On Tuesday evening I was invited to a meeting of JCI Harrogate, with guest speaker Mark Deere (from Supporting SME Leaders) giving a presentation on ‘Ten Things Small and Medium Sized Businesses Overlook’.
This was my first experience of the new branch of the networking and professional development group, and after hearing a little more about JCI and the benefits of becoming a member, I’m sure it won’t be my last.
During the course of the evening Mark shared some fascinating insights from his experience in the Marines, running a Plc and his current role.
For me, Mark’s presentation covered three key areas; increasing efficiency, maximising potential and selling yourself.
“Operations are the heart of your business”, said Mark, “minimise your admin tasks, if you can come up with a process or template to save you time – do it.” In doing this a business can run far more efficiently, by minimising time spent on administrative tasks you can increase your billable hours and get more done without actually having to do any more work.
The pricing issue came up too: “SMEs can price themselves too cheaply, they shouldn’t be afraid to charge what they want.” Justify your prices based on work to be done, experience, and business objectives – don’t just try to come in with the lowest price in the hope that you’ll win the business over your competition, charge what you’re worth.
Leadership played an interesting part in the evening, and I completely agree with Mark’s assertion that “people are your best assets”. Mark believes, as I do, that good leadership is about empowering people, having a clear vision and being able to express it, but also about managing aspirations. Nowadays everybody has aspirations, not just the senior management and this needs to be addressed in the hiring/firing, appraisals, training and day-to-day management of staff.
The ten things SMEs should be doing:
Have a customer service plan
Identify potential customers
Estimate the lifetime value of a customer
Be proactive in communications
Install a CRM system
Handle complaints brilliantly (they are an opportunity, not a problem)
Make good use of social media
Integrate customer care into business
One of the most interesting things Mark spoke about was a technique he learnt through Richard Branson – Asking staff/clients what the three most important things to their business/role are at that particular moment. Ask for one and you’ll more than likely get the problem of the day, but by asking them for three they have to delve into the ‘filing cabinet of the brain’ and come out with a considered response. By doing this it both invites serious discussion around objectives and how they are going to be met and by removing obstacles you allow the employee(s) to perform to the best of their ability. It sounds like an extremely effective leadership process, in fact if you took away the lead by example, and education and training on-the-go elements of the hospitality industry it’s very similar to how I used to lead restaurant teams, but slightly more targeted and developed. I’m looking forward to experimenting with this technique myself.
My thanks go the the venue (Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate) for hosting us, Mark Deere from Supporting SME Leaders for taking the time to present and to Michael Best, President of JCI Harrogate for inviting me to attend the event – I’m sure you’ll be seeing me again.