How To Use Internal Controls
To Build Your Business

by Tom Egelhoff

The goal of any business is to be successful. However, there are forces in the universe that will try to stop you from attaining this goal. Some of these are: your competition, government regulations and rules, the economy, taxes and acts of God (storms, floods, weather, etc).

I think we can all agree that we can't control any of the items on this short list. I'm sure if you try you can think of many more challenges to your business that are simply beyond your control. So what I want to discuss today are those things within your business that you can control. And, if you control them effectively they can make a profitable difference in your small town business.

The First Customer Contact

Someone once said that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Our first impressions are very powerful and we rarely change them without a very compelling argument to the contrary. Each of us can probably remember a good first meeting with a company and a bad first meeting. Chances are the bad one is more powerful than the good one.

So what happens when a customer contacts your business? Chances are the first contact is by phone. They may be calling to see if you stock a certain item or have the capability to perform a service they require. So its imperative that everyone with the responsibility of answering the phone knows how to do it properly.

The extent of phone training for most companies is something like; "Thank you for calling ABC Company how may I direct your call." Or even worse; "You have reached our automated voice mail system. If you know your parties extension...... " Have you ever called a company and could tell that the person on the other end could care less that you called their company?

Phone company studies show that the vast majority of lost sales and customers are due to the tone of the persons voice who answers the phone. Do your employees smile when they answer the phone and talk to customers? It's pretty hard to smile and have a bad attitude at the same time. It gets old answering the same questions day after day week after week. But every time a customer asks that question it's the first time for them. They don't know you answer it a hundred times a day.

Are your employees trained to recognize certain phrases that customers use that will alert them that the customer may have had a bad experience elsewhere.? Phrases such as: "Do you guarantee your work?", "What recourse do I have if something goes wrong?" These examples are very obvious and most people would recognize them as "red flags". For more on this see: "Customer Service: Phrases To Watch For."

Employees And Customers

When you interview and hire an employee rarely are they perfect. You try and hire the best person you can and hope to train them in the areas they are weak in. There are two schools of thought here. One, hire a person with experience or hire a good people person who is trainable. Rarely are you going to find both in one body but if you do you are very fortunate.

When I hired employees to work for me I would evaluate the job opening as to how much contact they would have with customers. There are no better ambassadors of your business than delivery drivers. These people cement the sale. They should have the authority to take care of as many customer problems as possible on the spot. Anyone can find addresses and make deliveries. Few can re-enforce the company mission statement and deliver true customer service. Don't treat this position as some minimum wage job that any flunky can do.

When faced with the choice of a people person and an experienced person I would usually choose he people person. I can always train the people person to the job but I can't always train a experienced person to be a people person. I want to make the best and friendliest impression I can make on my customers. They should come in contact with friendly knowledgeable people in your place of business. Good employee training is something you can certainly control and will increase the profits of your business in the long run. You can't have good customer service without good employees to deliver it. For more on this see: "How To Lead & Motivate (Yourself and Your Employees." and "How To Get Employee Participation In Your Marketing Plan."

Your Place Of Business

Do customers have a good first impression when they enter your business? Are you clean and organized or messy and unorganized? Take a good look at what the customer sees. Do they see success or something less? Before your hard working customers part with their hard earned dollar they need some assurance that they are dealing with a business that can meet or exceed their expectations.

Here again, you can control the look of your business. Paint is relatively inexpensive. You don't need wood paneling or expensive furnishings. But, what you do need is to convey a professional look to all who enter your business. Keeping your place of business clean is not a difficult task.

Your Advertising And Marketing

When you aren't face to face with customers you send your advertising and marketing materials to do the job for you. So, what perception can your customers glean from your brochures, letterhead and business cards? Do they see cheap cost cutting paper and design or do they see a professional image that instills confidence in your business?

Please don't misunderstand. I don't expect you to spend a fortune on the best paper or four color designs by high priced graphic designers. What I would expect is for you to do the best you can afford. Instead of trying to cut every possible cost corner, why not do the very best you can within an allowable budget. If you can afford $49.95 two color business cards... get them in stead of the $15.95 black and white style. For more on this see: "How To Market Your Business When A Business Card Is All You Have" and "How To Design And Write A Basic Brochure."

Owner Responsibility

As the owner of the business you have certain responsibilities that only you can do. The biggest one of these is imperative for small town success and that is networking. Networking is meeting and exposing yourself and your business to as many people as possible. Especially while your business is growing.

This may require you to come out of your comfort zone and learn to meet strangers. Strangers are simply the friends you don't know yet. How many people were you born knowing? None. Everyone you know was a stranger at one time including your spouse. You managed to meet them.

If this is a real problem for you then build on the relationships you already know. Ask the people you know who might be a friend of theirs that could use your products or service and ask them to introduce you. For more on this see: "How To Make Friends And Turn Them Into Customers."

Health & Safety In The Workplace

One of the most costly problems that affect almost every business are injuries and accidents. Most of which could be avoided. Costs of workmans compensation, re-trainning, lost production and lost time on the job is usually more costly than making the workplace safe in the first place.

The Last Word On Internal Controls

The last internal control in your business is to become more efficient. Fewer mistakes and greater efficiency. These will make your business more profitable and stronger. You will be able to do more in less time and make more money. You will also be more competitive. For more on this see: How To Double Your Profits The Easy Way

These are merely a small sampling of the ways that you can take internal control of your business. Take a close look at your business. What can you control within your business? If you can control it how much will it benefit the business? I would venture to say that you will be surprised at how much you can do to improve the profitability of your business.

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