Are You Ready for a TRIP?
Everyone says the economy will be turning around by the end of the 4th quarter 2010, with the employment outlook ticking upwards the first part of 2011. As a business owner, we can only imagine what the journey over the next couple of months will be. Because of the economic upheaval of the past few months, the face of business as we know it has changed. We need to understand and acknowledge the changes. We can do this by putting together our own TRIP ticket. The American Automobile Association (AAA) has a wonderful program to help their customers prepare for a trip by providing them with a Trip Ticket. It is a detailed map from point of origin to final destination, with references to detours and obstacles. They provide guidebooks of points of interest and places to stay, to dine, to visit. As we come out of this recession, are you ready? I suggest that as a business owner, we need to prepare our own TRIP ticket. We, too, need a road map of how to get to where we want to go, what obstacles may be in our way, and how to navigate the detours, We need to be aware of our competition (points of interest) and understand our processes (where to stay and visit) What does TRIP stand for, you may ask? TRIP stands for: T - Technology R - Realignment I - Infrastructure P - People T is for Technology Computers are smaller and faster than ever. I-Pods and I-Phones, as well as BlueTooth, BlueWave and a multitude of handheld devices are all the rage. In addition, we have You Tube, FaceBook, Linked In, blogs, and the newest Tweeters. Technology has taken enormous steps to help business owners stay in contact with their clients, their employees, and the global community. If your business is not in sync with the latest technology, you will have a harder time keeping up. Is this an easy thing to do? It depends upon your mindset. Younger entrepreneurs will most likely be there already. The more mature or seasoned entrepreneur may struggle with all the "social media" that is out there. I recommend, however, that this is a good time to take a class, talk to the up and coming young business mind to learn how to stay current with technology. Look at your website (and if you don't have a website, get one) and make sure it is current and appealing. It makes me stop and think if I see a website that has not been updated for several years. That in itself sends a message - and not always a good message. R is for Realignment According to the dictionary, realignment means to reorganize or make new groupings. The recent problems with credit availability, high executive salaries, poor business decisions in the big automobile industry, should be telling all the small to mid-size business that they need to look at their current business plan and see where and how to realign their culture to meet the needs of the 21st Century consumer. Ensuring there are the right work ethics in your company is imperative in the new business culture of this Century. If you do not realign your policies and your procedures, you run the risk of falling behind and losing the ability to grow. How do you do this? You look at your mission and vision statement and determine if it fits where you are in your business or where you want to be. Are you following your mission and vision, or are they merely pretty words used to inspire. Do you "walk the walk and talk the talk" or do you say to your staff "do as I say, not as I do". Realignment comes from the top - you, as the decision maker, have to believe it is important and make it a priority, Change is not easy, especially in organizations. It takes time and dedication and belief. With the economic down turn, now may be the right time, so that you position yourself well for the "trip" ahead. I is for Infrastructure When you talk about infrastructure, most people think about the roads, highways and bridges. In our Nation, the economic stimulus packages are aimed at developing jobs rebuilding our infrastructure. In a company, the infrastructure I think about is the communication highway. Communication is a cornerstone to building a strong business. Have you revisited your business plan since the recession started? Have you built in policies and procedures to help guide you through this time? Do you have an up-to-date Employee Manual and use it to communicate your policies to your employees? Are you putting together good training programs for your customer service people to empower them in responding to customer questions, thus increasing customer retention? Have you identified your "star" performers and looked to see why they shine and be sure these attributes can be found in other employees or new hires? Look at your office layout (which is also part of your infrastructure) and see if you have "dead" space that can be eliminated or put to better use. Now may be a good time to do your performance reviews and determine if you have the right people in the right positions or if you can let someone go. It is also a good time to look at your benefits by talking to your agent and determining if there are other options available, Now is the time to shore up your infrastructure to be better prepared in the future. P is for People We touched on the "people" aspect above, but let's really look at our People. The people element of doing business is probably one of the biggest expenses for businesses. On average, an employee is about 40% of a business expense. That includes salary and benefits. I know of some businesses that think of their employees as a necessary evil and that if they had a choice they wouldn't have employees. Those businesses probably don't have loyal employees or have a very good reputation as a good place to work. They probably have high turnover, low morale, and wonder why customers don't come back. I believe that if you have employees, you have them to help you grow your business. How you treat your employees will determine the type of business you are or what you will become, Do you have the right people in place? Do you have good job descriptions and do you check them regularly? Do you communicate with your employees so they feel they are a part of the process? Do you conduct performance appraisals and coach your employees through a rough time? If your business has slowed down, as many businesses have, now may be the time to look at your people and make sure all the above mentioned issues are being properly managed. Be prepared and be ready to move forward. Having your own TRIP ticket is important as we move out of this recession. It will put you ahead of those businesses that have "hunkered" down and done nothing but complain. Take advantage of the situation and you will be stronger for it. See you down the highway!