10 things you can do to improve your business (2024)

If you don’t think your business needs any form of improvement, well, you may as well shut it down now before it goes belly-up. Because the fact is, none of us is perfect — and no business is perfect. The most successful people in business recognise that and are constantly striving for perfection, knowing they’ll never get there but also knowing that unless they try, they risk falling behind their competitors and losing everything.

The good news is that there are 10 improvements you can make right now.

These are not quick fixes, however. They are the beginnings of a journey of continuous improvement that every company must undertake if they are continue to survive and thrive.

1. Identify your critical success factors

Cashflow is the lifeblood of any business, but it’s amazing how few businesses track their financial results on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. Just as amazing is the number of business owners who think that their success starts and ends with the financials — and forget all the other contributing factors. These vary depending on the type of business you operate, but almost always include productivity, employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.

2. Keep score

You can only manage what you measure, so it’s essential to track your business’s performance against your critical success factors. For this, you’ll need some kind of tracking system — there’s plenty of software that will do the trick — but the key is the measure consistently over time.

3. Learn from the best

Every industry has operators who stand out from the rest in terms of excellence and results. If you're not one of those, it can pay you to look at those who are and find out what they're doing that you're not. It's not always easy to find out, but one way is to look at best practices outside your industry and apply the relevant ones to your business.

4. Create the future

The first subheadline I used against this point was “Monitor trends”. No business operates in a vacuum. You need to be aware of the trends and changes that are impacting on your industry as well as the wider business environment. But simply following trends is not enough. The best way to predict the future is to create it. Think about some of the ways you could possibly set the trends in your industry.

5. Involve your people

Believe it or not, you don’t have the monopoly on good ideas in your business. Your partner(s) and employees may well have suggestions for your improvement that will make a real difference. You'll gain access to a free thinktank, but unless you involve them in the process, you’re unlikely to obtain their buy-in to your improvement programme.

6. Set goals

Only when you know what your critical success factors are, where you stand in the industry and where you want to be in the future can you set goals for improvement. And, of course, these goals will need to be S.M.A.R.T. — specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time-based. I’ve found the most effective goal-setting technique is to set your long-term objectives first — where you want to be in five years’ time, for example — and then work backwards to create the steps you’ll need to climb every week, month and year in order to reach your long-term targets.

6. Make a plan

You wouldn't try to build a house without a plan, so why would you run a business without a plan? A house plan not only gives you an architect’s vision of what the completed building will look like, but also what’s required to build it and how it will be built. A business improvement plan is the same. It’s about the resources and systems you’ll need to build a better business.

7. Develop systems

I know I’ve already mentioned systems but they’re so important that I’m giving them their own section. Systems are ways of doing things that can be done the same way, every time, achieving the same predictable results as efficiently as possible. Examples include processes for selling your products, raising invoices, even answering the telephone. The quality management guru W. Edwards Deming once said, “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a system, you don’t know what you’re doing.”

8. 'Sharpen the saw'

That was the title of one of the chapters in Steven Covey’s famous book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and meant that unless you’re constantly improving yourself and your skills, you’ve got no chance of improving your business. When was the last time you read a book on business management, selling or innovating? What seminars or courses have you attended in the last twelve months? Don’t have time? Refer to the advice given in the first sentence of this article.

9. Know your limitations

One of the biggest mistakes that business owners make, in my experience, is thinking you can do it all. You can’t. None of us can. None of us is indispensable. Delegate. Don’t just involve your people in the planning process, involve them in making the plan happen. If you don’t have people in your business who can make decisions and take charge when necessary, don’t make excuses. Find them or coach your existing people. Sometimes the best way to improve your business and re-ignite your passion is to take leave the day-to-day running to your people and focus on working on your business rather than in it.

10. Get help

Forgive me if I've made any of the above sound as if it should be easy. It isn't. That's why most successful business people I know have mentors or coaches to help them with every step of the improvement process, including benchmarking, goal setting, planning, and facilitating their teams.

These are all areas in which I have considerable expertise and I would be pleased to work with you as a mentor or coach to guide you through the process of improving your business. So we can get to know each other and discuss how we could work together — even if you're outside New Zealand where I'm based — I offer a free Initial Consultation in person, over Skype or by phone.

10 things you can do to improve your business (2024)
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