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Setting Up Systems

Cut The Chaos to Grow Your Business

Systematic growth versus business owner dependency. Implement systems to enable your business to become independent of you.

Greg Fisher

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Building a sustainable business requires discipline, excellent processes, good technology and an empowering culture. Take your company from owner-dependent to self-sufficient with these tried and tested business principles. And the good news is you’ll retire rich rather than poor and burnt out.

Background:

A catalyst for burn-out and low growth the overworked, stressed, overcommitted entrepreneur

Take a peek into almost any growing entrepreneurial business and you will see signs of overwork, fatigue, strained relationships and unsustainable stress. Most business owners accept that the journey towards a successful business venture demands exceptionally hard work and significant sacrifice. But, many entrepreneurs get caught in the trap of continually over-promising to clients to win work, working long hours to ensure delivery and sacrificing heath and relationships to focus on the business. It is fine to have to work hard in the short-term but the major risk for a business or an individual is when long hours, stress and fatigue become embedded in the culture of the organisation. In this case the business can get caught in a downward spiral causing employees to look for new jobs and entrepreneurs to question: “Is this all worth it?”
Sound familiar?

A strong business achieves a fine balance between delivering to clients through hard work, passion and energy and implementing systematic processes and procedures that rely as little as possible on any single person or team. Unfortunately, too many entrepreneurial businesses in South Africa rely too much on the hard work, passion and energy side of the equation and do not implement the processes and procedures that enable them to develop a business independent of themselves.

The entrepreneur’s worst enemy

Entrepreneurs are often their own worst enemy. People who start and lead businesses tend to want to be in control. They want to be the source of energy and inspiration within the organisation and have a handle on all the decisions that are made. This is very often a source of competitive advantage in the early stages of business growth because the entrepreneurs drive the business; they keep tabs on everything that is happening and are able to respond to critical issues as needed. However, as the business grows, individual entrepreneurs can become a bottleneck for growth.

When all decisions and checks need to pass through one person, three things happen: (1) the business becomes slow to respond to customer needs and market changes because employees wait for the business owner to make a decision before doing anything significant; (2) the individual entrepreneur burns out; (3) people become frustrated working at the organisation because they feel disempowered. The consequence? “A-player” employees leave because they are not being challenged and the business is left with complacent, apathetic “B-players”.

1. Build a value network

The traditional business model dictates that an organisation should integrate into a value chain – a linear chain of activities that when linked together create a valuable product or service for the final customer. The traditional management mindset was that the more aspects of the value chain a single company controlled the more powerful they were. However, the more elements of the value chain a single company owns, the more internal controls and red-tape procedures they need to ensure that each element is delivering. Progressive organisations are realising that it is more effective to be linked to a value network than to control a value chain. A value network is a set of interdependent entities that each focus on a fairly narrow and specific task but are able to work together to effectively deliver value to the end customer.

In 1990, Ricardo Semler, the majority shareholder of a Brazilian family owned business called Semco, faced a crisis. The market for the products his company produced was crashing and he needed to look for a way to remain competitive. The company had already been through some massive changes over the past eight years during which Semler had implemented a highly participative form of management in which employees had a big say in almost every major decision in the company from remuneration structures, promotions and employment policies to corporate dress. The tightening up of the external market required an even more innovative approach.

A few years before the market crunch, three employees from Semco had been experimenting with a concept they called a nucleus of technological innovation (NTI). It was a small unit that was farmed off as a separate entity from the main organisation to look at innovatively developing new products and processes that could be sold back to Semco.

The energy and entrepreneurial spirit fostered in the NTI was remarkable and Semler questioned whether it would be feasible to create more micro enterprises to develop and sell products and services back to Semco. He launched a programme in which employees were encouraged to leave Semco to form their own satellite enterprises. Semco gave them contracts, allowed them to lease machinery and space from the larger organisation and also freed them to work for other organisations.

Over a few years, more than half the employees took up the offer to launch their own satellite enterprises. Semco is now at the centre of a dispersed value network of independent enterprises all working together to create products for clients. This is a self-organising, self-sustaining system. It has removed a great deal of stress for Semler, and the value network is more resilient and competitive than the larger, single organisation. Because each enterprise is independently owned, they have a direct incentive to deliver high quality products and services because they are the direct beneficiaries of the profit that is made by their enterprise.

It was a bold step by Semler, but it paid off. If you had invested $100 000 in the business 20 years back, your investment would be worth $5,4 million today, a rare record of profitability and growth in a very volatile Brazilian economy. Over and above this, Semler has freed himself up to lead a remarkably relaxed and balanced life, culminating in a bestselling book entitled The Seven Day Weekend.

2. Utilise technology effectively

Technology can be an entrepreneur’s best friend in building world class systems and processes. Many recently successful entrepreneurial organisations have innovative and empowering technological platforms as the core of their competitive advantage. e-Bay leverages to facilitate auctions, Fedex leverages technology to enable the transport of goods from one point to another, Google utilises technology to facilitate search and Dell leverages technology to build a just-in-time supply chain. Information technology enables effective, very low cost communication, data management and data processing – all critical ingredients in the development of an effective process.

One of South Africa’s most inspiring entrepreneurs of the last 10 years is Simon Stockley, who identified a new model for financing house mortgages in South Africa and launched SA Home Loans in 1998. SA Home loans has captured more than 10% of new home mortgages and created a disruption in the market by consistently offering mortgage loans at a lower rate than those offered by the big banks. Stockley has since sold his shares in SA Home loans for what is believed to be a significant amount and he recently launched a similar concept in the Middle East, called Saudi Arabia Home Loans. Many people think that Stokley’s genius was financial engineering, when in fact the SA Home Loans financial model is relatively simple. The real genius in SA Home Loans is the technological platform that Stockley created to assess clients’ risk profiles, structure mortgage bonds, monitor repayments, verify ID numbers, access real time credit reports, civil judgments and case histories and produce all the necessary documentation relating to the bond.

This all-encompassing software platform means that the same level of control and precision is consistently applied throughout the country when a loan is granted and managed. It enables managers to get out and interact with clients, make sales and drive new business instead of having to worry about strict and rigorous credit procedures. The computer system takes care of that. It has also enabled SA Home Loans to operate as a dispersed organisation with very little physical infrastructure, keeping the overhead costs right down. The agents make use of attorney and estate agent offices when required, tapping into the system from there and they operate a virtual team across the country. The technological platform developed by Stockley early in the business lifecycle of SA Home Loans to leverage low cost communication, data management and data processing, has been at the core of its success.

Information technology can enable a myriad of different processes within a business from customer relationship management, human resource processes, sales force management and invoicing and debtors management, to planning and scheduling, manufacturing management and collaboration. The key is to identify the critical processes and challenge yourself to automate them using information technology to free you up for your clients, employees and family.

3. Empower users to drive a process

One of the major business trends of the 21st century is the enablement of extensive participation among broad bases of users. Wikipedia.com enables users to write and update the content for the online encyclopedia; Amazon.com allows users to write book reviews and enables software developers to design new applications for its website; Lego enables users to design new Lego combinations on its website and then makes the new combinations available for people to buy; and the entire open source software development movement is built on the notion of user collaboration and sharing when developing new software applications. More and more innovative processes are being carried out by a broad base of users within an open system established by an entrepreneurial business. Thus, if you want to create growth and facilitate innovation within your business, ask yourself how you can get customers, suppliers and other interested stakeholders to actively participate in some aspect of your business processes.

Grameen Bank is an outstanding example of user participation to facilitate a critical business process. The bank was started in 1974 and lends money to over seven million borrowers, 97% of whom are women from the poorest communities in rural Bangladesh. Grameen Bank has reversed conventional banking practice by removing the need for collateral. With a banking system based on the formation of self-help groups consisting of five members, each member is loaned money by the bank, but the whole group is denied further credit if one person defaults. This creates a self-managing system in which each member has an incentive to act responsibly and monitor the other group members’ behaviour to ensure that they are being sensible with their money. This innovative banking system produces payback rates of more than 98%.

Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder and managing director of Grameen Bank argues that if financial resources are made available to the poor on terms and conditions that are appropriate and reasonable, then massive development and economic empowerment is possible. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his efforts in empowering the poor through his self-managing banking system.

4. Decentralise with multiple brands or autonomous business units

The final strategy for enabling effective management and growth, while enabling entrepreneurial thinking and responsiveness, is to decentralise a business. Jack Welch used decentralisation to remove power from the central corporate office and empower managers and business units to be effective and responsive in General Electric in the 1980s. Paul Harris keeps the innovative entrepreneurial flair alive in the First Rand Group through a decentralised multi-brand strategy which has given rise to innovative South African organisations such as Discovery and OUTsurance. Mark Lamberti applies similar thinking within the Massmart Group, allowing competing brands such as Game, Dions, Makro and Builders Warehouse to operate alongside one another in a decentralised manner.

One of the first entrepreneurs to really grasp the power of decentralisation as a strategy for fostering entrepreneurial behaviour in a growing business was Bill Gore, the founder of WL Gore and Associates. The business is most famous for creating Gore-Tex fabrics, which have a transparent plastic coating that makes them waterproof and windproof but breathable. Gore-Tex is worn by astronauts, soldiers, trekkers at the North and South Poles as well as climbers of the world’s highest mountains. It is only one of more than 1 000 products produced by the innovative company which holds over 7 500 patents. WL Gore and Associates has about 6 300 employees yet no facility or unit within the company has more than 150 employees. Gore’s strategy for keeping the units small was to allow for only 150 spaces in a parking lot at any one of his facilities. Once the parking lot was full he knew it was time to break up the unit or launch a new unit.

Gore believed that 150 is the right size for people to get to know one another, have a sense of each other’s areas of responsibility and know what skills and knowledge are available to tap into and get something accomplished – whether it’s creating an innovative product or handling the everyday challenges of running a business.

Bill Gore died in 1986 but he is considered to be one of the great business visionaries of the 20th century. His principles of decentralisation live on in the business today and his ideas have been written about in a number of international publications including the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company magazine and the book entitled The Tipping Point.

Effectively leading an organisation or a team is about dealing with paradox. From building a relationship with one’s staff while keeping a suitable distance, being tolerant but also knowing how you want things to function, and freely expressing your views but also being diplomatic, to being a visionary while keeping one’s feet on the ground; business leaders need to map a path between competing priorities.

As a business grows, one of the most significant conflicts that an entrepreneur needs to confront is that of systematising the business while retaining entrepreneurial flair. The entrepreneur who gets this wrong will inhibit an organisation’s ability to grow and compete. But the entrepreneur who innovatively manages this conflict will create an excellent foundation for competitive growth.

To test whether you are getting caught in this trap, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Could my business be sold tomorrow?

Assume that you suddenly decided to emigrate and in order to go you needed to sell your business. Would there be anything to sell? Does your business have value if you are not there?

  • Could I franchise my business?

Would it be possible for you to empower another person to set up a business just like yours in another location?

  • Could I go on an extended holiday?

Set a goal for yourself to go on a four week holiday in twelve months time – not four weeks in December or January when business in South Africa shuts down but rather of taking four weeks while everyone else is still working. Leave your business in the hands of capable employees working according to a set of systems and processes that are designed to deliver what the customer expects.

Building a value network:

  • Focus on what you are really good as an organisation and find other organisations to take care of the other elements of the value creation process.
  • Allow your employees to hive off their own enterprises that deliver value back to your business as required, especially in non-core areas.
  • Foster strong collaborative relationships with trustworthy, world class independent entities that can contribute to what customers ultimately want and need. Create a common understanding of how you work together.

Utilising technology:

  • Consider which of the regular procedures and tasks in your organisation could be effectively carried out by an IT system or package.
  • Invest in an IT platform upfront before volumes become too high or processes too complex.
  • Keep the system as simple as possible while ensuring it can do the job effectively.
  • Make the system scaleable to ensure that it can take an increased volume of transactions in the future and can be added to over time.
  • Ensure that more than one person in your organisation understands how the system works.

Managing the paradox

Many entrepreneurs get into business for themselves in order to escape the bureaucracy and red tape that is associated with systems and procedures in larger organisations. Such people tend to despise rigid systems that disempower people and suck the life and energy out of an organisation. As a result, when they get to create their own organisation, they steer clear of systems and processes and insist on quick entrepreneurial decision making and action. This often results in a state of disorganised chaos within the entity as the business grows.

The key is therefore to build a business system that is able to function independently, without stifling the entrepreneurial spirit, agility and flexibility that makes smaller businesses competitive and responsive. A number of entrepreneurs and business leaders have crafted some innovative management practices and structures to effectively deal with this paradox. These are some of the principles and rules that they have applied to ensure a balance between entrepreneurial energy and systemic business growth

Empowering users to drive a process:

  • Map out the different processes that are needed to enable your business to run effectively. Critically examine each process to consider whether there is a user, supplier, customer or external stakeholder who would willingly drive that process. You will be surprised at how willing outside parties are to participate in the processes of others.
  • Create platforms for active user participation to enable users to collaborate with each other, with the organisation and with other critical stakeholders.

Overcoming diseconomies of scale as a business grows

For years business owners have been striving to grow their businesses bigger and bigger to achieve economies of scale.

The concept of economies of scale implies that the bigger the business gets, the cheaper it becomes to produce or deliver products or services. This happens because the more units the business sells the more units there are to absorb fixed costs. However, as an organisation grows, certain additional costs creep in. These costs are real and in some cases the cost of growing big can outweigh the benefits.

So as your business grows, beware of the following diseconomies of scale:

Cost of communication.
With organisational growth it becomes more and more difficult for employees to communicate effectively within the organisation. To overcome this, business owners should consider:

  • Keeping teams and business units small
  • Creating collaborative online work spaces such as discussion boards or wiki’s
  • Providing areas, such as chat spaces or coffee rooms, where employees can gather, relax and interact
  • Identifying and using the natural communication mechanisms that emerge in the organisation. For example, the founder of Geek Squad, an IT services provider, discovered that his employees used online computer games to interact and communicate with one another.
  • Duplication of effort. With growth there is an increased risk that two or more people carry out the same tasks. Aim to create an open workplace where people share what they are doing and can see and hear other employees. Open workplaces are enabled with open plan offices, shared coffee breaks, social interactions at work and heightened communication across the board.
  • Top heavy companies. As the business grows, too many chiefs can creep into the system. An oversupply of bosses can slow down decision making and cause confusion among employees. Avoid having too many managers and be clear on each manager’s accountability. Ensure that employees know which chief does what.
  • Office politics. Nip it in the bud whenever you see or hear it and avoid getting drawn in at all costs. Set the example.
  • Decision makers isolated from the results of their decisions. Get decision makers to the front line. In larger companies this often requires a deliberate effort, but it is critical. Managers must interact with customers and front line employees at least weekly.
  • Inertia. An unwillingness to change. Create a burning platform when change is required. Make people uncomfortable with the status quo by highlighting the current reality and how that may lead to a very bleak future. Be visual as well as verbal in drawing people’s attention to the need to change.

Greg Fisher, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Management & Entrepreneurship Department at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. He teaches courses on Strategy, Entrepreneurship, and Turnaround Management. He has a PhD in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington in Seattle and an MBA from the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS). He is also a visiting lecturer at GIBS.

Setting Up Systems

Create An Operational Plan

You probably have a business plan, but you need an operational plan to define your business’s day-to-day operations.

Alison Job

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Woman writing and planning business strategy

An operational plan forms part of the business’s strategic plan and is important for effective business leadership. It describes how the work will be done, the workflow from input to end results, including the resources that will be used along the way, all of which are required for success.

Streamlined business systems also defines how you will deal with risks, and how you will ensure sustainability of the project’s achievements.

An operational plan also explains how, or what portion of, a strategic plan will be put into operation during a given operational period.

What is an Operational Plan?

While strategic planning provides the vision, direction and goals for the business, operational planning translates that into the everyday workflow of the business that will hopefully produce the outcomes defined by the strategy.

Simply put, operational planning is the conversion of strategic goals into managed execution.

It deals specifically with the internal operations and resources necessary to produce your company’s product or service.

Operational Plan: 4 Steps to Success

An operational plan addresses four questions:

  1. Where are we now?
  2. Where do we want to be?
  3. How do we get there?
  4. How do we measure our progress?

The key components of a complete operational plan include:

  1. Human capital. The staff and skills required to implement your project, as well as current and potential sources of these resources.
  2. Financial requirements. The funding required to implement your project, your current and potential sources of these funds.
  3. Risk assessment. What risks exist and how they can be addressed.
  4. Estimate of project lifespan, sustainability and exit strategy. How long your project will last, when and how you will exit your project, and how you will ensure sustainability of your project’s achievements.

Operational plans should contain:

  • Clear objectives
  • Activities to be delivered
  • Quality standards
  • Desired outcomes
  • Staffing and resource requirements
  • Implementation timetables
  • A process for monitoring progress.

Related: Free Action Plan Template Download

Why have an operational plan?

operational-planning

An operational plan is important because it helps your team to:

  • Be clear about where you will get the necessary resources
  • Use those resources efficiently
  • Clearly define the most critical resource requirements.
    • Reduce risks where possible, and prepare contingency plans where necessary.
    • Think about the long-term future of the project, including its sustainability.

Who should prepare an operational plan?

Operational plans should be prepared by the people who will be involved in the implementation. There is often a need for cross-departmental dialogue as plans created by one part of the organisation inevitably have implications for other parts.

  • A project administrator or finance manager should be involved in defining financial requirements
  • Human resources should be involved in assessing HR and capacity needs
  • HR, IT or operations staff should be engaged in discussions of processes, procedures and systems.

Efficient operational planning and implementation calls for ongoing open communication between the project team and these other staff.

Related: How To Implement Systems for Success

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Company Posts

Why Skype When You Can Video Conference?

Why purchase a video conferencing system to expand my empire when I can get Skype for free?

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If you’re looking to put an end to time-consuming, expensive and exhausting business travel or just considering the next step to boost your business’ productivity, you’re likely to be faced with the ‘Skype vs video conferencing’ dilemma. Why purchase a video conferencing system to expand my empire when I can get Skype for free?

While Skype provides a great solution to staying in touch with friends and family abroad at no cost, certain drawbacks, such as limited resolution, high bandwidth usage and the fact that the service is only available to Skype users, make this a less-than-ideal solution in the professional environment.

Until recently, professional video conferencing has been inaccessible to most businesses in SA due to its high cost of ownership but Yealink has changed this by providing professional video conferencing solutions designed for SMEs, offering a perfect balance between high quality, ease-of-use and affordability.

Related: (Video) Video Conference Etiquette for Dummies

Here are some of the key reasons to choose one of Yealink’s video conferencing solutions over a free video conferencing service.

1. Increased reliability

Free video conferencing services do not offer a performance guarantee. You run the risk of poor call quality or dropped calls due to network issues. While this may be a free service, it could cost you your business’s reputation.

Corporate video conferencing solutions (VCS) only require one megabit of bandwidth – half of what is needed for Skype – allowing high-quality video, even under fluctuating network conditions.

2. Improved visual and audio quality

While Skype allows for multi-participant calls, there are limitations in terms of visual and audio quality.

Skype does not have zoom-in and focus camera functionality, allowing only the host of the call to be seen in the corner of the screen during a multi-participant call. Poor audio quality and echoing is also often the result of Skype’s microphone being built into the camera.

Yealink’s VCS support full-HD dual systems to display people and content at one time and, thanks to integrated packet loss, you can be sure of a high quality viewing experience. The system’s Full-HD PTZ, 12x optical zoom PTZ camera allows you zoom in, out and around the room with a clear picture at all times.

The Yealink VCS phone has several built-in microphone arrays and supports 360-degree voice pickup, so you won’t have to shout across the room.

There’s also no need for squishing up to hear other attendees. With an optimal expansion microphone KIT, the voice pick-up range can be extended up to 5 metres and video phones are available for desktop video if you don’t fancy joining the rest of your team in the boardroom.

video-conference-in-south-africa

3. Ease of use

Concerned about complicated VCS equipment setups? Don’t be. Yealink VCS plug-and-play simplicity makes installation quick and fuss-free. And thanks to VCS unique industry-intelligent firewall, there isn’t even a need for firewall configuration. Bonus!

While Skype appears simple to use, its multi-party settings are not as intuitive as those of its one-to-one call functionality.

Related: While Tech Investing Slows These 3 Growing Industries Are Getting Hot

4. Management and support

Unlike Skype, Yealink’s video conferencing solutions offer the peace of mind of top-quality, 24/7 support. Yealink provides scheduling, software updates and reporting over a controlled secure network infrastructure.

5. Unlimited access

While four people can participate in a multi-party Skype call, quality is unreliable whereas Yealink’s VCS allow for eight participants, bridging a client site which allows for a more secure, controlled and reliable VC experience.

Finally, while Skype is limited to 100 hours per month for multi-party calling, you are able to use Yealink’s VCS as many times as you want per month.

Related: From Simple Idea To Sideline Business: How Nkosenhle Hlophe Spotted An Opportunity

Want to learn more or book a VCS demo? Click here to get in touch and we’ll show you why it’s worth investing in one of Yealink’s premium video conferencing solutions.

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Setting Up Systems

3 Ways To Avoid Catastrophic Failure By Streamlining Day-to-Day Processes

Type up “small business failure” on a search engine and you get tons of overwhelmingly depressing results showing various statistics demonstrating that there’s a realistically slim chance that any business will survive past the 15-year mark.

Harald Merckel

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Type up “small business failure” on a search engine and you get tons of overwhelmingly depressing results showing various statistics demonstrating that there’s a realistically slim chance that any business will survive past the 15-year mark.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the chances a business founded in 1994 will have survived to this day dips down to 20 percent. There is, of course, the issue of context whenever you’re looking at a cold statistic that does little to paint a picture of how businesses reach such a high failure rate. In addition to that, failure rates vary depending on other circumstances such as industry and political climate.

You will find a vast ocean of pundits attempting to provide their own two cents on why businesses have a high failure rate, and they will tell cite anything from poor management to the lack of a presence online.

After looking through the various reasons, there’s one thing that many have in common and it’s in your control:

Businesses will often lose the momentum they first had because they do not manage to keep up with the demands of running their everyday operations.

They can’t talk to their customers effectively online, their service quality doesn’t match the expectations of a fast-paced fickle market, their inventory is disorganised or the business itself doesn’t differentiate itself enough to make a mark on visitors.

Related: 3 Ways You Can Use Mobile Apps To Improve Your Customer Experience

Businesses that don’t have all of their ducks in a row cannot hope to address these issues. It is only logical that the first thing everyone needs to do before going any further is to face the elephant in the room by streamlining daily business activities in such a way that they are (at the very least) manageable.

Organise the backroom environment

Behind every jar of honey you buy is an army of bees that have traveled thousands of miles to make each spoonful. We know honey is made this way, yet we seldom ever ponder the journey each bee took to making that entire jar that’s now sitting in your cupboard.

Businesses work in much the same way; there are backroom processes that keep the ship afloat each and every day. Although few customers will ever see these mechanisms, their impact on the forward-facing side of a company is on full display.

Having the right software to run your back office will come a long way in helping you to avoid experiencing trouble in these departments. Applications like ProWorkflow do an excellent job of streamlining task management, invoicing, and many other functions that are often overlooked when hunting for inefficiencies that need addressing.

Get social with your online base

business-processes-and-online-presence

One of the things making large corporate entities stand out online right now is their ingenious use of social media. While there are many who see this as a carte blanche to spread a dizzying array of bland boilerplate marketing content in a desperate attempt to be relevant with the “cool” crowd, there are stellar examples of companies like Starbucks, Etsy, Calvin Klein, and McDonald’s using platforms like Twitter to embrace trends and engage directly with customers.

When you look at these brands extending their presence, it’s tempting to think that they have teams of people entirely dedicated to browse social sites and start conversations.

The truth is that much of their social media engagement efforts come from the use of applications that help automate this in an intelligent way, letting them concentrate solely on the parts of social branding that help build engagement and retain it.

Tools like Narrow provide an enormous boost by taking a no-nonsense approach to Twitter interaction, showing you who’s talking about subjects that are relevant to your goals. Other applications like Hootsuite help you schedule posts ahead of time so that you do not have to spend every living moment on social networks.

This will effectively reduce the amount of time you spend on this activity to a couple of hours a week, freeing you from the headache of having yet another front to fight on.

Related: Using An Online Meeting To Talk With Your Subscribers

Keep your inventory in check

The reason that retail giants have no problem opening a gazillion locations is because they were able to keep their ducks in a row when it came to tracking everything they sell and acquire.

Having a systematic approach to inventory simplifies operations to the point that reproducing the model is a simple game of “plug and play”. They do this like every other successful and long-living enterprise still alive in the 21st century does. They use the magic of software.

Without this ingredient, you’ll be spending more time tracking where things are going and who’s paying for what than taking care of any of the other 18 million different things you have to do to keep the lights on.

It’s a not-so-well-guarded secret that there are solutions that even smaller contenders can use to keep themselves in good competition with their much larger counterparts, and one of those solutions is inventory management.

Software like Vend, for example, contains a variety of smaller applications that come together to form one of the most powerful point-of-sale and inventory management suites, even allowing for things like layaways, parked sales, and gift cards.

Related: How To Promote Your Blog By Following Your Passion

Technology may have advanced to a point where it perhaps has a stronger grasp on our daily lives than we’d like, but the game of retaining customers still operates on the same rules it did back when the first street markets began appearing thousands of years ago.

You have to make sure that they don’t find greener pastures elsewhere and one of the main ways you can do that is by showing them that you provide a fluid environment and a dedication to serve.

The difference is that today there are pieces of software that make these things a lot simpler. Take advantage of this and you’ll have a very strong chance of living to see another decade (or ten).

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