Leadership Tips – Small Business Requires Faster Decisions

Introduction

This leadership tip has something in it for managers everywhere, but it’s particularly targeted at those of you with large company backgrounds who have made career moves to smaller businesses that you own and/or manage.

My background is primarily in large scale management of IT organizations. The companies where I’ve worked were places where changing a process or behavior took some time. I always thought I was quicker than most, and action oriented. As a small business owner, I found I had to be much quicker.

I’ll offer this leadership tip in the form of a story. It’s a story of how taking your eye of the ball can cost you money, and worse than that can cost you customers.

My First Small Business

I opened a small personal services business. It was located about an hour from my home office, and with all my other commitments I knew how important hiring the right manager would be for this shop. It took a few tries, but I found one with a good background and references, and she seemed to quickly develop loyalty to the business and to me.

For the first six months we grew slowly but steadily. We were behind plan in terms of customers and revenue, but the trend was up. There were a few staff issues, but overall turnover was okay. I decided to invest a little more in marketing to try and get more new faces in the door.

Over the next three months, customer counts were mostly flat, and average sale was actually down a little. Concerned, I visited the shop a few times more than usual. The people were not as upbeat as they had been. When asked about that, they attributed their moods to less business and less enjoyment of the job. I wondered about seasonality, the economy, and whether I needed even more marketing investment.

Want to know what was really going on? My trusted manager had some personal problems that I had not been aware of before, and was exhibiting some totally unacceptable behaviors:

  • Criticizing staff in front of customers
  • Intimidating staff, letting them know they were at risk of being fired, and telling them I was out to get them.
  • Stealing money by voiding transactions and other means

The Damages

I’m still figuring out how much money all this cost me, but the money is only today’s problem. The customers I’ve lost are a more serious longer term issue, because many of them won’t be coming back.

When I figured out what was going on, I moved quickly to fire the manager. There were only two problems:

  1. I was too late, and there had been several months of damage done;
  2. There was collateral damage. I had to fire two other employees who had adopted the attitude and behaviors of the manager.

Today, I’m working on putting together data to see if I can assemble a case for prosecuting the employees and the manager. An even higher priority, though, is the work I’m doing to recruit and orient new staff and develop a recovery plan for our customer service reputation.
This leadership tip was a painful lesson that I hope never to repeat.

Business Brokers

Business brokers help you in the sale and purchase of businesses. They charge fees for providing brokerage services. The fees depend on the size of the business, the final sale and the purchase price. There are different business brokers for dealing with different kind of businesses. For example, some of them might specialize in mergers, and others in acquisitions. Apart from the fixed fee, most of the brokers also charge commissions. The commission can be computed on the basis of the selling or purchase price of the business. The larger the price, the greater the leverage to negotiate commission rates with a business broker.

If you have sold your business or purchased a new one you might feel you don’t need the help of a business broker, especially if you know the prospective seller or buyer well. But if you are entering a new industry, buying or selling a big business, or do not know the buyer or seller you are dealing with, then a business broker can be of great help. Business brokers not only help in negotiating and taking one through the complete transaction, but they have a wide range of contacts. They could find you a better deal through these contacts.

Business brokers are good at making discreet inquiries in the market to find potential buyers or sellers, and a much higher price than what you are presently being offered. If you have a small business to sell, you might not be able to get in touch with a big company which you see as a potential buyer. But a business broker could do that. They are in touch with most of the big corporations. In fact, some of the business brokers specialize in dealing only in small businesses. The list of business brokers in your area could be available either online or at the local chamber of commerce.

Choosing the ‘Right’ Programming Language for Your Business Solutions

Most likely there are two reasons why you are reading this article at this moment. Either (1) you are starting a business and looking for the most apt software for the best price that will help you get ahead; or (2) you need to revamp your software and technology to stay ahead in this ultra competitive business world.

There are an endless number of programming languages out there – Is java the best technology for your project or is it .Net, PHP or may be Perl? There are an equal number of databases to choose from – Access, mysql, SQL server or may be Oracle. But the question is – how to choose the ‘Right’ technology which is affordable and can cater to not only your current business needs but to its future requirements as well.

Ideally deciding on the best software programming language for your business solutions, should be a team activity which involves heads of IT and relevant departments and experts from your solution provider. But in case you are a small business owner or just starting-up on your own, evaluating the following factors can help you too, to take the right decision on the technology front.

Key Factors

Budget

The first thing to consider for your business is the costs and the possible return on that investment. Decide the budget based on the return, a product/service is expected to bring. If it’s a product with small shelf life and limited features, you might consider a boxed solution rather than a custom solution. It’s a quick and less expensive way to market. But if this application is the lifeline of your business then you need to evaluate the long-term business requirements and benefits of investing in custom build solution with a high-end technology.

– Choose the right features

What are the features you are looking in your software? What are the shortcomings in your business that can be resolved by having the right system in place? Identify the areas where technology can automate the processes, thereby improving business efficiency and productivity. What features would be required in the long run to accommodate more products or services when your business expands? Discuss these features with your solution provider to decide on a programming language which can handle your business for a long time without being outgrown by it.

– Time to market

If you are developing a time-sensitive product, the most critical factor in its success will be its timely release. It may be your best idea and you may have invested in the best technology, building an error-proof product. But if you are not able to market it at the right time, you may lose to your competition who would have captured the market impulse and brought the product at the right time. Quite possibly, you can lose out on a huge market share. Choosing the programming language which can quickly build the product is the key factor here.

– Scalability requirements

What is the intended life cycle of your product/application? If your business requires it for next 5-10 yrs, there is high probability that you might need to expand its functionality or increase usability. The technology used for such solutions should be scalable and upgradable, with or without vendor involvement. Imagine a situation where you have invested a good amount of money and time in training employees to use a software, which after 2-3 years needs upgradation to meet your business requirements but doesn’t has the capability to do so. Surely, you don’t want to land up in such a situation. So, a golden rule – always clarify with your solution provider about the future business requirements and capabilities of the chosen technology and programming language.

– Application demands

o Performance

If you application sees some peak traffic in certain time of the day which is crucial for your business, then performance is the key factor for your system. It will be important to choose a programming language with ability to handle a large number of simultaneous requests/transactions (supplemented by high-end servers) without affecting the speed and performance of the system.

o Security

If security of your application is of paramount importance, then short-listing a technology with focus on security features is what you need to do. For ex – Java security technology provides a large set of APIs (cryptography, public key infrastructure, secure communication, authentication, access control etc), tools, and security algorithms, mechanisms, and protocols. Zero-in on a programming language which provides the user or administrator with a set of tools to securely manage applications.

o Content change requirements

If your application requires a frequent change in the content or you need to change the look and feel of your website quite frequently, it’s good idea to go for a CMS with features and flexibility to be managed by the system administrator without vendor involvement.

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