"When you stop growing you start dying."
This cheerful little quip (credited initially to William S. Burroughs) is a poignant reminder for small business owners that becoming stagnant isn't an option if you want to be successful. And that's the goal, right? If you want to create long-term success - not to mention survive the competition - you can't rest on your laurels or settle for the status quo. You need to be proactive.
One of the ways you can do this is by increasing the value of your business. This can lead to better profit margins, happier employees, more satisfied customers, and scalability - which means you can continue operating for years to come (or at least as long as you'd like).
You can add value to your business in various ways, some of which are entirely free while others require a bit more time or money. Below we've listed seven areas you can focus on today to get started.
Review the Current SOPs
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), when done well, are detailed instructions on how to carry out any job or task within the company that any employee can follow. Designed to standardize the most efficient and cost-effective means to achieve the desired outcome, SOPs make it easier to train new employees, delegate tasks, and keep operations running smoothly. In short, they're a playbook for success. But they aren't a one-and-done. Whether it's a company you've just acquired or one you've been running for years, periodic reviews of its SOPs can help you identify areas of improvement.
Improve the Quality of Your Products or Services
You can't just slap on some higher ticket prices and call it a day. Sure, your revenue will probably go up for the time being, but it's not a sustainable solution for long-term growth and success. You either need to offer a better quality of product or service to justify the increase - - or be a real good snail-oil touting shyster. (For the record, we support the first one.) Look for ways you can add value and quality that your customers will want to pay more for.
Invest in Your Employees
The right employees can make or break your business. If they align with your company values, believe in the product or service, and are invested in the overall success of the business, they're only going to add value to your overall operation. Unhappy, unsuited, poorly-trained, and poorly incentivized employees will obviously have the opposite effect. Invest time and resources into your team through incentive or reward programs, management training, or professional skill development. (The same goes for you solo-flyers! Invest in yourself as well. You're the only employee you have!)
Improve Customer Service
How can your customers reach you? How accessible is someone from your team to answer questions or address complaints? Do they wait days for a return call? Are they greeted by an unfriendly and unbothered call center clerk after-hours? Is your contact information readily available on your website? Think about the businesses you frequent and compare how their CS stacks up against your own. Even if you royally effed up, good customer service can go a long, long way to salvage the situation. Happy customers = happy reviews = more customers = more money = more value.
Listen to Your Customers
Similar to the point right above, but different enough that it deserves its own paragraph. Small businesses have a significant advantage over Big Box Chains because they communicate more directly with their customers and can be better attuned to their needs. That's huge! Ask for feedback, send out surveys, heck -- chat 'em up while they're at the cash register. This is golden info at your fingertips. Don't assume you know what they want. The business owners who listen - and give - the people what they ask for will always come out ahead.
Invest in Technology
Let us clarify - invest in GOOD technology. If you spend half your day resetting the routers, unjamming the printers, calling IT, or doing anything else for an unreasonable amount of time that could have been solved easily with updated equipment or tech, please make that a priority. It can be a costly investment but well worth the headache it saves you - - not to mention the time you'll get back to put into other more worthwhile pursuits.
Become an Expert
This isn't something that will happen overnight - but becoming an expert in your field, and earning that reputation, will increase your business's value exponentially. Whether it's through studying the market, analyzing trends, attending conferences on the latest updates in your industry, taking online courses, spending time on the production line, making deliveries, answering the phones, or a little bit of everything - the more time you spend getting to know all the pieces of the puzzle (even if you suck with the execution of one of those pieces) you'll have a better understanding of the full picture. You gotta know how the sausage gets made, so to speak. Then show off that expertise by publishing to your website's blog or social media accounts to reach more people and potential customers.
Taking the time and intentionally adding value to your business is one of the best investments you can make for long-term growth.