By Jeff Sheets
With three quarters of 2016 now in the books and Halloween creeping up (no pun intended), it is important to stop and evaluate the year to date. Why? Very big decisions need to be made for your business soon.
I want you to evaluate the results of your sales, parts and service departments for the first three quarters of 2016. If you enjoyed a spectacular (a.k.a. “spooktacular”) season, why was that the case? Was it because of a new equipment line? Was it because of ideal weather? The answers to these and other such questions can help you make good decisions when buying new equipment or hiring employees for the coming year. On the flip side, if the season was scary for you, how are you are going to change your business? Do you have the right product mix? Are you advertising correctly? Is your location inconvenient? How does this affect your ordering for next year? My goal here is to challenge you to make sure that you’re not just going through the motions like a zombie, trying to do the same things as the past year. Your business and potential customers deserve more. Here are three things I want you to “chew on” like candy corn during this Halloween season.
#1 What should you say “boo” to and “scare away” from your business next year?
Whether you had a good year or bad year, changes need to happen. It may be an incremental change, but there is always something that can be done to improve your business from year to year. It may be old processes that you need to update or add a new product or service to take you into a new direction. “Out with the old and in with the new” for next year should be a motto that you are always looking to incorporate. Sometimes, you need to make an effort to move your business forward. For example, I’ve been working with a business that is highly successful, but still does everything on paper with no industry-based business management software system to aid its efforts. Needless to say, the business has a lot of communication issues. It is growing dramatically because the owners are so good with their customers, but not because of organization. Both owners are working 60 to 70-plus hours a week in the business because of all of the fires they extinguish and new business growth they cultivate. A new business management software system would help them so much, and I am working to get them to say “yes” to the new and “boo” to the old way of doing things. No matter how small the change is, you can be “scared” that the business might change too much. You become obstinate to what can be the best thing for you and your employees and resolve many of your problems. Take a look and see what you need to get rid of and move on from. Say “boo” to something between now and the first of next year.
#2 How are you going to spruce up your business and avoid the “haunted house” look?
I know I may stretching the Halloween references a bit here but…come on, when was the last time you did anything to make your business look better? Now is the time to start taking a hard look at paint both inside and out — displays, sales floor, signage, product placement, customer service counters, backdrops, etc. The list could go on and on, but if you can’t see the cosmetic problems because you spend a lot of time in the business, then you need to bring in outside help to identify these areas. You might also take a visit to other OPE businesses to see how they look and what they are doing. Customers need to see a business that is keeping itself fresh and not looking tired. You want customers to say how much they love the new look. It will make you want to walk into your business every day with a new sense of optimism for what the day might bring too. Make sure that you are “dressing up” your business to make it a less “scary” place to visit.
#3 If your business had a “Superman” kind of year, how are you going to improve next year?
I love speaking to owners who have enjoyed great success. When I attend the Green Industry & Equipment Expo (GIE+EXPO) each year, I get the opportunity to hear some of those success stories about past accomplishments. However, all of us need to establish new goals every year. Last year, you may have been “Superman,” but what costume are you going to wear this year? I hope it is that of another superhero and not of a villain! When basking in success, sometimes you can forget the future is right around the corner. How are you going improve yourself from last year? If you’ve read my articles in recent years, you’ve probably noticed that I tend to look at the past to see how I can help you can make improvements for the future. I also think you need to make sure that you are not always evaluating success by the bottom line. Sometimes, it’s a success because you ventured in new directions or you somehow made a change that is going to make you better for the next five years and beyond. When you look to the future and less at the past, you give yourself the opportunity to find that new costume and define your business in a new way — no matter what happened in the past.
As a kid, one of my favorite people to watch on television — even though he scared me — was Rod Serling. “The Twilight Zone” and “Night Gallery” were really thought provoking and scary at the same time. He was a gifted writer and wrote many of the episodes that appeared on both shows. One of his introductions to a “Twilight Zone” episode that I think is appropriate: “This highway leads to the shadowy tip of reality: You’re on a through route to the land of the different, the bizarre, the unexplainable… Go as far as you like on this road. Its limits are only those of mind itself. Ladies and gentlemen, you’re entering the wondrous dimension of imagination… Next stop: The Twilight Zone.” When you look at the highway or journey that lies before you, sometimes there are twists and turns, but the only limit you have is yourself. Look beyond yourself to find answers that will take you further on your journey. Whether you faced a “scary or spooktacular” year, you still have the opportunity to seek a new direction.
If you have the opportunity to stop by OPE’s booth (#10215) at GIE+EXPO, please do so as I would love to meet you and hear your story. I hope you have a happy Halloween and a “spooktacular” rest of the year!
Jeff Sheets is the founder and owner of OPE Consulting Services. Whether a business is thriving or struggling to survive, Sheets’ rich experience in both the corporate and not-for-profit sectors allows him to partner with business owners to customize unique strategies for their needs. For the past nine years, he has worked extensively with hundreds of outdoor power equipment dealers to create best practices in business structure, personnel management and financial profitability. For more information, he may be contacted at email@example.com or (816) 260-5430. You can also follow him on Twitter @opeconsult, connect with him on LinkedIn, and visit his website at www.opeconsultingservices.com.