Small and micro business owners often struggle to keep track of everything that's going on with their business. Much of the time, this is because their services are providing a skill to people, and most people aren't trained in the "business" side of running a business. Instead, they've mastered a skill they're charging customers for, and the rest is somewhat left up to chance—hoping it all works out, that jobs and income keep coming, and that nothing too terrible happens in the meantime. Of course, there are business classes and degrees, and they definitely teach people some practical knowledge about how to avoid certain technical missteps, handle common situations, stay on top of finances, and other basic things. But getting a business degree doesn't prepare you fully for experiencing the things that come up in the average lifespan of a small, local service business—how to handle customers who aren't paying, how to find customers, how to market your services, how to beat out your competition when you're providing the same service, how to strike the right balance between following up and pestering customers, and more. Being an entrepreneur is 90% on-the-job training, and almost every business owner has a different and unique story about how they found success. One thing that is common to every successful business is they make setting goals central to judging how well they're doing, and determining where they want to go.
You don't have to go to business school or spend years working in a huge corporation to find success for your small business. However, there are a few things you can learn from how the big companies operate to help your business.
The easiest and most straightforward business practice to master and include in your business today is to simply set goals.
Why goals matter
One of the primary reasons you should be setting goals is it provides motivation to do better—to grow, to sell more, to reduce costs, to earn more profit—while also creating fairly simple ways to measure how well you're doing. Every goal must be measurable—meaning you know exactly how to judge if you're meeting, exceeding, or falling behind your goal.
For example, a customer service team in a large company might have a satisfaction rating goal of 95%. Perhaps there is a reward available whenever they maintain or exceed 95% satisfaction each month. With that goal in place, whenever the rating starts to dip below the mark, the team can rally to bring it back up. Without a goal, there's unlikely to be any strong motivation to bring it back up.
How this applies to your business
If you're running a service business, especially a small one in your local area, customer satisfaction is one of the single most important metrics that matters to the health and reputation of your business. If a vast majority of your customers are dissatisfied with your work, they're going to talk to people, review you negatively online, and make it more difficult for others to feel confident hiring your business to do work they need to have done.
Let's say you set a goal to maintain 90% customer satisfaction—that means that 9 out of every 10 customers needs to be happy with your work, or you're going to take action to fix the problem and make them happy. Your first challenge to solve in your path to hitting your goal is to figure out how you can track and measure customer satisfaction. If you're using WorkWeek to build, run, and grow your business, you'll want to use our Automated Customer Feedback tool to know exactly what your customers think of your work. Then, you'll keep up with your customer satisfaction ratings as you complete work, and you'll always be looking to keep at least 9 out of 10 customers happy.
Set and achieve your goals
The same goal-setting and measuring pattern holds for sales, revenue, expenses, profit, and more. If you set a goal to get $1000 in new jobs or estimates for the week, you'll have something to work for. Whenever you have downtime, you can spend it working towards that goal. It can motivate you to pick up the phone when you're thinking you don't want to. Revenue goals are great for slow seasons, or when you're trying to find the cash for new equipment or unexpected business expenses. Set a goal to save a bit extra during the busy months so you're fully prepared for an upcoming slow season, then do your best to hit that goal.
Like most things, starting slow and making your goals reachable and realistic is the best way to get started. Don't make your first goal something really difficult, like go from zero to $10,000 in revenue in your first month when you have no customers yet.
Unrealistic goals only serve to discourage you, instead of encouraging you to work harder. Avoid them.
Set a small goal, reach it, then expand it. Rinse and repeat, month after month. Here are a few basic goals you can try out, or use to inspire other goals that match your business:
- Call and check on 10 past customers this week and make sure they're still satisfied with your work
- Email 5 past customers this week to see if they need help with any new work
- Try to estimate or invoice an extra $300 this month
- Clean & organize your work vehicle this weekend
- Try to increase your annual revenue by 3% this year
We're currently exploring how we can integrate these ideas directly into WorkWeek to help you track, meet, and exceed your personal business goals. If you'd like to see what we're working on and try it out for your business, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.