Although learning by trial and error is part of entrepreneurship, business owners can save time and money by using the best business practices outlined below. A “best practice” is a strategy shown by research and experience to produce top results.
1. Management Best Practices
Share your long- and short-term goals with your team along with the wins and losses. When everyone is on the same page, the business benefits. Honesty is the best policy when you’re sharing information with employees.
Remember why you chose an entrepreneurial path. Tap into that early motivation that helped you launch your business. A good way to stay the course is by setting realistic goals you can reach throughout the year.
Create a healthy company culture
Company culture is an important part of business – but what exactly is “company culture”?
Natalie Baumgartner, Ph.D., Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers explains in a 2019 Forbes article:
“Culture is really the small set of values that determine how you do things in your organization on a daily basis. These values should drive the three main buckets of business behavior: how you communicate, what you prioritize and what gets rewarded.”
LinkedIn has an excellent article to get you started: Building a Company Culture: 7 Steps for Small Businesses.
Set the right expectations
When business expectations aren’t met, it touches everyone on your team. The key is to be clear about what you expect from your staff, your vendors and even your customers. Transparency comes into play here – don’t keep your expectations a secret.
Choose the right people
“Great people versus okay people is the difference between success and mediocrity.” — Brett Lewis, Co-founder of Skillbridge, an online platform for business freelancers.
The team you hire can make or break your business. From placing an ad through onboarding, have a plan and take every step seriously. The SmartBiz Blog has a comprehensive article to help you launch an effective search: 5 Hiring Tips for Every Small Business.
2. People Management Best Practices
Here are steps that can help you develop happy and hard-working employees.
Give feedback and ask for feedback. Employees who are involved in goal setting and decision-making feel more invested in the business. Engaged employees are more apt to go the extra mile.
Communicate with employees
It sounds easy but communication can fall by the wayside for a busy business owner. Make a concerted effort to speak with your employees to get ideas and feedback. Even a simple suggestion box lets employees know you care about their input.
Set targets and rewarding achievement
Encouraging high performance can be as simple as rewarding it. Programs like employee-of-the-month, catered lunches or other initiatives that reward and recognize help workers feel more satisfied. Review these tips for ideas to reward members of your team: 4 Tips to Make Work More Enjoyable For Your Employees.
Offer employees training
These days, online educational opportunities make it easy to find courses or programs that are a good fit for your employees. You can also implement a tuition reimbursement program if your employees’ course of study is relevant to your business.
Adopt flexible work policies
It's a fact: employees are more productive and efficient in flexible environments that encourage a healthy work-life balance. Explore ways you can offer your employees flexibility like the option to work remotely and alternative hours.
Focus on team effort
One theologian said it best when he pointed out, “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes an orchestra to play it.” Encourage staff collaboration to reach common goals.
3. Operations Management Best Practices
Document your processes
Have a clear process that each team member understands. When a task needs to be completed, make sure there are specific steps to be taken. You’ll improve efficiency and avoid having things slip through the cracks.
Hold regular meetings
Meetings should be a mix of preparation and reflection. Your team needs to know where you stand and the goals you’re trying to reach. Meetings can be real time-suckers so keep yours short and to-the-point.
Choose someone to own the entire operation
Here’s where smart recruitment and hiring comes in. Hire someone to own your operation from start to finish. This person should be obsessed with details, numbers and goals.
Provide excellent customer service
Few things can sink a small business faster than poor customer service. Happy customers want more of what you have to offer and unhappy customers - poof - disappear. SmartBiz Loans has a comprehensive blog post with ideas to get your customer service on track: Keys to Great Customer Service – Even if You’re a One Man Organization.
Use tools and software
It's crucial to stay up to date with the latest technology. Whether you're on a smartphone or laptop, having digital tools at your fingertips can help you to communicate with clients and staff, manage multiple projects, crunch data, and much more.
These posts can help you discover tools to help you work smarter, not harder:
4. Sales and Marketing Best Practices
Step up your marketing efforts
There are lots of inexpensive ways to elevate your business and reach the right consumers.
Visit the SmartBiz Small Business Blog and search “marketing” for posts with great ideas and strategies. Suggestions include launching email campaigns, stepping up social media efforts, giving away promotional items, sponsoring a local team or charity and more.
Be data driven
Being data-driven is about starting with small tests to measure performance of marketing efforts, figuring out what works and scaling from there. If you’re not using data, you’re driving in a rainstorm without your wipers on. Knowledge is power so work to set up systems and processes that will track your efforts.
Build your community
If you’re making sales, you already have a community with your customers. Nurture those relationships through newsletters, social media and other strategies to keep your brand top-of-mind.
Pay attention to your online reviews and customer comments and address any issues swiftly. You want your customers to stick around and become advocates for your business. According to Bain researchers, increasing customer retention by just 5% can boost profits by as much as 25%–95%.