Friday 30 October 2015

Common business issues and how you can fix them

As the end of the year approaches, it’s time to take stock of your practice, and possibly face some hard truths about where improvements could be made.

To get you started with this confronting  task, here are seven common business strategy and management issues and some simple steps to fix them.

1. Your value proposition isn’t clear

Like you, a client will only ever buy something when they see a benefit in paying for it. If you’re not converting enough new clients – or if you’re losing too many existing ones – your value proposition may not be clear.

A value proposition is an important part of any business’s strategy. Successful businesses will state theirs clearly and succinctly on their website and in marketing material. But, more importantly, they demonstrate it every time they work with a client. After all, showing someone the value you provide is always more powerful than telling them about it.

If you’re having trouble working out your business’s value proposition, here’s a simple way to figure it out.

  1. Define your target audience. What do they do? Where do they live? And what are their pain points?
  2. Ask yourself how you solve these pain points in a way that others don’t or can’t. For instance, do you use a particular process or methodology? Do you have specialist experience in a particular area?
  3. Articulate how this difference affects your audience’s likely outcomes.

When you have this information, combine it into one short sentence.

And there you have it - your value proposition.

2. You don’t understand your clients

If there is one common feature of every successful business, it’s a loyal following of satisfied clients. But you can’t hope to keep your clients satisfied without first knowing what makes them tick.

The easiest way to find out what matters to your clients - and to understand the problems they face - is simply by asking them. And that means embarking on a program of consistent and regular client feedback.

A good client feedback program will help you maintain successful client relationships while growing your business. The program should ask your clients about both the quality of the advice they receive, as well as their impressions of your customer service skills.

3. Your customer service is lacklustre

Poor customer service will let you down and lead to poor client retention. So if you’re losing clients more quickly than you’re adding new ones, it could come down to the way you’re treating them – which is why it’s so important to measure it. This includes measuring both the qualitative (what people think and feel) and the efficiency aspects of customer service (how well your processes run).

The easiest way to measure the qualitative aspects of your customers is to incorporate some questions into the client feedback sessions at point two of the above process. Ask your clients how satisfied they are with your service and advice, where you could improve and how likely they are to recommend you.

To measure your efficiency, look at metrics such as your response time to queries or complaints, the volume of calls or emails you receive and how long it takes to resolve any issues.

If you use both methods of tracking your customer service you’ll get a real understanding of how clients view your customer service, as well as first-hand experience of the link between client satisfaction and business growth.

4. Your technology skills let you down

When used properly, technology can create a leaner business, keeping costs down and freeing staff from routine tasks. In other words, it can help create business success by reducing your firm’s bottom line as well as potentially increasing its productivity, and therefore revenue.

Ask yourself, how efficient is your back office? Could your business reduce costs or save time by automating some processes? Are you making the most of your CRM by using the data and insights it provides to improve your practices and sharpen your business’s focus? And do your apps, CRM and other software speak to each other so that you only need to collect data once?

Small changes in the way you work with technology can sometimes have a profound impact on profitability. So if you’re not using your software to full effect it’s time to get some training. And if you don’t have the time or inclination for that, pay someone who really understands IT to help you out.

5. Your knowledge is out of date

Sometimes business owners need to face the reality that the problems in their practice don’t lie with their business strategy or their processes but with themselves. After all, for professionals, business success requires staying up-to-date with the latest thinking, products, legislation and strategies.

Sometimes business owners need to face the reality that the problems in their practice don’t lie with their business strategy or their processes but with themselves.

All the people in your business – from your business managers and fee earners through to support staff – should be receiving ongoing training and given direction and access to the best knowledge sources to ensure their skills are current and they have what they need to excel.

6. You have a problem with pricing

Failing to get your pricing right can have a devastating impact on your chances of business success. Price your services too high and you’ll struggle to attract clients; price them too low and you’ll work too hard for too little reward.

If what you charge is the reason you’re not winning work, you may need to drop your fees or go back and review your business strategy and value proposition (see point 1). Otherwise, you could look at your pricing structure more creatively and try to work out a way to offer clients better value.

Then again, if you are never rejected on price it may be a sign that you could increase your fees to increase profitability. 

And if you’re being rejected and you don’t know why, the simplest way to find out is to pick up the phone and have a few direct conversations with former prospects about why they took their business elsewhere.

7. You’re not communicating

Finally, if your business strategy and processes are fine but your staff performance is low, it may be your ability to communicate that’s letting you down. Are your business managers communicating expectations across your organisation – both about the way they should be performing and where the business is headed?

Keeping people motivated and working towards achieving your goals means making everyone know that their contribution is a vital part of your business’s success. So if you’re not telling your people how important they are, start now. It could make a marked difference to your business success.

And finally…

If your business is struggling it takes courage to admit that the problem lies within. But by facing up to these hard truths rather than ignoring them, you're investing in your future success.


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