Business Is Down, Now What?

Everyone in the world is in the midst of one of the biggest economic downturns of all times. Almost all businesses are affected in one way or another. Although some online businesses and suppliers of critical needs and healthcare products might be prospering, most other businesses are feeling the sting of the global pandemic.

Due to the COVID-19 virus, a generalized statement can be made, “Business is down, now what?” For small businesses and SMEs, this situation can be a negative factor to net income if not outright disastrous for survival. Larger businesses certainly have the ability to “weather the storm” better than their smaller counterparts. Of course, plenty of large businesses (airlines, auto manufacturers, cruise ship industry, etc.) are having their economic problems, as well, figuring out how to survive. So, businesses have two options: do nothing or plan for the future.

Do Nothing – Doing nothing is what many small businesses and SMEs will do during this moment of crisis. Any business…retail, restaurant, service, medical, dental, professional services…may temporarily close (voluntary or involuntary), lay off employees (with or without pay depending on the financial strength of the business), and/or reduce expenses as much as possible. 

Doing nothing, however, is not positioning the business to take advantage of when the pandemic starts to diminish in intensity and the economy starts to rebound. Businesses that do nothing now will either be out of business completely when the turnaround starts or will be behind the competition compared to those businesses that prepared for the recovery.

Plan for the Future – Planning for the future is exactly what should be happening right now. Procrastinating planning is similar to doing nothing that results in no forward progress being made. The following are preventive measures that if taken now will allow the business to recover more quickly:

  • Contact lenders – Keeping in close contact with bankers or other lenders is important. Everyone understands the negative impact of this global problem and, most likely, will work with business owners who are having a cash flow problem to temporarily delay or adjust existing payment schedules. No one likes surprises, so communication is essential during these times.
  • Stay in touch with customers – Regardless of the type of business, customers (clients, patients, etc.) are a necessity more than ever for the survival of small businesses and SMEs. With email, text messaging, and social media, it is easier than ever to communicate with customers on a regular basis. Businesses should keep customers up-to-date regarding what they are currently doing, how the business can assist during these troubling times, and what will happen when shelter-in-place orders are lifted. 
  • Help employees – Employees are a company’s greatest assets. Without loyal employees, a business with superior products or services might succeed but not to the extent possible if loyal employees are on board. Although there is and certainly will continue to be an upsurge in unemployment, businesses should do whatever is financially possible to assist laid off employees letting them know they will once again have a job as soon as possible.
  • Inventory – Inventory is vital to most businesses. Having either an oversupply or undersupply of needed inventory items is not optimizing available cash and/or credit. The right inventory (what sells) and sufficient inventory (correct amounts) should be the goal of every business. This means that inventory amounts might have to be lowered during this business downturn, but the business must have adequate inventory available when the economy starts to rebound. When this happens, sales will be hindered if inventory is not available.
  • Special price concessions – When business is down, this is an appropriate time to offer price concessions to loyal customers and new prospects. This might be a discounted price, extended payment plan or warranty period, special delivery method, or anything else that adds value to a product or service being sold. The idea is to entice buyers to purchase from you rather than the competition and to purchase now rather than later.
  • Marketing – Although the current crisis might dictate that some marketing efforts be scaled back for the time being, it cannot be eliminated completely. Customers must know that a business still exists and will be available to customers in the future. Therefore, businesses should work on both current and future marketing campaigns. The time for planning is now rather than waiting until a business realizes that the global economic situation has reversed itself and marketing must be implemented.

Summary in Two Words – Planning and leading are two important ingredients necessary for all businesses to survive this global disaster. 

  • Every decision in a business must be planned with the thought of what effect that decision will have both for today and the future of the business. It is more important now than ever that business owners be mindful of positive and negative effects every decision will have on the business. When an owner realizes that the very existence of his or her business depends on prudent decisions, planning takes on a whole new outlook.
  • Now is the time for business owners to become leaders as never before. They must show strength and be positive and upbeat in the face of adversity for employees, customers, family, and themselves.

With each passing day, the world is one day closer to recovery. Perhaps not immediately, but still one day closer. Remember, these times too shall pass.


Don’t Let Threats Jeopardize Your Business

Every business regardless of size will always have numerous threats that can jeopardize the business and profitability at any point in time. Some threats may be internal while others might be external. Regardless of the type of threat, plans must be made to either eliminate the threat if possible or minimize the negative effects as much as possible if the threat does materialize. 

Some examples of potential threats might be:

Internal threats:

•    Employee turnover
•    Lack of cross-training
•    Equipment breakdowns
•    Lack of adequate financial resources
•    Poor internal controls
•    Non-responsive customer service and follow-up
•    Narrow product or service line
•    Small customer base

External threats:

•    New competition
•    Existing competition with superior products and services
•    Less expensive foreign imports
•    New taxes or business regulations
•    Shift in customer or supplier base
•    Tight credit market
•    Erosion of profit margin due to vendor pricing or major customer bargaining power
•    Weather related problems

All threats can hinder a company’s profitability and competitive edge. Although a business has a certain amount of control over internal threats, it usually has little or no control over external ones. A business must foresee these threatening elements and know in advance what course of action to take as soon as a threat is clearly identified. 

Although older threats will continue to exist and action must be taken to neutralize or lessen those threats if they materialize, new threats will continue to arise. Therefore, a business owner should be in a constant state of threat “prediction and pro-action,” so the negative effects of potential threats can be lessened, as much as possible. If no action is taken on potential threats, a company runs the risk of losing profits, their competitive edge in the marketplace, or even the entire business.

Play the “what if” game when thinking about potential threats. What if this happens, what am I going to do? Although a threat might be beyond your control, the threat, nonetheless, must still be dealt with if it arises. Plan in advance what actions you will take if possible known threats arise. 

Understanding potential business threats is another form of planning not unlike other types of planning that every business should do continuously. Planning involves reviewing one component in a business, setting goals and objectives for that component, deciding on a realistic timeline, evaluating alternatives, making a decision, executing action, and then measuring the action to see if the intended goal was achieved. Potential threats in a business can basically be handled in the same manner. Understand the threat, decide on alternative courses of action if the threat materializes, and predict what the measured effect will be on the threat based on the action that would be taken. If the predicted outcome is not positive enough for the potential threat, then different alternative choices should be reviewed.

Planning for a potential threat is much like purchasing insurance. It helps to safeguard a business in case unexpected events becomes reality. It is far better to be overprepared then underprepared. If a potential threat never materializes, then the planning is like purchasing insurance that is never needed. It is still a business necessity.


Don’t Let Expense Reports Negatively Affect the Bottom Line

Perhaps, there is no other area in a business that is more prone to deception than expense reports. If not handled properly, employees can take advantage of their employers by submitting personal expenses or inflating legitimate business expenses feeling confidant no expense item will be questioned. In many businesses, expense reports are routinely approved without review or questions asked of doubtful items. If the employee processing expense reports has no authority to question what has already been approved, then the result is: 

•    Inflated business expenses
•    Lower net profit
•    Non-taxable employee income

Travel, Meals, and entertainment

Travel, meals, and entertainment (T&E) are the most obvious expenses prone to abuse. Almost all businesses will have a certain amount of T&E to promote business. Some businesses depending on the industry will have more than others, and some employees will have more T&E expenses than others depending on their position in the company. Ordinary and reasonable business expenses are necessary and important for fostering certain customer relationships but should not open the door for abuse. Personal, inflated, and excessive expenses should be areas of concern for any business in which employees have T&E expenses that are reimbursed.

Typical examples of abusive expense reimbursements are:

•    Personal and family meals and entertainment 
•    Expenses disallowed by the company but described on an expense report as allowed expenses (i.e., alcoholic beverages not allowed by company policy)
•    Blank receipts from different businesses but completed by the employee with inflated amounts
•    Expensive meals and entertainment going beyond what is considered normal
•    Excessive automobile mileage


Accountability is a critical element in decreasing abusive expense reimbursements. When employees know that they will be held accountable for submitted expense reimbursements, they then actually become accountable with legitimate, required documentation such as:

•    Type of expense (i.e., meal, entertainment, taxi)
•    Detailed itemization (not summary credit card receipt)
•    Date of expense
•    Name and address where expense was incurred
•    Business purpose
•    Business relationship if customer is involved

Managers (if this level exists in a business) should be equally accountable for expense reports they approve. This can be the first line of defense in reducing or eliminating expense report abuses. Rather than automatically approving all expense reports, managers should review expenses and question doubtful or high cost items. Owners should, likewise, scrutinize all expense reports if this is one of their responsibilities absent managers. Money saved from abusive expense reports goes directly to the bottom line. When employees know that expense reports will not receive automatic approval, they will be become diligent in submitting only company-allowed expenses. 

Second Line of Defense

As a second line of defense, clerks processing employee expense reports should be given authority to question doubtful expenses with the owner or employee’s manager. This type of communication among employees (or owner) dealing with expense reports is a crucial step in eliminating a majority of what might be disallowed expenses from actually being processed and paid.

It Really Does Matter

It should matter to any business of any size if non-business expenses get approved and processed. Discounting the effect that these payments have on net profit, approving abusive expense reports sets an example that the business is not interested in accountability and that “anything goes” as long as one is not caught. This is not at atmosphere or culture that should prevail in any business and is counter-productive to maximizing profitability.


Negotiation: Another Important Business Tool

When contracts and agreements are well defined and each party understands and approves all of the details, then negotiation is not an issue. But, when parties cannot agree to the terms of a contract or become involved in a dispute, negotiation becomes important in reaching a compromise solution.

Negotiating, basically, is simply resolving some type of disagreement. It could be an amicable disagreement regarding business items such as sales terms, shipping methods, product specifications, or pricing. On the other hand, disagreements could be more complex and highly emotional involving potentially large sums of money, product quality, missed delivery deadlines, etc.

When parties begin the negotiation process, it is important to understand the following five steps in the process to achieve a positive result. 

1. Preparation – Before entering into a negotiating process, each party must be thoroughly prepared regardless of the situation or items to be negotiated. This means reading, studying, and understanding all details of whatever is going to be negotiated. Parties to a negotiation must know not only their side of the contract or agreement but know what the other party thinks about the same disputed issue. 

2. Trust –  The negotiating process goes much smoother and more rapidly when both parties have mutual trust of the other. This means that each party enters into the process having trust that the other party will be honest, ethical, and sincere in reaching a compromise agreement. This begins the process on a positive note rather than feeling initial apprehension toward the other party. Uneasiness and apprehension leads to a defensive attitude, which is counterproductive to the process.

3. Alternatives – When a party enters into negotiation, alternatives must be thought about in advance. This is the purpose of negotiating – resolving some type of disagreement. If both parties are resistant to change and have no desire to seriously consider alternatives, then there is little purpose in negotiating and little to be gained from the process.

4. Communication – All parties in a negotiation process must be able to clearly communicate their thoughts and ideas, so the opposing party clearly understands their desires. Open and honest communication is a necessary ingredient for the process to work.

5. Practice – As with many things, practice improves performance. This holds true for the negotiating process. It is important for a negotiating party to practice in advance:

•    An opening statement expressing the facts as the party knows them (verbal or written depending on the situation)
•    An explanation of items to be negotiated
•    A resolution desired from the negotiation, and 
•    Acceptable alternatives. 

These points will not all be delivered at the same time. A negotiating party, however, should know in advance offers and responses to all of the various subject areas, so there will be no hesitation when the time comes for a response.

If the process works well, then each party feels as though there was some “give and take” on both parts but, overall, each completes the negotiating process with a feeling that an amicable solution was reached. There are no guarantees when parties enter into negotiation, but following the above five points can help achieve a satisfactory and positive end to the process.


Use This Simple Business Idea to Achieve Better Results

Suggestion boxes now come in several different forms…real, online, or portable digital devices. These can be used for two distinct purposes. Businesses can use these forms of suggestion to elicit information from employees and customers. The business might get suggestions from employees ranging from improving operations to complaints about working conditions or benefits. Customer comments might praise certain employees, suggest product or service improvements, or (of course) register a complaint. Obviously, the feedback received can only be limited by one’s imagination.  The comment process can be developed to be anonymous or identify who actually submits a comment or suggestion.

The critical consideration for a business either currently using or thinking of using this response tool is whether it is utilized for its intended purpose. In other words, is someone actually reading, reviewing, and possibly taking action on the comments? If the answer is yes, then the suggestion process is of value. If no action is taken, then the process is of little value and can do more harm than good, especially, when employees make suggestions with no resultant feedback or action.

Employee suggestions – The suggestion process can be an effective communication tool between management and employees if the content is read and reviewed for validity. Whether a suggestion or comment is made anonymously or not should not be the overriding factor on whether possible action is taken. All comments, even anonymous ones, should be taken seriously if warranted.

So often, employees feel apprehensive about making suggestions or complaining about something…depending on the prevailing management style. Employees will feel comfortable, however, if the comment process can be anonymous. If the process allows for employee identification, then someone in an upper position of authority (owner, manager, head of HR, etc.) should contact the employee regardless of the suggestion…sooner rather than later. Certainly, action cannot or should not be taken on every suggestion, but it is important for employees to know that they have a voice in some way. If employees go to the effort of making a suggestion, then someone must take the time to review their suggestions and comments. 

If suggestions and comments are beneficial, then an announcement can be made, emailed, or posted for all employees to see. Beneficial can mean improving a process, addressing concerns or frustrations of employees, or just discussing an issue before it is blown out of proportion.

Without proper feedback, the positive results hoped for through this process can backfire and become detrimental to employee morale. If employees feel as though the owner or managers are not truly interested in their feedback, then suggestions regarding any type of improvement become worthless in the minds of employees. They feel they are only receiving “lip service” and the result becomes negative morale.

This suggestion tool does not have to be limited to comments regarding operations and employee issues. It can also be used for special purposes such as developing ideas for social functions, involvement with a community project, or some type of employee contest.

Customer suggestions – A customer suggestion process might actually be a box with cards for customers to complete and drop in or a pre-addressed, stamped postcard for a customer to take, complete, and mail back to the business. More current versions of a “suggestion box” are digital devices allowing for comments, completion of a rating system, or an online response system from a business website.

The value of customers using a process of this type is immense. It is marketing research without a high cost by obtaining information directly from the ultimate purchaser of a business’ products or services. Regardless of the method used, customer comments and suggestions are meaningful messages customers want to communicate to the business. If not important to them, customers would not take the time to complete a response. 

When comments are critical of the business and valid, then action should be taken to determine how to improve the issue addressed. Customers who take time to complain are certain to tell acquaintances about their bad experiences with a business. Good news travels slowly. Bad news travels rapidly!

If a business has contact information for customers making a suggestion or comment, those customers should always be contacted in some way – letter, email, postcard, or phone call.

Gain or loss – Although physical suggestion boxes might be a thing of the past, the value of a suggestion process is still very valid. It depends how the feedback is used that makes the process still relevant today and even, perhaps, more so than in the past. The speed with which social media can broadcast comments about a business (positive or negative) makes it imperative for businesses to respond to the needs and suggestions of both customers and employees. 


Make Rapid Growth a Reality and Not a Liability

Small business owners like to dream big. If they didn’t dream big, they would never commit to the bold act of becoming a small business owner in the first place. Dreaming, or more realistically what should be called goal-setting, helps a small business owner grow the company and pursue ever-expanding and long-range goals.

Goals May Be Unrealistic

At some point, however, the goals may actually become unrealistic. Regardless of the current success a small business enjoys, the owner must realize that continued success hinges on the ability to meet commitments…to customers, employees, investors, or lenders. If a business overextends and starts to miss commitments, then all of the hard work previously put into the business might be lost. 

One of the biggest areas of growth risk relates to accepting more business than can be handled efficiently. Although a small business might have experienced a phenomenal growth curve in the past with excellent execution, it cannot automatically be assumed that the business can continue on the same path indefinitely. While resources may have been adequate or, even underutilized, at the start of the business, those same resources might now have reached their full operating effectiveness. Suddenly, a small business might find that its growth cannot continue without an influx of additional resources – skilled employees, plant or location expansion, additional vendors, and/or an influx of additional funding. 

The key to preventing a fast-growth, potential business disaster is with prudent strategic planning. Revenue planning is just one segment in a company’s overall strategic plan. Consideration must also be given to all facets of the business including: 

Budgets: Short and medium-term including cash flow and capital asset budgets

Human resources: Skill-needs projections, additional employees, salary and benefit projections, and training plans

Building and equipment: Location, potential for expansion, necessary fixtures and equipment

Technology: Hardware and software to handle increased business 

Supply chain management: Integrated, effective SCM throughout entire business

Vendors: Expansion plans to handle increased volume of raw materials, inventory, supplies, plans for cost savings, alternate sourcing opportunities, and contingency backup plans

Research and development: Adequate R&D depending on the type of business

Marketing: Understand full market potential, target segmented markets, and explore all marketing opportunities

Capital structure: Investigate options for additional debt and equity financing 

Recognize Internal Resources 

As a small business grows, it can quickly outpace its internal resources. It is critical to constantly assess a business’ strengths and weaknesses, so it can capitalize on strengths and improve upon weaknesses that cause a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace. Assessing and supplementing a company’s skills early in the growth process is a key ingredient for successful growth. A small business cannot wait until the need arises but must plan in advance so when rapid growth appears, the business will be ready.


What To Do When A Key Employee Resigns

A key employee just resigned. You’re stunned. You never thought this would happen. After the shock settles in, the questions begin. What should I do now? How do I replace one of my key employees? Is it best to promote from within or find a replacement outside of the business?

Why Did the Employee Leave?

Although feelings can be hurt when a key employee resigns, owners must realize that these situations occur. They have in the past and will continue in future. Employees resign for many different reasons. It is important when this happens to determine why the employee is leaving, learn from the situation, and try to prevent future key employees from leaving. Is it pay, benefits, working conditions, business culture, responsibilities (or lack of responsibilities), communication, job or business stability, growth possibilities, etc.? 

Now, a decision has to be made. Should the owner try to convince the employee to stay? Depending on the reason for leaving, there might be instances in which the owner might try to change the employee’s mind. Perhaps, pay could be increased, working conditions changed, or responsibilities increased. Convincing the employee to stay must be based on why the employee decided to leave in the first place.

For whatever reason the employee decided to leave, it is important to remember that most of those reasons will not change significantly enough in the future to keep the employee satisfied over the long-term. The factor or factors that caused the current dissatisfaction will most likely occur sometime in the future… causing the employee to again question whether to stay or leave.

Convince the Employee to Stay?

So, there are two schools of thought when it comes to enticing an employee to stay once the decision has been made to resign. One is to “up the ante” within reason for whatever the employee demands to keep the employee on board. The other is to wish the employee the best of luck, learn from the resignation, and try to prevent future key employees from leaving. 

One thing is certain and that is to never make disparaging comments about the departing employee to others. This produces no positive results as the employee leaving might have developed very close relationships with other employees. When critical comments are made about a friend, it is natural to come to the friend’s defense. So instead of simply losing a key employee, the owner now has a disgruntled group of remaining employees. A bad situation has just gotten worse.

An Exit Interview

Conducting a proper exit interview with an open mind can be an “eye opener” for an owner. Open and honest dialog between the owner (after the shock has worn off) and the employee can have positive results for the future of the business. Small businesses and SMEs can certainly be at a competitive disadvantage compared with larger companies when it comes to employees…pay, benefits, vacation, and job growth. It is imperative, therefore, for small businesses to concentrate on providing the most job satisfaction possible for employees.

The Owner’s Choice

There are several courses of action that a small business or SME owner can take when a key employee decides to resign. Some choices are professional and good; others unprofessional and foolish. The action taken can chart the future of the business in different ways. What is learned from the departing employee? How will other employees react to the resignation? Will a promotion come from within or a new person hired from the outside? Will the transition be easy?

Regardless of the reason that a key employee resigns, one critical lesson to be learned is that this situation will probably happen again and businesses need to be prepared for this common occurrence. Training, cross-training, and mentoring employees at all levels are important factors when planning for the future of a business regardless of size. Resignations of key employees are an ongoing threat to every business; however, proactive planning can mitigate the negative effects of such resignations. Don’t wait until a resignation takes place and then decide what to do. Plan in advance for departing key employees as the time will most likely come one day in the future.


Be Different: Avoid These Business Missteps

Owners and managers of small businesses and SMEs work hard running their respective businesses, trying to satisfy customers, and motivating employees. They make critical decisions every day that affect current and future operations. 

Unfortunately with so much to do, many owners make the following missteps along the way:

Changing priorities – One minute an owner might tell employees one thing and the next minute might say something to the contrary. Shifting priorities confuses and frustrates everyone. It is difficult for employees to invest time and energy into a project that is immediately dropped for another option. Certainly, priorities can change in a small business, but it is imperative for owners and managers to clearly articulate objectives of a project and stick with it until completed before moving on to something else. Consistency is a key in developing employee commitment.

Little communication – When an owner or manager is busy, it is so easy to forget to communicate with employees about what is going on in the business…currently and plans for the future. No one enjoys being uninformed and this is especially true when it comes to employees. An informed workforce is a productive workforce. Communicate with employees on important issues. Have an open-door policy. Employees want the opportunity to speak at times with owners and managers without feeling they are being disruptive.

Failure to delegate – It is an all too common philosophy among small business owners that it is easier and more efficient to personally do a task rather than have an employee do it. While true at times, performing tasks that can and should be handled by employees gives the impression that the owner has no faith in the abilities of others. Owners should concentrate on leadership and focus on higher-level tasks. Training and delegation are keys to efficiency that owners and managers must practice.

Constant oversight– While some owners fail to delegate, others keep a constant watch overseeing and shadowing employees. Although supervision is a must, constant oversight shows a lack of confidence and trust in employees. It also triggers performance anxiety, which eventually can lead to poor work quality. Quiet observation is usually a more prudent course of action. Comments and suggestions should be made in private with a positive tone of constructive criticism and motivation. Employees love the opportunity to offer their feedback, as well. 

Financial Mismanagement – Along with the normal demands of operating a small business or SME, strong financial management is a necessity. Paying attention to cash inflows and outflows, expenses, due date of bills, rent, and payroll cannot be forgotten in lieu of daily operations. All facets of a business are important but without cash and proper financial management and oversight, the long-term growth and success of a business will be hampered. This important function cannot be left strictly to others. Owners must be proactive when it comes to financial management.

Lack of planning – Planning is a necessary ingredient for success in any size business. Although the demands of today are real and take time, planning for the future is the roadmap to success. A business goal to increase sales, create market awareness, improve customer service, or gain more website visitors is nothing more than a wish if there is not a plan to achieve specific goals.

Business growth and success are achieved by making constant improvements in operations…daily, weekly, monthly. Consider how the above missteps can be overcome leading to improved operations and, ultimately, net profit.


Actions Today Affect Tomorrow’s Business

A lingering illness for many small businesses and SMEs is the desperate need for cash. Decisions are made today without thinking about tomorrow’s consequences. Although cash is a necessity in keeping a small business or SME operational, many owners do not understand the concept that current actions to acquire cash can adversely affect future operations.

The need for cash cannot override prudent business decisions. If a business takes the attitude that cash is the most important factor above all else when dealing with customers, negative consequences will certainly result. Businesses cannot have a philosophy of make whatever we can today and worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes. Tomorrow will eventually come and with it will bring lost customers, a negative reputation, and decreased profits.

Small businesses need favorable customer relationships…a major ingredient for long-term success. Thinking today about tomorrow’s satisfied customer sometimes means forfeiting a sale when all factors are not right. Customers purchase benefits and seek solutions to their problems. When a business cannot satisfy one of these two requirements, then ultimately the purchaser is not going to be satisfied. Regardless of the product or service being sold, only satisfied customers return to purchase again. This is the foundation of growing a successful business. Therefore, securing future sales is as important as current sales. It is a combination of returning customers and new customers that builds growth and value for a business.

Once customers become dissatisfied, it is highly unlikely they will ever return. Once lost – lost forever! But, this situation does not tell the entire story. The residual effect is that dissatisfied customers tell others that results in untold damage to a business’ reputation and detrimental to current and future profits.

A shortsighted approach to business acquisition results from:

Promising too much – There is much danger in over promising and under delivering. When businesses promise customers more than they can realistically deliver simply to secure a sale today means disaster looms in the future. It is far better to take the opposite approach – under promise and over deliver.

Lack of customer service – Once a sale is completed, it is amazing how often the sales pitch gets substituted for a lack of customer service. During the “sales pitch phase” everything the customer wants can be accomplished but as soon as the ink is dry or money changes hands, a quick change of philosophy seems to take place.  Customers remember promises and are not too quick to forget.

Short on details – No one likes the hassle of reading the fine print on a sales or service agreement but a very necessary endeavor depending on the product or service being sold. While it might be easier for a small business or SME to avoid all the legalese, problems arise when customers think they have agreed on one thing, but the business thinks they agreed on something entirely different. Taking time to specify all the details of a sale reduces the chances of customer dissatisfaction in the future. It is far better to rely on written details than on memory.

These and similar situations can produce immediate cash but create the potential for lost business in the future. Intense competition means that businesses must delivery what is promised including taking care of customers after a sale. 

A Business Annuity

Returning customers are an annuity for a business. Sales just keep rolling in, and satisfied customers recommend the business, product, or service to others personally or through social media creating a compound effect on revenue and profit. Long-term success relies on this type of steady growth – customer retention plus the securing of new customers. Gaining customers, losing customers, and gaining new customers creates wasted efforts and money. 

Practice the following to eliminate the revolving door of acquiring customers only to lose them in the future: 

Deliver what is promised – Customers know what is promised. Quite simply, just deliver as promised and watch customer loyalty develop.

Satisfy customers – Customer service does not begin and end with a sale. It begins before a sale is made and continues after the transaction is completed. Forgotten customers become lost customers.

Pay attention to details – A business can never go wrong when paying attention to details related to customers. This ensures that sales commitments agreed upon between the business and a customer are completed as intended. When the competition forgets about the fine details of a sale, strict attention to detail and follow-up is a springboard to leap past a rival.

Business success is not limited to today’s actions but must encompass thoughts about tomorrow. A proactive technique is to realize that a current sale is an installment sale for the future. A business that takes care of its customers today will find those same customers taking care of the business tomorrow.


Make Employees Love Their Jobs Rather Than Hate Their Jobs

Sometimes, you might get a hint that your employees are not satisfied with their jobs. It might be how they act at work, a rumor you hear from other employees, or a comment an employee might even tell you outright that they are not pleased for one reason or another. Hopefully, these situations can be corrected. 

An Important Link

Owners must always remember that employees are the link between customers and the business…a very important and necessary link. Therefore, employees must be motivated, energetic, and optimistic when dealing with customers. They represent the business to the public.

It is not only distressing to a business when employees have a negative attitude about their work and toward the company, but it is detrimental to the profits and success of a business. Owners see (or should see) these negative attitudes because customers certainly see it in employees.

Have you ever overheard one customer say to another customer, “Well, there’s an employee who really hates his (or her) job.” Bet you’ve seen this happen or thought the same thing to yourself. And, what does this tell the customer about the business? It tells the customer that a high priority is not placed on employees, training, and most likely not on customer service, as well.

Many small businesses and SMEs never think about mentoring employees, yet it is both beneficial and necessary in several respects. 

•    Employees learn new traits and skills
•    Employees are prepared to accept additional responsibilities
•    Employees are trained to be promoted to higher positions
•    Employees feel more engaged and part of the team
•    Job satisfaction is increased

When companies have no mentoring programs, the reverse becomes evident:

•    Employees get disgruntled with their jobs and the business they work for
•    Employees feel they will not be missed if they quit
•    Employees see no opportunity for advancement
•    Employees feel they receive little or no support from the company

While mentoring takes some dedicated time, it involves little cost for a business but can produce very positive results. Although mentoring programs are for businesses of any size, a larger business will have more employees to:

•    Carry the workload
•    Cross-train each other
•    Motivate fellow employees
•    Choose the “stand-out” to be promoted

This means that small businesses with fewer employees must make the most of its workforce. Making the most of a small company’s workforce means working with and mentoring current employees, so they:

•    Are skilled and ready to accept more responsibilities
•    Are motivated
•    Understand the business goals
•    Achieve a higher level of job satisfaction

Poor job satisfaction leads to poor customer service that leads to customer dissatisfaction and eventually lost customers and lost revenue. On the other hand, high job satisfaction leads to excellent customer service that tends to create a high level of customer satisfaction…i.e. loyal customers who return. So, an employee-mentoring program serves many purposes. It benefits:

•    Employees
•    Company
•    Customers

Take the effort to mentor employees – informally or formally – and turn those employees who “hate their jobs” into company ambassadors!