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Look to yourself to compete

Posted 3/11/13

It’s a tough world out there. Customers are demanding more. Competition is keen – sometimes from unexpected places. Your business must work harder and smarter to improve profits. And on top of it all, there always seem to be new taxes and regulations to deal with.

Sometimes however (not that this includes you, of course), business owners don’t make the best planners. “We are action-oriented people,” said Bill McBean, who launched and sold several businesses and is now general partner in the family-owned firm McBean Partners. “But by taking a hard look at a few key places and putting a plan in place you can bank on a more prosperous future,” he said. McBean, author of “The Facts of Business Life” suggests these ways to put your re-energizing plan in place:

• Improve your own leadership skills. Since success starts at the top, you should evaluate where your own leadership skills need improvement. Start by looking at what’s working for your business and what’s not. Evaluate honestly how things are going. Are you supplying the business with what it needs to succeed – equipment, time, capital and resources?

• Do a full review of systems and procedures. In essence, systems and procedures actually operate your business, though many owners misunderstand this concept, says McBean. Again, evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. Look for outdated processes that continue merely because “it’s the way we’ve always done it.” For example, inventory must change with the market, along with pricing and policies, since what sold well a few years ago might not sell well now.

• Go on a gross profit-building mission. This step alone is one of the business owner’s most powerful weapons. Look for ways to cut costs and increase gross profit. “Don’t assume you know how much things are costing you,” said McBean, “or that your employees are reacting to new sales opportunities.”

• Re-engage employees. A successful business needs employees who care as much about the company as you do. “Engaged employees are energized,” said McBean. “They handle problems on their own and actively look for ways to improve the business.” Seek out new ways to show employees you care. Even a simple “thank you” can help tremendously. A paid afternoon off, movie passes or other small perks also work wonders. Find out what frustrates employees most in their jobs and – if possible – supply tools or training to improve the situation. •

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