Being a small business owner is an exciting, rewarding, and honorable endeavor. But as I consult with different Anabaptist small businesses, I hear recurring frustrations that continually keep businesses from reaching their goals (not just financially). Those frustrations include:
1. “I can’t find good help these days.”
Several factors have led to a workforce shortage that is putting a strain on small businesses and their owners. We are now in a business climate that forces businesses to compete with each other for their employees. In a highly competitive labor market, employees are able to entertain multiple offers and choose the job that gives them what they want the most. Most established businesses are recruiting help the same way they did 10 or 20 years ago. Today’s employee’s wants have changed significantly from previous generations and a higher salary and better benefits are typically not enough to pull a prospective employee into your business. You need more.
Just like you need a marketing and sales strategy to communicate your value to potential ideal customers, you also need a recruiting strategy to communicate your value to potential ideal employees. Give special thought to WHO you are recruiting and what they really want. If you don’t have the time to spend on this, make it a part of someone’s job description to develop a recruiting strategy. The generations that are in the entry-level job age bracket may not be looking for the same things in a job that you would. Often, younger generations care more about work culture, ownership mentality, flexibility, and meaningful work than 401K’s and benefits. For example, our company uses flexibility, meaningful work, and unprecedented pay to attract top talent to the point where we have a waiting list of highly talented people waiting to join our team without ever advertising for employees. Another piece of advice is to simply hire people of great character and ability and pay them well. The employees you pay the least are typically the employees that end up costing you the most.
2. “I just don’t have time to improve my business.”
Small business owners wear too many hats in their business and are asked to be experts in all of the areas. We must be a sales tax expert, a bookkeeping expert, a customer service expert, an HR expert, and be an expert at whatever our business does on top of all that. It leads many business owners to a place of frustration, stress, and absence from family. This is NOT how Christ tells us to live our lives. Many of us got into business with aspirations for the exact opposite of all that. The core of the problem is simply that we try to do too much ourselves.
The mindset of the leader needs to change, systems/processes need to be developed, and trust needs to be extended to others. The responsibility of the CEO or leader of a company is to lead through systems. The book Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You is a great start when thinking about taking yourself out of your business so that you can focus on your business or other life goals. There is much more that could be said about this topic, but recognizing that things cannot continue the way they have been and asking for help are the first steps to a more enriching life. If you would like help with this I would love to talk with you or help you hire a business coach that shares your Christian values (I recommend Coaching 4 Clarity).
3. “Things keep falling through the cracks.”
You probably started your business by yourself or just a few others. But, as your business has grown more people have become involved and there are more chances that the paperwork gets lost or the customer was never called back. This frustrates you, your employees, and your customers. It will hit your profitability if left unchecked.
Develop a system that makes it clear who “dropped the ball” and reminds your team of tasks that need to be completed. I typically recommend that the system is handled in CRM software because every action can be logged and automation can be configured to save you time (paper is just a little too easy to misplace). We recommend you start with a CRM like HubSpot or Salesforce to build out your systems. Our CRM services can help you get your system implemented and managed. You should also edit your team’s job descriptions to clearly communicate which team member is responsible for which task. We recommend HubSpot as a way to get started with a CRM for free and we can help with the implementation.
4. “My Team doesn’t work together very well.”
The problem is you Yes that’s right, YOU. We all have different values that we live by. If your team holds different values than you do, there will be constant friction between the different value systems. As a conservative Mennonite, I can only imagine the internal and external struggle that would happen if I worked for an abortion clinic whose goal is to increase the number of abortions. I would be a terrible employee, even though in a different setting, I could be a terrific team player. It is not entirely about the quality of a person or their character, it is about the alignment of values that makes a big difference.
It is your job to be VERY clear about your company’s values when hiring new employees and when interacting with EVERYONE you interact with in your business operations. The first step is to identify your values and communicate them to your team (I recommend publicly posting them for your team). Every job interview should very quickly communicate your company’s values. Your job applicants will only want the job if it aligns with their personal values. No one wants to work for a company that shares drastically different values. It is also your job to continually evaluate if your employees are holding to the company values. If you allow the leader to allow team members to violate your company values even once it undermines your entire value system to both your customers and to your team. For example, if you say one of your values is “honesty”, but you allow an employee to get away with deception, you have just communicated that your “values” are not values at all but simply ideals that can be pushed aside whenever convenient.
5. “I can’t keep up with technology”
Technology can mean many things from a new roofing nailer, to pipes made from newer materials, or to a new type of software. Historically the Anabaptist communities have not put a lot of value on advanced education or technological advances. This has led many church groups and businesses to reevaluate and assess to what level technology will be used in their personal life and their businesses. There is also a generational gap between those who grew up without the internet and those who never knew a life without the internet or similar technologies. As technology and the ability to operate it, has advanced in our society; the technological gap between our community and the society around us has widened. It has become more difficult to shun technology while also doing business with the general public.
When it comes to new tools, the acronym GIGO (Garbage In = Garbage Out) is very fitting. Any system is only as good as the data being fed into it. Develop your systems and processes before you start applying technology to your business. Software salesmen will tell you that their system does everything you need it to. Instead of asking “Does your system do…?” ask “How does your system do…?”. I have realized that most new system implementations are both frustrating and scorned by employees and owners. When exploring new tools, hire someone who has the skills/qualifications to vet and implement the new tool. Change is inevitable and needed. Don’t be scared of it. Rather, be skeptical of the new shiny tool that seems to solve ALL your problems. Ask to see it operating in an existing business and ask the people using the tool what they think after using it for a year or two.
You are an expert in your field, but that doesn’t mean you are an expert at running a business. We all have similar frustrations. My overarching advice is to allow a “business expert” to help you run it. That may mean hiring a general manager to run your business for you, or maybe just hiring a business coach to hold your hand and guide you through the process. However you decide to chart the course of your business, remember to network with others in your industry and ask LOTS of questions.