Take Control of Your Business

It’s easy to feel out of control, especially during tough economic times. Profits are more of a concern than ever in shop management. Even with high unemployment, you still have a hard time finding qualified and reliable employees. Don’t just throw your hands up and blame the economy - take control. Act today to make the most of your business.

Start by honestly questioning yourself:
o   Put yourself in the place of your customers. Would you buy your products or try your services? Would you choose your own business over your competitors’? Are you recognized in your industry for your expertise?
o   Are you excited about your business?  Do you often talk about ways to improve your business, products and services?
o   Can customers find and learn about your business easily?
o   Do you actively seek information about areas of your business where you lack knowledge? 
o   Is your business using current technology?

Reevaluate your approach to sales and customer service:
o   Every person in your business is either in sales or affects sales, and every person in your business is either in customer service or affects customer service. As a business leader, are you a good role model with a positive attitude? 
o   All customer interactions and transactions, whether by phone or in person, relate to the success of the business, which everyone has a stake in. Customers also observe interactions between staff members.
o   When you ask for input from staff members who deal directly with customers, and implement their good ideas, you not only improve your business, but gain loyalty, trust & respect.
o   Have incentives in place for behaviors that you want to reward in your shop management staff. When employees feel valued, they will make the customer feel valued. This builds customer loyalty. 
o   Establish customer service practices that everyone follows. You can lose customers when there’s inconsistency. How will customer complaints be handled? Are customers being thanked for their business, including by phone, email and postcards? 
o   Do employees have the shop software tools they need to stay informed about other products & services they can offer to customers?

Use the technological tools available to take control of your business:
o   Maintain an appealing, informative, current and accurate website with an interactive map to your location. Give visitors reasons to see you as a knowledgeable, reliable and helpful resource. Customers want to know what products and services you offer.
o   Find the right industry-specific shop management system to measure and evaluate how your business is doing continually, not just monthly or yearly. Electronically track everything, including expenses, inventory, payables, cash, etc. The software should help with that and more, including quote preparation and invoices.  Ask if the shop software will also allow you, and/or your accountant, to log in remotely.
o   The more complete shop management systems integrate with many vendors of products & services for your specific business type, and may also integrate with commonly used accounting packages that you may be familiar with, such as QuickBooks and Peachtree.
o   Your customers want to know their recommended product & service options. Use a shop management system that enables you to give customers their options quickly & clearly, including the ability to print them out for the customer.

Customer service and hard work remain key elements of success. But today we have tools that allow our hard work to accomplish what was previously impossible.

Adam Irby