Spring Clean your Business

Spring Clean your Business
Business Spring-Clean
Spring hawthorn, Shrewsbury. Photo: Michael Harper

According to Wikipedia, in climates with a cold winter, spring cleaning traditionally happened at this time of year because it was “warm enough to open windows and doors (but not warm enough for insects to be a problem), and the high winds could carry the dust out of the house”. Applying this tradition to your business, let’s see what “dust” we might find lurking in those dark corners…

Check Your Answer to the “Why?” Question

Lengthening, brighter days with plants and birds coming to life again after the dark winter is a naturally uplifting time for most, and a time when you are likely to be more open to change and more creative. So what better time to reflect on one of the most important questions for life in general, let alone business: Why are you doing it? This is your “mission statement”.

As a business owner, if you can’t answer, in 10 words or fewer, why your business trades, you are in deep trouble, believe me. Everything in your business stems from this. If you have no mission statement as yet, time to get one! (Here’s a mission statement link for you.) If you have a great mission statement, great! Reflect on it now, and think how you did business during the past year. Was every procedure, process and communication truly in line with your mission statement or “purpose”? Did you just state it or did you really, genuinely, live it? If not, how can you redesign your processes and procedures so that your business really does run true to its underlying purpose? If you get this right, it’s time well spent. That’s because aligning your business operations with a mission statement that reflects your personal values as business owner is a sure-fire way to the best chance of success and happiness in business – and in life.

Review your Long-term Goals

Spring is a great time to dust off the old business plan and have a laugh at some of the outrageous sales targets you had the nerve to set yourself all that time ago. Seriously, it’s important to assess your business against its long-term plans, and to make adjustments – either to the plan, or to the business or both!

Incidentally, I hope your business plan isn’t just a document that lives on your hard drive, emailed now and then to those you are trying to get finance out of. It can (and really should) be a working, living blueprint of the shape of things to come. It can be a useful reference point that you can revisit when you’re thinking, “What’s next?” It can also give you the occasional nudge in the right direction as you realise in April that a few of the “must do” items from Quarter One have not quite been dealt with! So take a look at your plan this Spring, update it, and then USE it!

Eye Up the Competition

When did you last stand back and take an objective look at what your competitors are doing? It’s easy to get so involved in the day-to-day work that you never lift your head and fail to notice that your competitors and potential customers are all drinking at another bar, so to speak. It’s easy to get left behind if you never look where your industry is going. So step back for a few hours and use a little of that extra spring daylight to get out there and have a good old look at what everyone else is up to. Have you missed a trend that several of your competitors are already into in a big way? Has a new market opened up and do you need to grab your own bowl of raspberry jelly at that particular party? Review the competition before your potential customers review YOU and raise a patronising smile as they dismiss the quaint, old-school, dinosaur of a company that they used to do business with.

De-clutter!

We’re all familiar with the home makeover shows where the first thing they do is hire a skip and basically pile the chintzy contents of the home into it! Well, you can apply the same technique to your precious business. Have you heard the term “paperless office”? “Ah yes”, I hear you cry, “but that wouldn’t work in OUR business”. Well, guess what. Every single business on the planet, give-or-take, says the same thing. And it’s about right. But you CAN work TOWARDS that now. Digitising your paperwork as it comes in is relatively cheap these days thanks to the ever-plummeting cost per gigabyte of storage, online or off. Get yourself a decent scanner and get into the habit of turning as much incoming paper as possible into electronic records, as it comes into the building. That way, you deal with it once instead of storing up file upon file of skin-drying, dusty paperwork, encroaching on costly office space and causing some poor employee – or you – to spend expensive time spoon-feeding and dealing with the waste from that monster of a noisy baby known as the office shredder.

Revisit your Core Business

Now is a great time to take a close look at your products and services:

  • Has any product or service been left “on the shelf” since this time last year? Does this still form part of your core portfolio or is it something that can be “de-listed” and relegated to history?
  • Reflect on what your core business is, today, and compare that to a year ago. What would your customers say you do? Has this changed significantly since last year? Is this a bad thing? If you realise that your core business has “pivoted” into something new, significant changes may need to be made. Perhaps you will be addressing the needs of a whole new set of potential customers who are with different needs and desires compared to those you were chasing before, in which case you may need a very different approach. Your marketing, branding and selling techniques may all need to be changed.

Cleanse the Database

Spring-cleaning your virtual assets is just as important as cleaning out the filing cabinet. Businesses naturally accumulate a lot of data in the course of their trading, and with that comes responsibility. You have obligations under the Data Protection Act to dispose of data that has passed its “use-by” date, so to speak. More than that, marketing your services to a database of long-cold leads is a very efficient way of disposing of relatively chunky wads of cash for a miniscule return. So take a look at your marketing database, for a start. Consider how you can verify the status of each name and address. When did they last buy from you? Hot cold is that lead? When was the address or email address collected and does it need to be verified as current? Has the person “opted in” to receive marketing communications by email or phone or in writing? What is the potential lifetime value of this particular lead, i.e. is it worth spending any money on chasing future business from this person or company? You may also need to spring-clean the database itself. If it’s little more than a list of customers or prospect names and addresses, then make this spring the time to get real about CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Here in 2016, with the right database system, you can easily harvest really useful and valuable data about your prospects and customers as you go about your daily business.

Tune into Work-Life Balance

Have you forgotten that business ≠ life?

If you run your own business, you will know that you can never finish your work. You can always do more. You get into the mind-set that the more you do, the more customers you will get and the more successful your business will become. Over time, you may not notice that you have gradually added more and more time to your business day, extending it into what was once family time or leisure time. Despite what you may read, this is not a fact of life when you run your own business. Longer hours do not translate into better overall performance. The law of diminishing returns applies here. You will work less effectively the longer you stay at your desk. Worse still, if you home life suffers, the stress of that will also reduce your effectiveness when you are at work, not to mention the very real pain you will be causing to your loved ones as romance goes out of the window and you continually miss those red-letter events of your children’s upbringing: the school plays, the sports days, the birthday parties. So do check that work-life balance and adjust your days accordingly.

A business spring-clean is not a “nice to have”. Standing back and taking stock is an essential part of your activities. If you never do this, there are real risks to your business, but if you spring clean well you can look forward to a very sound return on investment even as the daffodils wither and spring turns into summer.

 

We encourage you to share: