When you’re ready to retire from one career, sometimes you fantasize about having another. And sometimes the only way to do that is to own your own business.
In fact, more and more seniors who have retired from corporate life, or who have closed up or sold their own shop, need activity like small business ownership to feel fulfilled.
However, any new venture is an open target for management mistakes. Especially if you’ve never been a business owner, a simple pattern of decisions not thought through can lead to a dive in profits or production, despite all good intentions.
Part of the problem is that new small business owners can get roped into fine-tuning a company’s technical aspects, as opposed to investing their energies into developing long-term growth strategies.
Another hitch is that new small business owners often forget to nurture their top asset: their employees. Common traps are focusing solely on getting the work done, rather than embracing the whole skill set of each individual; and a target of growing the bottom line, rather than enhancing specific employee talents that will better serve customers.
Here are several more tips and cautions suggested by a poll of South Sound business owners who opened their shop doors after retirement:
1. Have a corporate vision.
Whether you have 2 employees, or 20, or 200, what are your ultimate goals? Plan them out, write them down, and familiarize everyone with them. With a collaborative company environment and cohesive goals for employees, the workplace will be positive, supportive and more efficient. It also allows progress to continue without you, whether you take time off for vacation or long-term health issues.
2. Create an Action Plan
Once you establish your corporate vision, you need a plan to get there, and one that provides all employees with specific tasks of importance. That means SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. One of the most common downfalls of new business owners is simply the lack of a plan; with one, you highly increase your chances of success and a chance to move into the future.
3. Set Achievable Goals
Some new business owners want to take on the world and set their sales sights at $1 million or more in the first year. Others aim to capture the customer base and target 1 million buyers or website hits. Still more go too small, and run out of products or understaff services. Another snag is simultaneously attempting to hit goals on too many levels, such as across sales, event attendees, social media connections and business networks. Doing too much at once leads to getting nothing done at all; or, at best, doing poorly in all areas. Focus on a few modest, achievable goals, then build from there.
4. Define Jobs
Once you have your goals, you need the right people to go after them. The first task is to define the specific tasks; the second is to fit the right people into them. Owners anxious to fill desk space often hire right off-the-cuff rather than take time to pluck experienced leaders for each department. That results in unproductive employees, frustration between departments, and clogs in the system that can lag production and services.
5. Provide Freedom
If you have set goals, a company vision, and specific job expectations, give your employees the freedom to thrive in their roles and pursue situations even beyond their goals. In other words, don’t micromanage; instead, focus on the big picture. When you do this, you drive your company further – and you’re also a role model for management.
6. Implement Checks & Balances
No matter how deeply you trust the employees that you, yourself, hired, job accountability is paramount. When workers have specifically defined roles, and progress that’s documented, they feel valued as they see their growth. In addition, with step-by-step guidelines and management, you can tinker with worker responsibilities and company systems at every level.
7. Don’t Get Caught in the Small Stuff
All of the noise of society – email, texts and Tweets, callbacks and appointments – cut precious time from your workday. Hone in on pursuing ONLY the activities that push your company to be better, and to earn sales, such as cementing relationships with current clients and pursuing new ones, as well as finding ways to cut waste and capitalize on employee talents.
8. Bond, Bond, Bond
Lastly, always circle back with employees at the end of the day, or the week. Ensure that they feel valued, and that their job performance is being noted on a positive and trustful level. Talk about successes and strengths; talk about where tweaks need to be made and skills need to be built. Your company is like family, so every person there has something to bring to the table, ideas that need to be heard, and shortcomings that can be bolstered. Support what’s good, figure out where things need work and you will have lifetime employees, plus a company that everyone feels good about.