Hallmarks of a Great Business

What separates a great business from a good one? I have learned, after many hundred hours of in-depth conversations with business owners, that they share many common traits. 

One of the delineating factors is knowing their clients. Awareness of who the business is serving, the scope of the service, and the measurable outcome are paramount to success. Understanding your business, and having clear goals, not just for tomorrow or next year, but for the next five years and ten years. While it’s essential to have short-term goals, it’s equally as important to have business foresight. 

A business that has a clear, structured organizational chart will ensure all employees, including management, are aware of their roles and responsibilities. Employees are the backbone of any business, and your greatest expense, so it’s crucial for your employees to have the same values that you bring into the business as the owner. Survival is dependent on those around you performing as you would. 

While outsourcing continues to be popular with some, it does have its downsides. It’s not always possible to be hands-on or to ensure you are providing quality service to your clients. Employees can operate with an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality, and that can have a negative impact on your bottom line. 

You don’t want to lose business or potential business and learn it’s because of a rude employee who refused to take the time to look something up for a client. Instead of being courteous and helpful, the employee was terse and told the client to call back at another time when someone would be there to assist them, even though the information was right in front of the employee.

Something I heard many times over from employers is that they had too many concerns if they weren’t close enough to monitor what their employees were doing and how they were interacting with clients and with each other. This isn’t to say they wanted or needed to micromanage; it’s simply a matter of knowing that employees are meeting or exceeding the standards and values set forth for them. 

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It behooves today’s business to automate as much as they can. This will aid in having clear, well-documented business practices, especially when it involves accounting practices. After hundreds of conversations with various business owners and managers, I learned that it’s a rarity to have simple accounting practices that not only lead to more productivity and cash flow, but prevents errors, and in worse case scenarios, theft. 

This is especially important if you outsource your accounting duties. This is an area where you want to have at least minimal hands-on. It’s equally important to have checks and balances, and that equates to having more than one employee oversee the accounting. Make certain that you have access to all of your databases, and use them. 

Invest in your employees. Allow them to expand their knowledge and skills. Make the work environment fun but challenging. Apple, Etsy, and many other corporate giants made it to the top because of hard-working, dedicated employees. Their companies aren’t revolving doors. They provide a work environment that values employees and treats them as team members.

Remember, no business owner alone can build a multi-million- or multi-billion-dollar company on their own. 

On a final note, one theme I often heard as I spoke with others is that you need to be willing to adapt to change. As times and technology change, business owners need to change as well. Think of AOL’s AIM. America Online never had the foresight needed to change, and it has had a tumultuous history. 

The hallmark of a great business is to remain competitive, and that requires hard work, dedication, and a willingness to move forward. Everyone has the potential to be that business. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you from reaching the top. 

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