North American Property Services’ 8 Tips for Growing Your Small Business
Most small businesses fail when they are trying to grow beyond the startup phase, says VP Nicole Smith of North American Property Services, which provides consulting for dozens of small businesses. Here are 8 unique tips for managing your company’s early growth phase to ensure you come out the other side thriving and profitable.
1. Have written procedures so tasks are done the same way, every time.
As a small business owner, you do everything in the beginning. But if you want to take a vacation once in a while, or have the weekends off, or open a second location, then you need a way to “duplicate” yourself. That is, create a way for your employees to do the work you’ve been doing, and at the same level of efficiency and customer satisfaction you expect from yourself.
If you ask three employees who do the same job how to perform a seemingly simple task, you may be surprised to hear three different answers. This causes inconsistent results and tasks may take different amounts of time to do. Both those problems directly affect your bottom line.
2. Monitor work and track the time needed to complete tasks.
Payroll is biggest expense of most companies, and tracking how much time it takes employees to finish tasks is a way to control payroll expenses. One way to monitor your employees’ work without micromanaging them is to have them fill out job reports.
Have you ever noticed the sheet of paper taped to the door of public restrooms that detail when the last cleaning was done? This is a very simple, yet very effective, way of making sure the task is done, and is done in a reasonable amount of time, says North American Property Services.
3. North American Property Services seeks out strategic partnerships.
You don’t have to do everything yourself. In fact, you can grow bigger than you ever thought by licensing your brand or franchising your business. Since you’ve already spent the time and effort to document procedures, created reports for monitoring work, and established systems for good recordkeeping, you can have another small business owner use those systems and your brand to open locations in other states; while you share a cut of the profits.
4. Be transparent with employees to build a sense of “ownership.”
When I worked at Rhythm & Hues, the visual effects studio that worked on movies like Life of Pi and Superman Returns, we had a weekly company meeting where the president openly shared company financials. While the news was not always good, camaraderie among the staff, and with management, was sky high because we felt like we were all in it together.
5. Hire specialists to do non-core jobs.
Small business owners spend too much time working on the business of running a business. But your time is better spent on the core competencies of your company — whether it’s being an expert on the products you sell or providing amazing services for your clients. The ROI on hiring professionals to do non-core jobs is worth more than the fees involved.
6. Spend the first hour each day by yourself — no emails or phone calls.
A whole day can easily be spent on day-to-day problems, and by closing time, you’re too exhausted to work on the longer term projects on your mind. North American Property Services VP Smith says she spends the first hour of the day by herself, disconnected, so she can think about long term projects.
Even if you don’t do any actual “work,” spending quiet time in the morning to meditate or think about your business will pay off in spades.
7. Market by building a community of (potential) customers.
Let’s say you sell bicycles. You can have a Facebook page that promotes hot new products in the store. Or you can have a Facebook page that promotes cycling in your city. Cyclists (read: potential customers) will flock to your page if it advocates activities that they care about, rather than directly promoting your business.
Are there opportunities for you to promote tangential activities related to your business? Your marketing time and dollars are probably better spent promoting your customers’ passions, rather than directly promoting your business.
8. Hire passionate people.
Zappos, the online shoe retailer that was acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion, has an interesting strategy for hiring the right people. It’s called “The Offer.” During the initial 4-week training period new employees are offered a choice: stay with the company or take a quick $2,000 payoff to quit. (The offer started as a $100 bonus, so even the smallest small businesses can try it themselves.) The practice results in a workforce that is uniquely passionate about working for the company. CEO Tony Hsieh credits this company culture for the company’s success.
All small businesses can use these same strategies to mimic North American Property Services’ growth from a single location to becoming a nationwide provider.