Focus on the Things That Make a Successful Business
Complacency is the kiss of death for any business owner. Some have an innate unwillingness to change or to try something new, but the successful business owner wants to know everything about his business. He never says, "Well, that just doesn’t matter."
In business, everything is important. Change is good, and business should always be fun. However, the excitement you feel toward your business can change as time goes by. Do you still remember how you felt when you first went into business?
I’ve believed for many years that any company can methodically pre-plan for success. There are eight keys to success that any tire dealer can plan into everyday business:
®′ Provide excellent customer service
®′ Motivate your work force and empower them to help make the company more successful
®′ Have the tools shop, front counter and back office ®“ in place that maximize efficiency
®′ Keep an eye on sales, and know the cost of doing business and price work accordingly
®′ Establish and maintain sales and marketing efforts that promote doing business with your company
®′ Create a strong relationship with vendors that give you advantages
®′ Listen to both customers and employees, hear their ideas/needs then act on those ideas/needs
®′ Deliver the products and services that best serve your customers
These eight areas can make any company successful. If your business is out of balance in any one of these areas, it can lead to an untimely demise. Spending too much effort on one area might cause you to neglect another important area. You need to not only carefully balance your attention against these key areas, but balance your work and personal lives as well.
At the same time, if you spend too much effort in sales and marketing, for example, you could overwhelm your shop with too much business, which could result in slow or poor service and discourage customers from dealing with you again.
Remember Your Employees
One area often neglected is employee motivation. A business owner who places a low value on his employees will fail eventually. Typically, employers who don’t trust their employees will never reach their maximum potential. You cannot do it alone. Companies that empower their employees to be a part of the success process cannot be stopped. The momentum you build is too great for the competition.
Many years ago, there was a large retail store with a great advertising campaign that brought in lots of business. With this effort, they were only concentrating on the sales and marketing side of the business, and the successful ad campaign wound up having a negative impact on employees and customers.
The resulting volume of work stressed out the employees. Understaffed to meet the deluge of business, the retailer would have only three check-out lines open. They lost many employees as a result of the fast pace required, and the employees who stayed didn’t see any relief in sight.
The long check-out lines and subsequent waiting finally got to the customers, too, with the obvious negative results. The competition started an advertising campaign that not only offered great deals on merchandise, but also promised that anytime there were more than three people waiting in line, the store would open another checkout line. Customers responded, and the competition overtook the market.
Tips to Succeed
We all have a strong desire to succeed. But sometimes the things that we think are the most important are not actually a top priority. Keeping your eye on the ball, as they say, means tending to the business of running a successful business. Let’s look at what it takes to be successful in today’s market.
Finance: Knowing the true cost of doing business on a continuous basis. Each business has a different overhead. You cannot look at the competition to price your labor. Do you have tools in place to tell you what jobs make money and what jobs don’t?
Every tire and auto repair business has products and services that make money and some that don’t. Having profitability reports at your fingertips allows changes to be made quickly and effectively to maximize profits. No matter what the competition does, you need to deliver on what you do best. If you aren’t making money with a product or service, then don’t do it.
On the flip side of the financial picture, every company has a certain level of debt. But there is a point at which debt will overwhelm a business. Smart use of debt is when you use it to increase cash flow or leverage it to make a larger purchase that allows greater profit margin on sales.
Sales and Marketing: Be careful of pricing tires, parts and labor based on the competition, especially mass merchants and large chain stores. They routinely price certain products or services at incredibly low prices, giving the impression everything they sell is priced this way. Yes, they do get some sales on those particular offers, but don’t even think that everything they sell is proportional to this price. Even the lowest lowballer makes it up elsewhere.
Vendors: They are people, too. They respond to you specifically, and as well as they can given their company’s business rules. If you complain too often or too loudly about service or pricing, chances are you’re talked about in their offices. And if you’re a chronically late payer, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
Quite likely and realistically ®“ their success is not tied to your success. They don’t care if they do business with you because there are other options. The relationship you have with any vendor is very important in getting the best arrangement for yourself, whether its pricing, terms, delivery, services or opportunities to add lines, products or even new customers. The best relationship is a two-way street, with each side looking out for the other.
Products and Services: Are the products and services you offer unique or better than the competition? Is there an angle that can attract customers? What after-sale services can you cost-effectively offer to add value and build trust for the customer, and create opportunities for periodic return visits? Look out for the customer, and the customer will always look for you.
Customers: Those pesky customers always call on the phone, always want to be noticed, and always believe they are the most important people in your business life. And they are, each and every one of them. Giving excellent customer service is critical to current and future business success.
Innovation: Not only must your products and services be needed by the public, you also need to listen to what is being asked. Sometimes customers will reveal a revenue stream opportunity that you aren’t providing at that time.
Employees: The people you are paying to be a part of the company are your greatest assets. Good employees not only bring home the bacon today, they will help propel your company into a successful future. By empowering employees, you won’t have to spend 100 hours a week trying to do everything yourself.
It is scary to entrust something valuable to someone else. But you cannot get there alone. Give them both the responsibility and the authority to make money-generating decisions.
If business is not going as well as you’d like, it could be that you’re missing on some of the most important ingredients. There is nothing like having the proper tools and information and the best employees ®“ to make your company successful.
Darryl Padgett is a labor and management specialist for an automotive software supplier, and writes business features for Engine Builder, a sister publication of Tire Review.