Operations and Systems

operationsOperations is the blanket term for six major components of running your own business. They are customer service, sales, collections, organization, infrastructure, and work flow management. The goal of operations is to ensure you can deliver on your promise consistently, systematically, and automatically. Good operations mean your employees and your customers always know what to expect. If you set up operations properly, your absentee owner business will run smoothly.

Systems are the machines you use to run your business every day, such as computers and phones.  If you have insufficient phones or copy machines or computers, you won’t be able to produce work as quickly as you ought.  Acquiring and maintaining the appropriate number of machines that work at a high level is essential if you want to run a good business.

Customer service is the way in which your employees respond to your customers – from a greeting at the door to wrapping up a multi-million deal. The way you organize customer service at your particular business will vary from industry to industry and from large to small companies. The customer is not always right, but the way you treat them should be.   Aaron can help you come up with a consistent policy for dealing with customers so that clients know what to expect every time they transact with you. This aspect of business should always include politeness, prompt service, and consistency. Obviously, it is essential to attract and retain customers so having a set customer service policy is key to a good business.

The most important part of customer service is responsiveness. When your customer needs you, you are there and you are there promptly. If you have to put someone on hold, check in regularly. If your customer needs aid at a site, your employees get there. If there is a problem, resolve it promptly. If you find you cannot regularly provide swift and helpful customer service, you need to reassess the number of employees you employ and consider adding more. In resolving any customer service issues, make sure you know exactly what happened and make sure the customer knows too. Although small businesses generally cannot afford to follow a policy of the customer always being right, you can certainly understand every situation and respond thoroughly and with fairness.

Sales is the means by which you convince someone to buy your goods or services. Without sales, you have no business. Effective sales means you bring in more customers, you sell more to them, and you sell to them more frequently. So how do you make this happen? The key is to be an adviser to your customers, not a salesperson. The modern consumer is wary of salespeople and sales techniques. They don’t want to be taken in and they don’t necessarily trust the person who is offering the goods or services they may or may not want.

A salesperson is only interested in getting the customer to buy what they want to sell. In contrast, an adviser offers the customer their point of view and gives them the option to take it or leave it. The secret is that if you have a great product, the customer, fully informed, will want to buy it. But don’t give up your integrity just to make a sale. Be honest about what you have to offer, make it the best possible option, and give your customer a real choice. If you can do this well, you will find that your goods or services sell. We will help you understand the difference in these approaches and teach you how to advise clients rather than try a hard sell.

Work flow management is the process by which you create a smooth experience for your customers from the time they arrive until they depart. The goal for your business should be to make all the steps that go into processing a customer take place as swiftly and efficiently as possible. Aaron will train you in figuring out what goes into your business to get a sale. A good way to do this is to write down all the your steps, from the time the customer walks in the door until they have paid. You want the process to be clear, efficient, and consistent. The more you work on it, the more smoothly it will flow and the more easily you will get jobs done. Once you know what goes into making a sale or providing a service, you can work on ways to make it all happen more efficiently.

Collections is the process of getting money from those who have not paid for services. Even the best customer forgets to pay some bills on time and not everyone is the best customer. Part of running a small business is getting customers to pay for the goods or services you provided. This is not a particularly fun part of running a business, but if you view it as necessary (as well as fair), it will become part of your routine. Make collections a monthly affair and have whomever is in charge of it go through your client list every month and have customers pay. Doing this regularly will permit you to collect money in a timely fashion as well as enable you to stop offering your product to customers who don’t pay.

Organization is the method by which you keep your business running, from bookkeeping to filing. Organization is closely tied to workflow management. An organized business will never search for paper or lose a big client’s contact information. Being organized affects your efficiency, your customers’ perception of you, and your ability to spend money on advertising effectively. Aaron will show you how to organize your business through smart hiring, training, and maintenance.

Infrastructure comprises the computers, tools, and other equipment you need to keep the business running smoothly. Without these, your business can’t operate. You need to learn how to match your equipment with the needs of your employees and customers. If you don’t have proper infrastructure, your business can’t expand because you can’t get through the day without the equipment. Your business has only a certain capacity and this is closely tied to infrastructure. To increase capacity, you need to build your infrastructure.

operations2Your business will only be as good as the systems you use to keep it running. We recommend that you computerize your business. There is too much data out there to operate without computers. Using a modern system creates efficiency. You need to know how to use the computer, though, so make sure you and/or your workforce are properly trained on whatever system you put in place. Great programs are useless unless you can make use of them. The same goes for a phone system. A good phone system will facilitate communication and enable you to be in touch with customers as and when they need you. We will help you assess the best phone system for your business, from the number of lines to who answers what.

Good operations and systems make it possible for you to produce good products on time and readily accessible for customers. Aaron will help you figure out the best solutions for your particular business.