If you’re a budding entrepreneur you probably watched the The Fixer on BBC One last night, starring high-flying hotelier Alex Polizzi trying to turnaround the evocatively named Alf Onnie – a badly run, down-at-heel curtain shop in the East End.
If you’re a struggling entrepreneur you probably watched it even more closely.
You may not have quite the same problems – décor from the 1960s, stock piled high like the kind of marketplace Indiana Jones gets chased through, and dead rats stuck in your ceiling.
But you may well have problems with making your offerings clear and attractive, drawing in sales from corporate as well as high street customers, and growing the business through a downturn.
Whatever stage you’re at in your business, it pays to think about ways you can fix it – whether that means rescuing a company in downfall or simply improving an already outstanding enterprise. Here are three quick things you can do:
1. START A ‘TO-STOP’ LIST
Neil Lewis, author of 100 Rules for Entrepreneurs, explains:
“You keep a ‘Things to Do’ list, don’t you?
“Well, do you also keep a ‘Things to Stop’ list, too? You should – and so should your staff. And what goes onto it should receive just as regular thought as the to-do list.
“A stop-doing list is a list of things that you’ve been doing that are having no material impact on the success of the business. Typically these are activities that either were a good idea but never worked out, or are old processes or ways of doing things, which are now replaced by changes in the way the business works or by new software or different seating arrangements.
“A good example is this: one member of my team was responsible for keeping the customer records correct and up to date. Sounds great? Well, this became a matter of the following:
- “filing every client email in a separate folder on Microsoft Outlook
- “printing out each email and filing that in a folder
- “copying each email to a shared drive and replicating the filing in a digital format.
“In addition, the email systems and shared drives were backed up every evening – so we effectively had five copies of every client email.
“Yes, it is good to have backups, but five copies in three formats? The cost of this system was enormous in terms of manpower and, as it turned out, a near complete waste of time and resources. When the person left, no one even used the digital filing – only a bit of rummaging around a filing cabinet.”
2. GET YOUR TECH UP TO SCRATCH
Entrepreneur and author Robin Bennett, in How to Make a Good Living Running Your Own Business, urges:
“Decide on the basics that you need and buy the best.
“Nothing slows people down so much or is worse for morale than a dodgy printer or computer that keeps crashing. I have never understood people who employ staff at great expense and then give them a load of old tat to work with. Invariably when a computer crashes the person running it (the crashee, if you will) is likely to involve another member of staff to see if they can help. Let’s say that this happens once a day for half an hour:
- “Staff costs £15
- “Office overhead £5
- “Weekly cost £100
“Assume that there might be a couple of computers or an out-of-date photocopier or fax and you can quite easily double that figure. Now bear in mind that a perfectly good new computer can be bought for £200. Calculating the pointless and appalling waste here isn’t hard.
“On the morale issue, people love new things and quite rightly feel valued when they are given them. If they are made to work at a cruddy old computer for eight hours a day, they are bound to feel frustrated and unfulfilled at work and more than a little unloved because if you cared enough about them you’d buy them something new once in a while.”
3. MAKE MEETINGS ACTUALLY WORK
Guy Rigby explains how to turn these notorious time-sinks around in From Vision to Exit:
“Control the agenda. Consider the objective of every meeting. What do you hope to get out of it and why?
“Minimise box ticking and the listing and reporting of results and minutes. People should have read these, so only discuss the matters arising, rather than reinventing the wheel. Instead, use the opportunity to maximise action points that will drive the company forward.
“And remember: in the best kind of meeting there is no such thing as a stupid question, from you or anyone else. ‘If you can’t get a straight answer, carry on asking,’ urges Jonathan Hick of Directorbank. He’s right. ‘It should be about everybody understanding the company, where it’s at at the time, where it’s going and doing their best to help it on its way.’ ”
What other ways are there to fix your business? After all not everyone can count on a leading entrepreneur personally visiting them, or being given the help of leading marketing and design agencies and the sales boost of a prime-time hour of television.
Let us know what’s worked for you in the comments below.