time passingIf Marty McFly were to flash back to the years leading up to the market regression (say 2003-2005ish) and pay your business a visit, what would he see as your strategy for winning more sales? I’d be willing to bet he’d see an over-inflated sales team with their own rules, too much time spent on design and a cloudy business plan punctuated by little supervision.

In those days, it seemed the logical answer for everything was to “add more people, take whatever time you think you need to avoid errors, and do whatever you need to in order to get the sale.” The end justified the means,  but the end result wasn’t nearly what it could have been with a better plan.  Fast forward a few years to your skeleton crew.  Are you using the same unruly practices, or have you changed the definitive guidelines of, “business as usual”?

Recent news has given many owners reason to hope for a bigger and brighter year.  But, as business amps up, many owners will slip back into their old habits and fail to take advantage of the hard lessons the last several years have provided.

Here are some areas where “business as usual” needs to undergo some serious changes.

Business as Usual

Handling an increase in prospects.  If your plan to handle an increase in business is to automatically hire more people, chances are you’re not utilizing your team properly.  It’s not the number of people you have that makes you successful; it’s what you do with who you have.  Make sure you have enough employees to avoid single points of failure, but also ensure that they follow uniform procedures to get the job done.  It’s vital that employees have the tools they need to stay organized, quote quickly and accurately, and that you know what and how they’re doing at any given moment.

Defining the sales process.  If your sales team isn’t following a uniform sales process, or you don’t know if your sales process is working, you’re just putting yourself even more in the dark.  Your team is likely missing out on potential customers due to misreading prospects, pushing too hard, and not asking the right questions (for starters).  Ask them, and they’ll think it was an impossible sale, but if they practice and follow a proven sales process, they’ll be selling like the naturals in no time.  Don’t let critical business opportunities slip through your fingertips.

Pinpointing where your processes fail.  If your idea of finding out where a process fails is by solely asking your employees and trusting that they are giving you accurate information, then you need to make some changes.  Your team is probably a little biased, and worse yet, they may not realize the deeper meanings behind the mistakes and lost sales.  In order to see where a process goes astray, you need to practice consistent operations in your kitchen and bath dbusiness with a vision, a written plan, strong leadership and high visibility.  Using kitchen cabinet software such as Aurora makes it easier to monitor performances at your company through management dashboards and integrated scheduling features.  This way, you’ll be aware of struggles before it’s too late.

Time spent on design.  If your motto is “unlimited time for design,” then you may as well just throw money out the windows and wave a white flag, because you’ve surrendered to your designers.  Find out how much time you are spending on design services and cut it in half.  Qualify your potential customers better on the front line and train your designers to draw less, but with more iterations.  Design is a form of art, and it is natural for an artist to get lost in their work, but losing track of time means wasting money.  With just a little guidance, your designers can produce amazing kitchens within reasonable deadlines that allow you to make a profit.

Whats the financial plan, Stan?  In order to succeed in the coming months, you’re going to need to come up with a working budget.  In the past, you may have had money to lose, but chances are, you can’t afford to be so careless.  Who is in charge of outlining your budget?  If your company doesn’t have a CFO and can’t answer that question, then you need to find one – fast.  You wouldn’t let your kids go to the store with a limitless credit card would you?  Maybe your company isn’t big enough for a full-time CFO (with a full-time CFO salary), but you can find well qualified accountants in your area that can handle the job on a part-time basis.  Just ten hours a month might be the difference between having a great year in 2012 and just getting by.  And while we’re on the topic of finances, don’t be reckless with your money by paying for incomplete jobs, manufacturing errors, or the like.  It is mistakes like these that cost you profit.  Your financial plan needs to bullet-proof.

Make the changes

In the coming months, you have a chance to define each element of your company.  Looking back, you’ll undoubtedly be able to pinpoint areas that can use improvement.  You should be proud of your accomplishments, having made it through some great struggles, but as an industry, we’re not completely out of the thick yet.  Now is the time to make the changes you need – and not repeat the careless practices of the past.  Listen to the wise words of Winston Churchill: “All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”