News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 5, 2013

How consistent is your business?

The six areas that are critical to success

Heather Penney
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — “One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous or honest.”

— Maya Angelou

As I reflect back on how my program, the Indiana Small Business Development Center, operates at Indiana State University, as well as the fact that I have four primary funding partners, I noticed how critical operational consistency is between my program and the four partners, as well as managing their expectations and federal goals. Business consistency is such a basic philosophy that often it is overlooked during operations and also by upper management. Smaller companies that operate in a day-by-day mode and consistency will help increase their efficiency of operations. There are six areas in which consistency is critical in the majority of companies. Too often, business owners feel as they are “chasing down” rather than “leading it along.” If you can get a high level of consistency with your standards and practices, then your company will benefit.

• Products/services — Be consistent with what your products and services are and how you sell them. Concentrate on what you are selling and don’t over diversify your product line. Remember that you started the business because you were an expert in that industry and you want to retain that level of expertise.

• Customers — Encourage repeat business, obtain valuable referrals, keep your customers happy and loyal and provide them a positive customer service. Customers should know what to expect each and every time they encounter your business.

• Employees — Employees are just as important as your customers. Keeping your employees happy will have customers receiving a better experience. What is your company culture? Do your employees feel secure, content and valued? We all know that high employee turnover illustrates a concern deeper within the operations of the company.

• Suppliers — Be sure to pay your suppliers on time every time. It is often tough to do a small business, but this will directly reflect the culture and character of your company. Consistency will also aid in your negotiations of pricing on shipping, handling and/or bulk pricing.

• Operations — Whether you are manufacturing, importing or retailing, the more you standardize your basic operations the more efficient your company will be. Record-keeping, policies, employee handbooks, etc. all aid in increased consistency and therefore your company’s productivity will increase.

• Growth —  is not meant to be robotic, but instead a road map for your business. Your company’s growth should be forecasted through strategic planning and financial planning. Consistency should be an important part of this planning process. Be sure to involve employees from a variety of divisions within the company.

As I draw to an end, consistency is an important component of leadership as well. As a business owner, it is important that you illustrate consistency in your behavior, as your employees will be looking and referring to your actions as well. Without the support of your actions, seeds of distrust and confusion amongst the ranks will be planted, and I am guessing that is one harvest you do not want to produce.