Little Things in Business By Gary Harper

Gary Harper helps real estate investors build a better business—not by becoming better at finding deals, rehabbing, and managing tenants, but by creating better systems, hiring the right people, and establishing and reaching bigger goals through a complete business operating. This is what he’ll be addressing at his all-day workshop at the OREIA National Real Estate Summit, Oct. 31st in Cincinnati. If your goal is an easier, more passive business, you need to be there—and you can get tickets at www.OREIAConvention.com

It’s the little things like a free dessert or beverage that makes customers feel special and appreciated.  There is nothing difficult or expensive about paying attention to your customers likes and dislikes (Wayne’s Eggs) — remembering their names and keeping track of their buying preferences.  Little things frequently produce big results.  Unfortunately, many business owners miss the small things and then wonder why they lose the business to a competitor.  Here are just a few of the “little things” that can set your business apart from the rest.

  1. Smile. 

A smile is contagious and makes people feel welcome.  Oh, and by the way, it takes fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown.  Plus, research from the 1970s and 80s suggests that your facial expression might actually influence your mood.  (Try putting a smile on your face and see if you feel happy.)  So, make sure you have a smile on your face when you’re dealing with your customers, so they know their business is important to you.

  • Take Responsibility for Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes and training your customer service team to quickly apologize for mistakes and rectify them is one of the most important “little things” you can do to enhance your customer service.  Sometimes that means accepting responsibility for something that isn’t your fault.  Perception is reality.  The goal is to do your best to satisfy your customer.

  • Go Above and Beyond. 

One of the best ways to wow your customers is to go beyond what they’re expecting.  Talk about building loyalty.  One of my favorite examples has to do with two competing discount shoe stores located next door to each other.  I had reward coupons for both stores which I didn’t realize were for another location.  The first store refused to accept the coupon even though it was in the same city. It was their corporate policy!  The second store gladly accepted my coupon which turned out to be actually not their coupon.  Both coupons were only for $10.00 off, but it was the way in which they handled the situation that spoke volumes.  The first store lost a good customer over $10.00 because now I only shop at the second store.

Of course, the little things can be easy to miss. After all, they’re little. And in a fast-paced, chaotic cult­­­­­­­ure, the newest and shiniest toys can distract us from the details that really count. You’ve got to be intentional when you look for the little things. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth the extra effort.

As a business coach, I meet entrepreneurs every day that are great at creating a sellable product but struggling with running a business. They have made the jump from employee to entrepreneurship and they are having success, but they struggle with scaling properly.  

Many times, I hear statements like; my business is stuck, I have problems solving issues, I have the wrong people in my business, The business has become complex and communication has deteriorated or find themselves working more “In” the Business then “On” the business. Basically, that have plateaued, and they don’t know how to have a growth spurt. 

In order to grow and overcome these issues business owners need to focus and work on these main areas of business. Leadership, Vision, People, Processes, Data and Communication. 

Vision 

As leaders, it’s our jobs to provide a vision other can follow. As John Maxwell says “The leader finds the dream and then the people. The people find the leader and THEN the dream.” Have you found your dream? Your purpose in life or as many people call it your “Why”? Your “Why” will provide focus for your employees on where you are going, and the right people will align their goals to help you achieve yours. 

Do you have a clear vision in writing that has been properly communicated to your entire staff and is shared by everyone?  

“Anyone Can Steer the Ship, But It Takes a Leader to Chart the Course” Navigation requires vision and the ability to have good interpretation of the past and ability to understand and predict the future. 

As leaders we must plan ahead and create focus for our company and employees. Having a documented Vision Plan that includes your Core Values, 10 to 30-year goals that back down into 3-5-year goals that ultimately leads to creating a 1-year focus with 90 days goals for everyone that are leaders on your team. 

Leadership 

Before we have the right to lead others, we must make sure we lead ourselves first. The first person you need to lead is you. You should work first and hardest on you. You should ask yourself this question daily. What areas of my life need changing? 

I love being reminded every time I fly of the important of taking care of ourselves first. Over 1000 times I have heard these words from a flight attendant. “In case of an emergency in a flight… and the oxygen mask falls… Every flight attendant instructs you to put the mask on YOURSELF FIRST… so you can take care of others.”  

People 

“He who thinketh he is leading, and no one is following, is only taking a walk!” John Maxwell 

Do you have the right people based off your core values? Are they in the right position based on their abilities? Do they know their role or the role of others in your company? 

Every company needs to take time and document the positions in their company that are needed to grow based on the documented vision. Once this has been documented you can hire the right people for these positions based off their abilities and if they align with the company’s core values. 

By having the right people in the right position, you will have confidence to start “Letting Go”.  

Then you can stop working “IN” the business and spend more time working “ON” the business. 

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”  

     – Theodore Roosevelt 

Processes 

Are your company’s main processes documented and then followed by everyone in the company? 

Many times, I hear a statement from business owners that they don’t have time or don’t know what to do? Documenting your business processes can often feel overwhelming.  

I get questions like where do I start? Do I document everything? Do I have the resources, and can they be pulled away from their daily tasks? You don’t need to create a 1,000-page Standard Operating Procedure guide; you just need to identify your 10 main processes and start knocking them out through a simple method called process mapping. 

Process mapping is a simple tool that allows you to identify the processes start and end points and the departments that are responsible for the steps in the process.  

Why Process Mapping? It helps you understand and analyze your current way of working. It allows you to redesign and improve the process. You can use process mapping to implement a standard way of working and train new employees. This allows you to communicate with other groups and external entities 

There are two categories of Process Maps: 

We us “As Is” maps to truly understand how a process works in the real world, to provide continuous improvement to the process. 

From the creation of the “AS IS” map I like to lean the process, remove waste, improve efficiency and then automate where it makes sense. That converts my “AS IS” map into a “Should Be” map which is the second map. 

We use “Should Be” maps to establish performance standards, to establish service level agreements, to establish standard processes, to establish process expectations, to provide training and to determine customer expectations. 

Data 

Most people overlook this area of their business or just justify having it by tracking their financials. But tracking data is much more than just a P&L statement.  

These data reports are also called scorecards, dashboards, flash reports, metrics, pulse report, key performance indicators (KPIs) and 1,000 other words. 

As business owners, we need this information to accurately predict where the business is going and ensure the company has a healthy heart beat. 

We usually find that there are around 10 to 20 key metrics that need tracked on a weekly basis and 5 to 10 metrics that need track monthly. 

Once you decide on the right metrics you need to add a weekly/monthly goal that needs to be obtained to maintain a healthy and growing company. Once I have these metrics and the goal outlined, I always assign these metrics to the proper people on the team to ensure they are reported on weekly/monthly. Having these numbers allows me to spend time away from the office or enjoying time off, while having peace knowing the health of my company. 

If you don’t know what these numbers are today, I plead with you to take time away with your team and develop these numbers and then use them to hold your business accountable. 

Communication 

Proper communication will reduce complexity and will add accountability. We all need accountability in our businesses. Lack of accountability will lead to complacency = DEATH. 

Communication starts with having the right meetings that ensure you are delivering value to your company. I feel there are three meeting structures that are critical. 

First meeting is a quick daily huddle that has a simple agenda. This meeting is a standing meeting that we communicate the following: Good News, expectations for the day, announcement of visitors and collaboration of needs from each department.  

Second meeting is a weekly meeting to work “ON” the business. We review the current state of the business through goals and metrics and identify any key issues and then we spend the next 60 minutes solving issues.  

Third meeting, which could be the most important meeting of all three, is the Town Hall meeting. This meeting allows the visionary/owner the ability to share their vision to the whole company. In this meeting, you want to structure it to last no more than 30 minutes. We start off with public praise, then communication of company wins and then end it with the vision for the quarter and monthly we include in this meeting the long-term vision as well. This meeting helps define the culture of the business and motivates that staff weekly. 

With all meetings, you should set up a routine. Each meeting needs to start on time and end on time. They need to be at the same time and the weekly meetings need to be on the same day. 

Good communication prevents bottlenecks and train wrecks where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. It allows you to review goals and provide accountability to your vision.  

The right system 

Having these systems in place you will be able to; 

  • Help you scale properly 
  • Bring out the best in employees 
  • Reduce employee stress levels 
  • Allow you to stop micromanaging  
  • Reduce employee turnover 
  • Dial in your business processes 
  • Create the right culture in your business 
  • Create a Vision for all to follow 
  • Get your team all on the same page pulling the same direction 

When companies have inefficient systems in place, it hinders the productivity of your employees. A great employee working with an inefficient system is not only an inefficient and ineffective employee, but you are essentially paying for an employee to do work they cannot fully accomplish. This leads to high turnover rates and lack of confidence within your organization. 

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