I like going into new businesses and predicting their future to my family or friends. The alarming thing is how often my predictions are correct–and it does not take any prophetic skills. I look at the little things. I first rate my first impression of the business:
- Is the sign professional?
- Does the name fit the business?
- How am I greeted?
- Does the staff have neat uniforms on and are they trained to provide great service?
- Can I make a purchase and if applicable make a return effortless?
- Do employees know how to perform refunds quickly?
- Are the windows clean?
- Are all the lights on so the business looks open from the outside?
It is the little things that separate successful companies from unsuccessful ones. This brings to mind the proverb, “Little foxes that spoil the vine” from the Song of Solomon (2:15). The warning applies to business, as well as it does to our personal lives. With the rush and time demands of life, we are catching the big threats and focusing our time on trying to avoid disaster. As a business start-up you will feel the same way. How soon can you make a profit and pay down the debts? Will you be able to make your lease payment in full? The list goes on.
I often hear business owners blame their lack of growth on the loan they did not get or their location, but in fact it is usually in all the minor things they have ignored to improve. Taking the time to train employees on an ongoing basis is essential. This is number one for me on little foxes spoiling the bunch. The employees are your company, sometimes more so than your product or service. They interact with customers, handle customer service, and are the most likely source of waste. Penny-pinching mega-firms that constantly monitor efficiency and paperclips are the high end of the spectrum–a culture I don’t recommend for morale reasons. Restaurants that use every bit of food before it rots and have expectations of cleanliness and order are at the low end are closer to what I shoot for. I like clean uniforms, friendly staff, and spotless vehicles.
For you, I want you to do a week-long tracking of what small things come up in 7 days that could have gone better, took too long, and wasted money or materials. Come up with strategic ways to train your employees regularly so that they begin to track themselves. When they become invested in the little details of the business, the foxes will leave your “vines” alone…at least for awhile.