How healthy is your business?

A seven-step checklist for small business survival.

How healthy is your business?
When it comes to assessing annual performance, brokerages are tempted to point at their annual volume and staff numbers. But small businesses can be measured by a much wider range of factors, which may have more long-term relevance. Douglas Driscoll -- CEO of real estate group Starr Partners -- has drawn up a checklist for a more holistic business assessment:

1. Do you have you an established identity?

You need to define your service offering before you can measure its effectiveness, argues Driscoll. “Your foundation is your core and should be established at the outset; without this, how do you expect to build a positive perception among customers?”

2. Are you adaptable to change?

“Whether it’s making more calls, utilizing technology to enhance your offering, or seeking feedback from potential customers who engaged your competition; it’s important your business is flexible and responsive to customer needs,” Driscoll insists. “I would also caution business owners not to rely too heavily on seasonal booms, such as Christmas or the New Year, and understand that growth can take place at any time.”

3. Is your business relevant?

Driscoll insists customer opinion should always come before what competitors are doing. “A common error I see all too often is business owners paying too much attention to what competitors are doing. While it’s important you understand the competition, trying to reinvent-the-wheel or mimic the business down the road can veer you off track and not lead to sales.”

4. Are you embracing technology?

 “Adapt or die,” is Driscoll’s advice when it comes to technology. “The majority of your customers are now on mobile and are no longer searching for services and products the way they did a decade ago. Investing in your online presence and mobile capabilities to reach and engage customers is critical and should complement your on-the-ground activities.”

5. Are you market driven or marketing driven?

“Don’t take positive conditions for granted,” says Driscoll. “If the market takes a turn, your business could be vulnerable. To increase your slice of the pie, business owners should benchmark their performance on market share. Owners and managers must also consider the amount they reinvest in advertising. As a rule, businesses should reinvest 10-15 per cent of earnings into marketing – with a focus showcasing business wins and customer service.”

6. Do you measure staff accountability?

Whether it’s the number of calls made, securing leads, or your customer service ethic; KPI’s for all team members need to be set and benchmarked, suggests Driscoll. “A structured approach to performance and career development is essential to assist employees in taking ownership of their role.” Business owner’s also need to include themselves in KPI’s to ensure the office culture is equitable. “Business owners should also consider seeking guidance from an external mentor, not only for professional counsel but to assist them in being a role model and team leader.”

7. Do you have a healthy business culture?

“A positive workplace is a productive workplace,” insists Driscoll. Workplace rewards and incentives are a great way to recognise staff achievements and keep the team motivated. I would also encourage agency owners to attend group training days with their staff, host team social events, and always have an open door policy.”