I smiled. More than 10 years into starting and running my small business and I realized I would NEVER be done with it. As our team reached a new stage of growth, new challenges appeared and old ones faded away. Logistics issues of the past were resolved by new technology and the needs of our clients required a renewed language to address them. Calm and serenity filled my soul because I realized continuous improvement was key in my business.
I let go of the idea that everything should be done by now and so should you. Here are 3 arguments in favor of changing your expectations and of the constant improvement of your small business.
Continuous improvement means adaptation
Adaptation means survival. Survival is good in business. Beating the odds is what you want. Constantly tweaking your “recipe” in anticipation of changes will increase your odds of survival. Adaptation, not by reaction to external factors but by design, sets up the frame of mind for survival.
Back in 2011, I sensed growth would become heavy on the admin side and I needed to make sure we would be ready for all the paperwork generated by more and more clients: Invoices, checks, return authorization requests, etc. Setting up a paperless environment where all documents would be available in a quick online search became extremely important. Today, we have only one team player handling the paperwork flow for 350 clients. Every piece of paper is searchable and available almost instantly thus saving hours a week.
Continuous improvement gives the team a stimulating challenge
The mindset of wanting to constantly improve operations gives a challenge to a team. Not only do they have to manage, operate and serve but are also faced with being mindful of potential improvements. There is a subtle change of attitude when you start thinking on two levels: doing your task and improving what you are doing. Some tasks can be repetitive and boring at some point BUT thinking on how to improve them opens up the gates of creativity. What a stimulating challenge!
We usually win 3-4 new clients every month. We have a routine in invoicing them, thanking them, training them, etc. The flow had set in naturally and we needed to shake things up. How could we make it better? It became a team project lead by our service technician. Everybody pitched in. That exercise turned out to be a very stimulating one for all. You know what? The team is talking about redoing the exercise in 2017 to get it to the next level. Not only are they taking care of new clients, but also mindful of improving the process of doing so.
Continuous improvement is profitable
Working on improving your offer, your operations, and your team’s efforts leads to either more efficiency or more revenue. Constant improvements implemented, especially if visible, trigger a sense of winning. Winning is attractive. It attracts clients wanting to be part of the winning team and thus creates more revenue. It attracts team players with that frame of mind and this improves on efficiency.
We put a lot of effort into improving our branding, systems and offers. These efforts have translated over the years in an increase in the quality of candidates applying to job openings. Also, the quality of prospect attracted to our business model has also expanded. Larger clients have no qualms talking to us nowadays. Tweaking our recipe constantly improves our profitability in the long run.
In the first 10 years, I fretted over the fact I could never see the end of the quest to build the business. Now, I realize how the continuous improvement process IS the life the business. It ensures a constant adaptation for its survival, sets up a stimulating environment for the team and in the end ensures a sustainable profitability. I thrive for it and you should too.
How would a continuous improvement mentality be beneficial to your business?