The other day while I was waiting in line at the security check point for my flight, my co-worker made a very good point about the seeming lack of communication between the airline and the TSA. The airlines know exactly how many people they have coming to the airport for a flight and exactly what time frame they should be arriving. Therefore you would think that TSA would be properly staffed and ready to go based on that information, but it doesn’t seem that there is any communication between them. But aren’t they on the same team with a similar goal of getting people from point A to point B safely and securely? They might not be the same “company” or department but don’t you think they should work together more closely?
So how does this relate to small business? Well unlike the TSA, we don’t have an endless supply of someone else’s money and we are typically not the only ones who offer the product and services your customers are looking to buy. Therefore unlike the TSA, if our customers are unhappy with us they will just go elsewhere. So how do we keep this from happening?
You must connect your teams!
Depending on the size of your business, your teams might be a sales department and an accounting department and a production department. Or if you are an even smaller business, your team might be you and a production assistant or an outside sales person. Whatever the size, you will get caught up in the day-to-day operations of your business and find yourself buried in your own issues and needs. So now instead of having the items you need for your customers when they need them, you are scrambling to get items to produce. Maybe your accounting department is calling for payment on a project that still has issue you are working to resolve or other aggravations for your customer that makes them want to look elsewhere. Maybe the support team is dealing with the same issue over and over and no solution is being worked on. Maybe the owner wants to be the best mouse pad supplier in the area and yet the employees are pushing ceramic mugs and not the mouse pads because they don’t like the quality. Insert any other number of daily hurdles that cannot be overcome without being connected.
To overcome this issue you just need to communicate. It can be as formal as setting a weekly management meeting and reviewing a metric report or as informal as bringing in lunch once a week for your team so you can all sit around and discuss the week’s issues. Just make sure everyone involved knows this is the time to discuss what is going on. For example the sales team should be able to tell everyone what the customer are looking for and what upcoming projects might be coming in. The purchasing department should be able to tell everyone what products are on back order or what products are over stocked that need to be moved. Accounting should be able to tell everyone what customers are behind on their payments or what products are the real money makers. Customer Service / Support should be able to tell everyone what items or issues customers are dealing with most so you can work on a proactive solution. And the owner / general manager should be able to tell everyone what direction they feel the company should be going and what areas they feel need the most improvement. They should also point out the areas they are most proud of in the company and give kudos where they are due – in front of EVERYONE! Just make sure everyone you invite to the meeting knows their input is welcomed and important. You also need to make sure their input in necessary. Too many people in a meeting can have the opposite effect. We will discuss that in a later blog.
So now that you are connected, you know that John Q Customer has an upcoming event where they will need lots of iPhone/iPad cases, and you will have them ready when they need them. Now your accounting department will know to not call Mr. Smith about payment when the project is not quite complete to his specs yet. Now instead of sending out the same defective mouse pad over and over, you have worked with the vendor to solve the issue. Now that you are connected you are the best mouse pad supplier in the area and you also have a nice chuck of business in the ceramic mug market. Now that you are connected, your team knows they are an important part of the success of the company and people are working together to be the best you can be. It sure feels nice to spend that hour a week together solving problems, doesn’t it?
Now can someone please ask the airlines to get with TSA and make our hour-long flight less of a 4 hour ordeal? Maybe I should send this to my congressman…