We recommend that you spend a good chunk of your day asking questions. Constantly questioning why will help you improve processes and streamline your systems as well as provoke thought and inspiration across your team. It might seem childish and reminiscent of looking after a toddler but ‘why’ is a wonderful question and can have a great impact for your independent business.
Follow each step of the customer journey and the behind the scenes processes. Question every element of your processes and invite your team to ask as many questions or challenge why things are done as they are. Encourage input and ideas of how things could be better. Are your team spending too much time on paperwork that could be cut down allowing them to focus on other tasks? Is the right data being collected? Could it be done electronically?
Invite feedback from your customers to get their perspective on your business. Use printed feedback forms or send email surveys as a follow up to their transaction. Keep a regular eye on reviews that are left on your Google place listing. Actively ask your customers what they’d like to see in your store or how your service could be improved. If you use feedback forms or surveys include boxes for written responses but also scales out of 10 for them to rate areas of your business, then use these figures as your benchmark for future surveys.
If you’ve never heard of a SWOT analysis this is a great exercise to help develop a marketing plan for your business. You can download a template by clicking here. Print a copy for each member of your team and ask them (individually or working together) to list at least five factors for your organisation’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Many businesses (which were at one time incredibly successful) have seen failure or come close to it because they did not recognise a changing market and adapt to fit it in time.
Just because you’re busy now doesn’t mean it will always be that way. Do you feel like you’re firefighting or playing whack-a-mole and out of control? Try to ensure you’re working on future business as well as dealing with the current workload. Once you’ve established your weaknesses and threats in the SWOT analysis, spend some time addressing each of these points and make plans to react as necessary.
Do your staff enjoy their work? Do they feel like they are making a valid contribution to the business? To the community in general? Staff who feel valued and enjoy their work will build much stronger relationships with your customers and be of far greater benefit to your businesses than staff who feel bored or unhappy or unappreciated. Improving the morale of your team doesn’t necessarily require a huge financial investment. Plan regular team meetings where everyone can speak their mind and there are no wrong answers. These meetings often work best away from your business, so buy them dinner at a local independent restaurant and treat the evening as an informal social experience.
Another question to ask is: What’s stopping us get more customers?