Despite this recession, there are still ways to grow your business in 2010. A common misconception is to focus on gaining new business, but the secret may actually be right before your eyes. Focusing on what you already have – internal staff and external customers – may be the key to success.
Internal: Power to the People
Without happy, committed employees, your business cannot thrive. Keeping your employees both engaged and motivated leads to higher productivity and lower employee turnover. So empower your staff, and your business will be booming in no time.
Engagement: More than Just a Diamond Ring
The first step in empowering your staff is to get them engaged. Make sure your employees are aware of your firm’s vision, brand, and culture. Communicate openly to keep them informed, internally and externally. Show new employees how they fit in with the big picture of your company. Engaged employees care about the success of the company as a whole and will want to do their part to contribute.
• Show you care about your employees, and they will care in return. Give them a chance to ask questions and voice their concerns, and be sure to address them in a timely fashion. Be open and receptive to feedback by not always talking, but doing your fair share of listening as well.
• Be candid. In performance evaluations, provide constructive criticism to help employees get better at what they do. Highlight strengths, but don’t ignore weaknesses. Provide suggestions on ways to increase productivity. The employees will appreciate your honesty, and you will see tangible results.
• Stay passionate. Your energy is contagious, so spark the fire inside your employees. Run around. Hoot and holler. Play games. Laugh. Show enthusiasm for the company and its goals, and your employees will buy in to your vision.
• Emphasize teamwork. If your employees are friends, they will likely make a more open and effective team. Maybe now is the time for a company outing, happy hour, or game night.
Motivation: You Don’t Need a Whip
There’s no standard for motivation. While money is often a driving force, it shouldn’t be the only thing motivating your employees to get out of bed in the morning. Motivated employees have an inner drive for personal success. Figure out what employees value and find a way to spark their intrinsic interests.
• Capitalize on strengths. Get to know the strengths of your employees, and capitalize on them. Don’t have your best salesman running the accounting division. Have employees do what they enjoy, so they look forward to coming to the office.
• Set challenging, but attainable, goals. Raise the bar, and give your employees a chance to reach it on their own. They will appreciate the autonomy and take pride in the end result.
• Recognize accomplishments. Show support and appreciation for your employees’ accomplishments. Something as simple as lunch or a high-five should do the trick.External: The Customer’s Always Right
Making sure your employees are happy will also keep your customers happy. Gaining business from new customers is nice, but retaining the customers you already have is more important.
• Jump on the bandwagon! Loyal customers not only provide you with their business, but they can also give great recommendations to others. Once you get some die-hard followers raving about your company, you cannot just expect their friends to follow. Don’t be afraid to ask your loyal customers for referrals or recommendations. Odds are, they’ll be more than happy to spread the word about your amazing product or service.
• Give them some lovin’. Establishing a loyal customer base will give you steady, reliable business. Thus, it is essential to set aside time to connect with your existing customers and show your appreciation. Send personal e-mails, follow their blogs, and stay connected with social media. But don’t just stop there. Going beyond digital communication will bring the love to a whole new level. Send a welcome mat if a customer is moving to a new house. Check out the gift registry for an upcoming wedding or baby shower. Send a birthday or holiday card when the time is right. Whatever you do, go above and beyond to really show you care.
• "You guys do what?!" Often times, customers who have been loyal to a company for years don’t actually know everything it does. Make sure your customers are aware of all of your company’s services, not just the ones they personally use. Ask them about their unmet needs and take some time to re-educate these folks about your company’s latest products or services. Just because they’re loyal doesn’t mean they’re informed. Utilize the power of information, and business may fall right into your lap.