Documenting Business Processes

Whether you are a business owner or an employee, you likely use a number of business processes every day. This means going through the same steps for doing specific tasks (i.e. generating reports, processing invoices, communicating with new leads, etc). Business processes are designed to streamline the way you and your team work. Putting business processes in place and following a set of thought out steps is helpful when training new employees, and will also result in fewer errors, less duplicated work, and overall efficiency and satisfaction for employees and customers. With so many tasks at hand you’ve probably also experienced the results of inefficient processes, which can wreak havoc on a business, its employees and its customers. For that reason, it is important to regularly review business processes and make improvements when they are not working well.   Follow these steps for documenting and reviewing your business processes:   1. Map the process First you have to write everything down. Document each step of the task. A flowchart is helpful for this because it allows you to see the steps visually. It’s important think about the details of each phase and to include every sub task, even the minor ones. You may also want to consult your staff who regularly use the process to make sure nothing is left out.   2. Analyze the process Use your map or flowchart to pinpoint potential problems in the system. Think about these questions: Which steps might cause frustration from employees or customers? Do any steps create a bottleneck and/or delays? Which steps require the most amount of time? Where can...

Setting Goals and Getting Organized for the New Year

The beginning of a new year marks a fresh start. In addition to setting goals for myself for the year ahead, which I prefer over the term “resolutions” that seem to fail after a month or two, I always get the urge to clean and re-organize, purging my house of unnecessary items and bringing back a sense of order after the chaos of the holidays. The same mentality can be applied to your business! Setting goals that are smart and attainable for your business and decluttering your mind and work space are key to being productive. Here are some guidelines we recommend that will help you set goals and get organized in the new year:   Declutter Tidy up your work space by filing papers and archiving digital documents. Throw away unnecessary clutter (mail, magazines, catalogs, etc) and invest in some organizing bins so you always have a place to put things. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is a motto I live by! Starting the year off in a clean, organized space will give you that “fresh start feel” we’re talking about.   Set the bar high (but not too high) Goals should move your business forward but setting realistic goals is critical for success. If your goals are too difficult, you’ll be frustrated when they aren’t met. If they are too easy, your business could go stagnant. To achieve the most, you want to set goals that are high but reachable.   Be specific Setting goals that are specific and in line with the big picture of your business will be more effective than...

Navigating the Slow Season in a Seasonal Business

Depending on where you live, industries like painting and landscaping are seasonal. For many seasonal businesses, moving into the winter months means gearing up for a slower period. As a seasonal business owner you have to carefully plan and budget for the year to make it through your slow season. So what can you do to prepare and how do you keep yourself busy during those months?   Budget, Budget, Budget Financially speaking, businesses have both fixed costs that stay the same throughout the year (rent, insurance, etc.) and variable costs that change depending on the amount of work you’re doing (salaries, materials, etc.). You’ll have to cover your fixed costs, but you should adjust your monthly budget to keep those variable costs down during your slow period. It’s important for you to conserve money and build up a cash reserve during your busy time so you enter the slower season with a cushion. Once work slows down, execute your budget adjustments.   Discounts and Promotions To keep some business moving during your slow season, try offering discounts or promotions to your customers. PEP makes it easy to include a discount on proposals for the materials, the labor cost, or both. Check out this video to learn how!   Focus on Your Business Put extra time to good use during your slow period by catching up on work that is often pushed to the side during the throws of a busy season. Document the processes you use in your business. Give your website need a face-lift. Start a newsletter or blog. Increase your social media presence. Your slow season...

What Do Customers Really Want?

Last time we gave you important tips on how to be professional when dealing with customers. Today, we’re going to offer you a little insight to what customers really want from you… It’s probably not what you think! Without customers, your business would fall apart so their experience needs to be a major focus. Acting in a professional manner is top on the list for keeping your customers happy. How you dress, speak and behave are extremely important. While instant gratification has become ubiquitous in today’s world, many people are still choosing quality and experience over fast, cheap service. So give customers more of what they really want!    How to Provide What Customers Really Want…   Communicate quickly, clearly and often. Clear communication ensures you’re always meeting your customers’ expectations. Technology plays a big role in communication today with everything at your fingertips (phone, email and social media, etc). Making yourself constantly available (within reason) is one thing customers really want; many have expressed it as being important when choosing one business over another. We’ve talked about how PEP can help with automating your email communication but setting up an automated chat function on your website is another way to stay in touch with customers during “off hours.” You can also set alerts on your phone when a customer asks a question (via email or social media) to help respond quickly. Choose quality over speed. While efficiency is something your business should strive for, delivering a quality product or service will ultimately please your customers the most. Skimping on quality in the beginning will make it harder to deliver down...

Be Professional: Tips for Making a Good Impression

Working in the service industry, it is important for you to be professional when dealing with clients. That not only means looking clean and put together but also refers to how you communicate and manage your time. The classic line of “we’ll be there between 10AM and 4PM” may work in some industries but do customers really like waiting around all day? And what if the service person arrives with dirty clothes, disheveled hair, isn’t knowledgeable about the work, and uses more slang than real words? Would you take them seriously? We are here to help you be professional with tips on making a good impression.   Dress the Part Your clothing should be appropriate for the work you are doing. Are you going into a home to make an estimate? Will you be painting or doing any physical labor? Your clothes and shoes should be comfortable, clean, and free of holes. Uniforms or business branded shirts are always helpful but when in doubt, dress conservatively; nothing too trendy, too tight, or too revealing.   Be On Time and  Prepared Arrive to appointments on time and ready to work. No matter how you feel, you need to show interest and enthusiasm. Make sure to have all your supplies and equipment ready to go. Act business-like at all time both on-site and in the office. If you are in a client’s home, be mindful and respectful of their things. No smoking, eating or drinking on the job.   Behavior To be professional you want to act friendly but not be over-familiar with your clients. You don’t want to be super...