Leadership Tips – Small Business Requires Faster Decisions

Introduction

This leadership tip has something in it for managers everywhere, but it’s particularly targeted at those of you with large company backgrounds who have made career moves to smaller businesses that you own and/or manage.

My background is primarily in large scale management of IT organizations. The companies where I’ve worked were places where changing a process or behavior took some time. I always thought I was quicker than most, and action oriented. As a small business owner, I found I had to be much quicker.

I’ll offer this leadership tip in the form of a story. It’s a story of how taking your eye of the ball can cost you money, and worse than that can cost you customers.

My First Small Business

I opened a small personal services business. It was located about an hour from my home office, and with all my other commitments I knew how important hiring the right manager would be for this shop. It took a few tries, but I found one with a good background and references, and she seemed to quickly develop loyalty to the business and to me.

For the first six months we grew slowly but steadily. We were behind plan in terms of customers and revenue, but the trend was up. There were a few staff issues, but overall turnover was okay. I decided to invest a little more in marketing to try and get more new faces in the door.

Over the next three months, customer counts were mostly flat, and average sale was actually down a little. Concerned, I visited the shop a few times more than usual. The people were not as upbeat as they had been. When asked about that, they attributed their moods to less business and less enjoyment of the job. I wondered about seasonality, the economy, and whether I needed even more marketing investment.

Want to know what was really going on? My trusted manager had some personal problems that I had not been aware of before, and was exhibiting some totally unacceptable behaviors:

  • Criticizing staff in front of customers
  • Intimidating staff, letting them know they were at risk of being fired, and telling them I was out to get them.
  • Stealing money by voiding transactions and other means

The Damages

I’m still figuring out how much money all this cost me, but the money is only today’s problem. The customers I’ve lost are a more serious longer term issue, because many of them won’t be coming back.

When I figured out what was going on, I moved quickly to fire the manager. There were only two problems:

  1. I was too late, and there had been several months of damage done;
  2. There was collateral damage. I had to fire two other employees who had adopted the attitude and behaviors of the manager.

Today, I’m working on putting together data to see if I can assemble a case for prosecuting the employees and the manager. An even higher priority, though, is the work I’m doing to recruit and orient new staff and develop a recovery plan for our customer service reputation.
This leadership tip was a painful lesson that I hope never to repeat.

Small Business Banking

As a small business owner, you will want to focus on banking features that are available, useful and help you realize success with your company. Each financial institution offers unique small business banking programs and packages. There are free business checking accounts, business savings accounts, loans and credit card services as well as online features from credit unions and banks to consider while conducting business. You will want to become familiar with their products so you can choose which will work for you and your business.

When looking at the selection of credit unions and banks, you will see many types of small business banking services that can meet your needs. Some credit unions and banks offer free business checking accounts, while others require a minimum balance. You may need after hour depositing and many small business banking programs include this. Most banks and credit unions offer a debit card or check card with the opening of a free business checking account. This can prove to be a convenient and efficient way to make purchases for your business. You may have an option of an unlimited amount of transactions when you start a free business checking account with your credit union or bank. Check with your financial institution, as there may be limits on usage and account balances.

You will have plenty of options when you open a business savings account. Overdraft protection can certainly be useful when you use your business savings account to cover any overages by your business checking account. Your business funds can earn money with an interest bearing savings account. Each financial institution will set their terms for the amount and the length of the deposit for this type of business savings account. CD’s and money market savings accounts are offered as another source of generating money with your business savings account.

Most small businesses need capital for start up, growth and expansion, and even help through lean times. Credit Unions and banks offer loans and even business credit cards to cover these needs. Many small companies take advantage of business credit cards for convenience and flexibility with their working capital. An example of this would be when using your card to cover the gap in payment for goods and services that your business has invoiced. Small business loans can be an essential element for expansion in the event that you do not have the capital to cover the cost of growing your company. While you can’t predict the future, knowing that your business can take on a loan to assist you through difficult times can put your mind at ease.

Small business banking has grown with the digital age and most banks and credit unions now extend online services to their business customers in addition to free checking and savings accounts. Such services can include taking of care of your accounts payable online, monitoring free business checking and business savings account activity, receiving account alerts at your email or mobile device, bill payment and transferring funds between accounts with the push of a button. Statements through the mail can literally be a thing of the past with online banking. Online small business banking services even allow for the use of accounting software such as Quicken® or Microsoft Money® so that your financial picture can be managed with great ease.

The Importance of Online Communities For Business

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” Albert Einstein. When it comes to sharing business content with your online communities, offering information to others that is of value will ultimately make your business successful.

There are many reasons why being a part of online communities contributes greatly to the success of your business.

  • Universal exposure: As part of an online community, you are able to reach people around the world and it is as though you are all in a room together, interacting on issues that are important and interesting to all of you. It is incredible that you are now capable (through social media) of reaching numerous people at once from one location. This allows you not only to market your business easily and successfully but also lets you do a large number of other things connected with your business. Remember that connecting with your online communities does not mean that you should be giving those people a hard sell. You should be sharing valuable information with them. You are educating the other people in your online communities about what you do and what you offer. You are allowing them to get to know you and your business.
  • Learning from others: As a member of an online community, you have the opportunity to learn new ways to market your business from other marketers. You should take advantage as much as possible of the expertise of other people who are members of your online communities and put their principles into practice, where appropriate.
  • Strategic partnerships: You will have many opportunities to form strategic partnerships with other members of your online communities. There will be a lot of synergies between you and others and if you find that your skills and expertise compliment those of people in your online communities, you should approach them and see how you can work together most effectively. Of course, you cannot form business partnerships with people unless you get to know them and they get to know you. Nobody will partner with another person unless they trust them and find them to be credible.
  • Make the most of your online communities: Remember that you need to market yourself and your business through your online communities. Make sure that your online profile is complete, which means that you need to include more details about yourself than your business. You should include a statement about your business but a more comprehensive discussion about your business offerings will occur after you have posted and syndicated your content.
  • Choose your online communities wisely: It is important to choose your online communities based on the members with whom you want to interact. It is not enough to choose an online community based solely on a demographic, ie, a geographic location or an age group. You should be very selective about your communities and make sure that the other members in your online communities have enough in common with you and your business and are really excited about interacting with you online.
  • Build your online relationships: It is very important to continue to develop relationships with those people with whom you interact online. A good way to do this is by continually sharing information with them that you feel they will find valuable and that will help them in some way. Not only will your online connections want to interact with you but they will also speak favorably about you to others online. The more comfortable and the closer your relationships with them become, the more opportunities you will eventually have of selling them your products and/or services. Make sure that you make the effort to not only establish the relationships but also make sure that you maintain them for the long term.

Conclusion

Being a member of online communities for business and continually establishing and maintaining online relationships is critical to the success of your business. With the extreme popularity of social media, many people are excited about interacting and developing relationships with others whom they feel they can trust and who they consider experts in their industry. At the heart of your success is the human element. Once people really get to know you and you get to know them, they will want what you are offering and will gladly tell others about what you are offering too.

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