The difference between mediocrity and efficient simplicity in managing a business

Evans wants to move his business forward. Early this year he set up website as a tool for attracting customers. He also regularly places advertisements in the newspapers, which direct customers to his website and also to his company’s phone numbers and email address. After a few weeks, the number of customer enquiries showed some significant increase. Evans was happy. His new marketing tactics were working.

But there was a strange thing happening, though. Although customer enquiries had gone up more than three times than in the previous six months, there has been no increase in actual sales.

Evans wondered why the enquiries were not translating into sales. When we sat down to discuss this problem, Evans had no idea where the bottleneck was. So we decided to go through his entire marketing and sales channel to see where the link was breaking. Soon enough, we noticed two culprits. First, the reception process.

The receptionist who received incoming sales enquiries by phone and email was swamped with work: typing, sending out Evans’s emails and letters, making teas, stationery etc. she admitted that she only forwarded emails to the sales team “when she got some time to look at the inbox”. A look in the inbox showed delays of up to a week before they were read and forwarded to the right people. 

The second culprit was the sales department itself. When the two sales reps received enquiries, whether by email or phone, they would jot down the customer’ requirements, then prepare a quotation, which they sent out “as soon as they got a chance”.  This was usually a day or two latter.

The boss himself had a part to play in this chaos. According to staff, Evans regularly interrupted their workflow with “urgent stuff.”  When a customer phoned Evans directly, whether to place an order, make an enquiry or register a complaint, Evans would ask everyone to stop what they were doing and attend to that issue. This resulted in staff sometimes setting aside work they were working on for up to two days, sometimes even forgetting about it altogether.

Evans’s office was the home of chaos. No wonder customers gave up and went elsewhere. It reminded me about a person I overhead complaining to someone over the phone: “why advertise things that you cannot supply?” Customers simply go elsewhere when they are not served promptly, especially in this day of massive competition.

After discovering the problems, we set down with Evans and his staff to work out solutions. What Evans needed urgently was a business process system.  We went through the whole set of key activities at Evans’s business, from how customer enquiries are received to how the final product is delivered. Seeing the weaknesses and bottlenecks in the current system, we discussed ways of reducing the inefficiencies and improve simplicity. We developed business system manuals for the key areas of the business and an overall flowchart which brought all the parts together.  We also created templates and standard quotation forms for the most popular products, so that customer got quotations within minutes.

From my last discussion with Evans a week ago, there has been a marked improvement in workflow and the conversion rate of enquiries into buying customers.

As your business grows from a one-man band to a multi-player team, what worked at first stops working. You lose control of the business process. You simply cannot attend to every client enquiry, order or complaint. You begin to need a system for handling important tasks. Such a system helps every employee understand exactly what he or she needs to do in most routine situations. They only need to call you for exceptional things.  The system enables you to maintain control, but without having to micro-manage every employee or process. So the business can smoothly run without your continuous presence. And you can even afford to go and play golf on Thursdays or read for your MBA without worrying about the office turning chaotic.

Net week I will discuss the essential elements of a simple business system for a growing enterprise. Please let me have your comments and feedback. In the meantime you may read more articles on my blog http://admiralbiz.wordpress.com and at http://smebusinesslink.com.  You can also subscribe to our free weekly newsletter. Simply send an email with SUBSCRIBE on the subject line to chichonip@smebusinesslink.com.

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One Response to “The difference between mediocrity and efficient simplicity in managing a business”

  1. Your business ideas are inspirational. You are my mentor in the business world Mr Chichoni P. Keep on giving us more business ideas.

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