An organization has numerous parts, or building blocks, that make up its whole. However, all of these separate functions and elements are dependent on one another. Having each part in place and functioning is important. But having each part actually connected and communicating to all the other parts is crucial—for any organization to survive. In small businesses, everyone can name off at least some of these blocks: Finances, Buildings/Infrastructure, Distribution, Networking/Marketing, IT, Management, HR, etc.
As a consultant, I’ve witnessed a whole lot at small companies. Many SBOs understand these blocks, or at least most of them, but they don’t really know how to put them together and build a stable foundation for their business (never mind work to improve their business processes). In order to build a successful, efficient enterprise, management must understand the value of each and every building block of the organization and ensure that each block is adequately and appropriately “connected” to all the others. It sounds so simple, in theory. In practice many SBOs balk; they cut corners; they think they’ll “fix that piece” later. But having that understanding of how all the blocks work and how to put them in place and keep them in place is the key to positioning your business for health and growth.
When the building blocks are in place, the foundation of the organization is sure. On a solid foundation you can implement improvements and build efficiencies into your processes. With a solid foundation, SBOs are in a much better place to welcome rapid expansion: to accommodate more employees, more orders, and more standardized processes. In many cases, when an entrepreneur starts their own business, they rarely put value in all of the building blocks—since their primary focus is on increasing sales, satisfying customers, and networking/marketing (which we’ve all done in the beginning!). But what we so often fail to recognize (or maybe just fail to act on), is that, in order to accommodate more orders and more customer requests, it’s important that the internal mechanism of the business functions efficiently and that all employees work and communicate as a team.
The Main Building Blocks
The key elements—or the main building blocks—of an organization, are the following:
- Supportive and Effective Management: This top team (which may be a team of one) runs the entire organization and creates an environment where employees can use their skills and expertise to the fullest. Making staff feel valued can make a huge impact on the entire business. This leads us to the next element:
- Valued Employees: When a team of employees feels valued and important, they are much more willing to work harder and give back to the business. When an employee feels connected to the organization they work for, or feels appreciated by the management team and their fellow colleagues, it sets the stage for opportunity throughout the business. Without a strong team (emphasis on ‘team’)—in the best case—an organization will not grow to its full potential; in the worst case, it will fail altogether.
- Business Processes: As an IT consultant, my first focus when walking into a new company is to analyze and dissect their business processes. A company’s processes and procedures are what make a company run and what guides the entire staff. In my eyes, these processes are a critical element of the business. When you look at a business’s processes, you see how the business gets things done. Processes also identify the roles required to support them, and reveal how all other blocks are connected and communicate (or don’t) with one another.
The Glue: Communication
Once you have all these building blocks in place, you need some glue; you need something that ties all of the blocks together and allows for good, clear communication between them. When all the blocks of a business are connected and communicate well with each other, the organization can run like a well-oiled machine. Every company requires the proper means of communicating and integrating all aspects of a business together. There are several ways to do this. You can:
- Implement a fully integrated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software solution, designed and developed specifically for Small to Medium Enterprises (SME). As an IT consultant, I will always deem software systems as one of the most important elements of the foundation of a strong business. I’ve seen both sides of the coin—companies with and companies without them—so I have seen the difference an ERP suite can make. It’s a common belief that small organizations don’t require, or simply cannot afford, a fully integrated ERP suite. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Whether your business has 5 employees or has 50, a software system can bring together all the different functions of your organization into a single database. It will allow users to view, manage and track core business processes and resources—all in real-time! Only a system like this has the potential to bring together all the many departments or parts of a company; Accounting, Warehouse, Sales, Purchasing, EDI/Customer Service, eCommerce, etc.
- Install an instant messaging application on desktops. A messaging app will allow staff to chat with each other and share files and images. This will encourage collaboration and keep lines of communication open between staff members and management. It is especially great for group projects.
- Sit down with your employees every so often to hear them out. By encouraging feedback from the team and by truly listening to their needs and ideas, you build trust amongst your staff.
As a small business owner, I try to take a step back every so often to look at my company from an outside perspective. It’s difficult to analyze your business processes, the working environment, the morale of your staff, etc., when you are bombarded with your daily tasks. Therefore, stop. Take some time to talk to your staff. Listen to their needs and ideas to improve some processes. See what they may be missing; is it support from management? Is it an upgraded software system? Is it better communication with fellow colleagues? Be open to change; you and I both know that nothing remains static in this brave new business world.
It’s all about building that solid foundation. When everything runs smoothly internally, you can better accommodate your customers, suppliers, retailers, partners, etc. Never lose focus on the building blocks of a successful, efficient business: Supportive Management, Valued Employees, Simplified and Efficient Business Processes, and the glue—a fully integrated Software Solution that supports good communication across every layer of your organization. When all of these pieces are in place, you have a business ready to grow.
Photo credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery