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Some Business Improvements Don’t Cost Anything

An efficient no-cost way to improve operations is to simply observe...observe employees, observe customers, observe competitors. The best part of observation, which includes oversight and listening, is that there is no cost to the business and lessons learned can be implemented immediately.

Observe Employees

Employees are always doing something...or should be doing something that is productive and beneficial to the business. Employees might be doing a specific job, interacting with co-workers, or engaging customers. Whatever they might be doing, simple observation, oversight, and listening can give an owner (or managers) insight regarding an employee's job performance and possible interaction with customers depending on job position.

Owners must be proactive, however, when taking this approach to business improvement. Observation is not sitting in an office. Observation is being engaged...being a part of what is going on. This might be actual observation, participating with employees in various job-related activities, listening or joining in on phone conversations, or follow-up with customers. Real-time observation allows an owner/manager to give compliments as warranted, to keep enthusiasm high or take immediate corrective action if necessary.

Employees must act as a single, cohesive unit all striving to achieve business goals. Employees are the link between a business and its customers and must act accordingly to turn prospects into paying customers and first-time customers into loyal, repeat purchasers. This is true regardless of the type of business or whether the business is (1) business to consumer or (2) business to business.

Observe Customers

Since customers are the lifeline of any business, they must be treated with the highest priority...not just once but all the time. When owners observe customers' reactions and listen to their comments regarding products/services, employees, follow-up, customer service, etc., they ultimately learn what customers want and how the company's products or services can be improved to meet customer needs.

Feedback from customers is not always the same as from employees; therefore, an owner's knowledge through observation and interaction is important. No one knows more what customers want than customers themselves. When a business meets customer demands better than its competition, it lays a solid foundation for future growth and long-term sustainability.

Observe Competitors

Owners certainly must understand and know their own businesses, but equally important is to know what the competition is doing. Competitor observation is crucial to compete in today's marketplace. How are they marketing? What is their price structure? Why are customers going to the competition? How is the competition better or different?

Businesses do not operate in a space only reserved for them. Businesses must know how they compare to the competition in order to differentiate products and services. Knowledge of the competition allows a business to improve upon what it is doing in order to gain a competitive edge.

Continuous Observation

Observation, whether with employees, customers, or the competition, must be continuous to be effective. Since observations are a simple, no-cost management tool to improve business performance, there is no excuse not to implement this practical approach to accomplish the following:

• Improve employee performance • Enhance owner/employee communication • Increase awareness of customer needs and desires • Determine strengths and weaknesses of competitors

Only Upside

Since there is no downside to observation and only upside, start observing and see the results.


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