In the grind of growing a business, most of our efforts are externally focused – networking, trade shows, advertising, etc. – and we spend a very small amount of time internally focused. To help encourage this important process, we’re excited to start a 4-part series focused on growing your business from within. This series will encourage you to pause, peel back the layers of your business, and really question why you do what you do. Our series topics will include:
- 4 Ways to Self-Evaluate your Business
- 5 Ways Core Values Grow Businesses (read here)
- How To Identify Your Ideal Customers … And Find More Just Like Them (read here)
- Your Business’ Best Kept Secret: Consistency (read here)
So, part 1 of our Grow from Within series is focused on self-evaluation. I’ll admit, this is not the most popular topic. Evaluating yourself and your business is hard work, invasive, and can serve up a dose of humility. However, growth most often happens in the trenches and we improve through evaluation. So, let’s jump in!
Would You Hire Your Company?
Have you ever considered whether you would hire yourself? Have you ever evaluated your customer service, project turn-around time, performance, and overall value from the perspective of a potential client? When was the last time you performed an honest evaluation of your company?
As business owners, we must be willing to ask tough, critical questions of ourselves and our business. Ultimately, we must ask – would I hire myself? Would I use my services? Would I be happy with this end-product? To help you navigate this process, we’ve identified four ways to get started.
4 Ways to Self-Evaluate your Business
Depending on the size of your business, there may be multiple layers between you, as the business owner, and your customer. You may ultimately present the proposal or complete the work, but the first few interactions may be with someone else on your team. If that’s the case, when’s the last time you called your office to hear how you are greeted, to see how long you were on hold, to ask a tough question and see how it’s answered, or to hear how your team explains why you’re the best at what you do?
If this is difficult for you to do without being identified, consider recording some of your calls and reviewing them later or having a colleague complete the call for you.
Every business relies on developing new leads, and every lead will at some point interact with your website. Whether that lead arrives at your website from Google, social media, or a referral, it’s very likely their first impression will be formed based on your website. If your website design is dated, they will question your approach to innovation. If your information is incorrect, they will question your attention to detail. If your services are poorly defined, they’ll question your expertise. Your website should match the level at which your run and operate your business.
Here’s 7 ways to evaluate your website:
- How high do you rank on a Google search for each of your services?
- When you see your business listed on a Google search, how accurate is the description? Does it include contact information and is the description relevant to the page it’s linking people to?
- What shows up when you Google your business name? Read every result on the first 3 pages and evaluate them for accuracy and make notes on what needs to be fixed. This includes business reviews, directories, and contact information.
- Is your website easy to use on mobile?
- Are there clear calls to action and ways to capture contact information throughout?
- Is your logo crisp and is your photography engaging and authentic to your brand?
- Are your services accurately explained based on you how you perform them?
The two most valuable sources of information for your business are your customers and your team. Are you listening to them? The sooner you admit that you don’t have all the answers and you’re not doing everything perfectly, the quicker you can learn from your mistakes and begin growing from within.
An anonymous survey is a great way to start listening to customers and employees – you’ll get honest, organizable feedback from a large group of people with minimal work. Make sure you create a list of questions that will provide you with valuable feedback.
Your survey questions should address:
- Any pain points within your business
- Services or departments that aren’t performing
- Any hunches you may have
And with all surveys, try not to lead the person toward the answer you want to hear. You’re looking for honesty, not flattery.
Another great way to get feedback is still an old-fashioned conversation. You’ll have to pick a smaller group of clients to do this with, so make sure you select a sampling that represents your overall clientele. For staff conversations, take an afternoon walk, grab coffee, or hold an off-site team meeting – in this context, you’ll want to remind them that constructive criticism is welcomed and will not be punished.
This may be challenging, but if you can find a way to use the services you provide, you’ll gain some great insight. As a marketing agency, we utilize all our own services and often try new services on ourselves before offering them to clients. When we utilize our services, we work hard to follow all the same processes and procedures as we do with our clients. This allows us to not only evaluate the effectiveness of the services, but also the efficiency of the process.
If you’re a landscaper, add your business property and residential property to your list of contracts. If you’re a restaurant, go stand in line and order lunch just like your customers do. If you’re a physician, see one of your nurses or providers the next time you have an ailment. As you utilize your services and follow the same procedures your customers do, you’ll begin to find ways to improve them.
What Do I Do with What I Learned?
As you evaluate your business on a deeper level, you’ll develop a list of changes to implement. But, you’re already busy, so how do you ensure the improvements happen?
If you’ve hired well, you have a very capable team who can own different areas of your day-to-day. You don’t need to micromanage every aspect. If you have an operations manager and you see some glaring operational issues, work together to develop a plan of action. If you notice your customer service is lacking, have a team meeting with everyone who interacts with your customers and begin brainstorming ways to improve it.
If you’ve grown a business, you’re not afraid of hard work, but you may be afraid of criticism. To really improve from this self-evaluation exercise, you must be willing to accept criticism, trust the people you’ve included in the process, and act on what you’ve learned.
After you’ve started the process, we would love to hear what you learned. Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org! Good luck!