate much more smoothly and efficiently.
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