It’s the American dream – own your own business and work for yourself. But don’t let that dream become a nightmare when you are working 18-hour days and then laying awake at night wondering if you are going to turn a profit this month. Yes, owning a business takes hours of effort, but make sure that your effort pays off by posting a profit.
According to Patricia Sigmon, author of the book “Six Steps to Creating Profit,” two-thirds of small businesses either didn’t post a profit last year or did not increase their profit from the year before. Let’s look at how strategizing your business systems will help you turn a profit and grow your business.
Evaluate Operating Procedures. The key to increasing revenue is to increase sales and decrease expenses. Think about up-selling or cross-selling or bundling products to increase sales. To decrease expenses, examine all recurring costs to see if there is something you can eliminate or cut back on. Do you really need an extra full-time employee during certain days or hours? Could a part-time employee get the same amount of work accomplished?
Stay Visible and Connected. Using the marketing strategies you have already put into action, keep your business name top-of-mind, especially when you have direct competition in the area. Use signage, advertising and social media to stay connected with your customers and potential customers. If there is an agricultural event in the local area, consider having a trade show booth for maximum personal exposure.
Maximize your Cash Flow. This might be the most important and yet most challenging step to getting your system to turn a profit. Cash is what keeps your business thriving, but so many people like to be billed, only paying once a month. Offer small discounts to customers who pay cash upon delivery of their products. Another way to manage your cash flow is to control your inventory. Excessive inventory that sets in a backroom or warehouse for weeks at a time is money that isn’t moving.
Streamline Management Costs. Are your employees reaching their highest potential? How much are you owed in accounts receivable? How many new sales leads have you generated this week? These are all questions you should be able to answer at the drop of a hat. If you can’t answer these questions immediately, you need to automate some of your systems, and provide employees access so you all are kept current on what is happening. An automated system, such as customer management software, will help you keep current on who your sales team has contacted, who needs to be contacted and what your financial status is.
Raise the Marketing Bar. Your marketing system must be one that is effective, immediate and measurable. Are you getting the best ROI for your marketing investment? Are you using effective marketing channels that reach your audience? Because of social media, today’s marketing initiatives are much more immediate than even five years ago. Start using social media to announce new products, new promotions or educational producer meetings. But be sure to measure the effectiveness of your marketing. Ask customers where they heard about a product if it is the first time they purchased it. Find out if you are spending your marketing budget wisely.
Make everyone a Salesperson. And a customer service rep. A stock person. An educator. A marketing guru. And a janitor. As technology replaces so many of the jobs humans used to have it is vital to cross-train everyone that works for you, and provide them with the skills they need to sell the products and provide customer service all at the same time. Teach them to make a pretty display, shoot a photo of that display and post it on your social media channels, all while waiting for the next customer to approach them. Teach them to stock shelves with products from the warehouse, but to be friendly and answer customer questions. If your employees are cross-trained, that means more flexibility for you.
Yes, the American dream can become reality, and it can even be profitable. Employ the proper sales, marketing and administrative systems and let your business work and grow for you. Not only will you start to see a profit, but your business will be more marketable in the future as an entire entity when and if you ever want to sell it.