If you’re like me, when you see the engine light go on telling you it’s time for a tune up for your car, you roll your eyes and ignore it. That doesn’t mean you let it go. In fact, you don’t. It keeps nagging at you – “It’s time to take the care in for a tune up!” Finally, you give in and take it to the shop, and it only takes a few minutes, and you are back on your way.
Your business is a lot like that, and this blog post is your engine light telling you it’s time for a business tune up. Just like an oil change, it won’t take long, it’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be, and you’ll be back to your regularly scheduled activities before you know it. Here are nine things you should take a look at as you begin the new year (and some questions to help guide your exam):
- Take a look at your Organizational Structure. Is the structure appropriate for where your business is now? If you have grown, is there a need for adjustment? A reporting lines clear? Does your organizational chart reflect your actual practices? Do any supervisory positions seem to struggle with balancing their work load and providing appropriate supervisory support?
- Review your Job Descriptions to ensure they are up to date. Do they reflect the positions most critical responsibilities? If there are any responsibilities that have been added to a position, have the appropriate job descriptions been updated? Does the workload of each position seem reasonable for a regular work week?
- Re-visit your Business Processes. Processes outline how we accomplish our work. Are there repeatable processes that should be documented in order to reduce errors or improve operations? Have you strayed from your defined processes? If so, why?
- Review all Vendor Contracts. Are you getting what you need from your vendors? Have you increased your volume, which might make you a more valuable customer and provide you with greater leverage in negotiations? Are you paying for a service you no longer need? Would you like to extend your net payment terms from 15 days to 30 days? Reviewing contracts annually can help you identify savings opportunities.
- Reach out to your Customers. Although I recommend you communicate regularly with your customers, at the start of the New Year, it’s always a good idea to reach out and touch base in a more formal manner. This might look like anything from a survey to a face-to-face meeting. Are there customers that seem disenfranchised with your company or its service? Are their customers that are raving about you and your team? Are there customers whose needs have changed over the course of the year and who might need additional support?
- Get feedback from Employees. If you are checking in with your external customers, it makes good sense to touch base with your internal customers as well. When was the last time you asked your employees for their thoughts on ways to improve your business operations? Might they share ideas on how to cut costs without compromising service quality? Good ideas can come from anywhere.
- Clean up your office and desk drawers. I try to keep my office organized, but once a year, I remove everything from the drawers and go through every file to see what I have collected. Usually, I find a few items that remind me of a thought I had or an unrealized goal – one that was placed on the back burner in exchange for a more urgent need, What might you find if you gave your office a New Year’s cleaning? How might you use it to inspire your business?
- Update Technology. What technology needs upgraded or replaced? What licenses are near expiration? What new business needs have emerged for which there is a good technology solution? To what degree do you have adequate file storage capacity available?
- Review your Insurance Policy. How long has it been since you have shopped your policy around to other insurance companies? Do your policy limits need to be increased to cover the increase in your business operations? Are your deductibles appropriate for your business? Increasing deductibles may lower the cost of your policies.
See. Not so bad. I’m interested in hearing what is most helpful and if you have other practices we should add to the tune up list.
Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons: Robert Couse-Baker