Business start-up and growth is a challenging time for all entrepreneurs. Taking the risk, having to do a range of tasks outside your natural comfort zone, winning new customers, balancing the books, recruiting staff – all time consuming and resource hungry activities. Even searching for advice can lead to conflicting thoughts and confusion.
Improvement is the application of Common Sense
Lean thinking and continuous improvement have existed in manufacturing industries for decades, and are now transitioning into mainstream business thinking as a set of common-sense plans and philosophies to consider within the context of your business. Here are 7 top tips that may be useful when planning the growth of your business:
- Avoid “over-designing” your idea or product. Part of Japan’s success has been their attitude to get a product to a point of being good enough to launch so that they can command “first to market” position, after which they make steady improvements and listen to customer feedback in future innovation. Don’t seek perfection from the get go – develop, launch, listen to customers, then improve and innovate.
- Business process efficiency. From sales order processing to invoicing, from materials ordering and procurement to production, your business depends on a series of processes and systems. Whether manually completed, or handled via a business management system, the systems need impeccable data (i.e. accurate and timely) and need to be efficient. A simple start point is to ask the question “would your customer pay for that process step” as part of a value stream mapping exercise.
- Improvement can happen everywhere, and through everybody. As Peter Brabeck, former CEO of Nestle, used to urge his employees, “Everybody, every day, should come to work thinking how can I improve my working environment”. Successful leaders embrace change and encourage others to look for improvements.
- Make change happen. Standing still is going backwards in today’s competitive market place. Across every business there is scope to improve, but the key is facilitating the process of identifying and implementing change. Whether looking at cost reduction, risk reduction, product changes, new markets, new channels or much smaller improvements, change occurs through empowered people with freedom to develop ideas.
- Celebrate success – a new customer won, a change project completed with positive results, a quick win in procurement (often low hanging fruit), a team working hard to meet tight deadlines. Nothing motivates and empowers people more than recognition and cooperation. If not recognised, then the momentum will soon dwindle.
- Avoid waste. Classic lean thinking identifies 7 wastes, including overproduction, excess movement (staff and stock), overprocessing, transport and others. While these appear relevant to manufacturing, they can be translated into more service type operations. Are activities ever duplicated (over-processing)? How often are documents handled before being acted upon (transport, movement)?
- Be customer centric. Everything that everybody does in your organisation, needs to be focussed on giving the customer what they want (product) when they want it (service) at the expected price (cost). On top of this, value is gained through working with customers to add value to them (and to you), and building a strong relationship based on proactive communication and information.
Success comes from knowledge, experience (yes, making mistakes!!) and willingness to review, adapt and change to the situation surrounding you. Most SME’s do not have a full board of technically proficient directors, but using trusted advisors (accountant, business coach…etc) can help you tap into their network of expertise. Guidance and support can prevent mistakes and help deliver your dreams. With local, regional, national and international networks, we can assist you to identify and acheive what you want from your business. Call us now for a no obligation discussion.