Small and medium size businesses are the backbone of all Pacific Island cultures – without them the economy would not survive or thrive. In this series I look at different ways in which we can grow and develop our small businesses sustainably.
Last week I looked at the importance of customers to our businesses. A key aspect of sustainability is the relationships we build with others, especially our customers.
Today my focus is on the other people we need to help ensure business sustainability – including staff, suppliers, contractors, business partners and other professional relationships.
All businesses rely on good relationships with others. Even sole traders need help from others like suppliers and contractors.
Most businesses employ others – possibly fulltime or parttime or casual. Whatever the arrangement, you are paying other people to help your business succeed. Pay close attention to how you treat them. Happy staff are potentially a major source of business promotion – if they like working for you they will tell others.
However, if they do not like working for you, they will also tell others! Make sure you recruit the best, give them a good induction or introduction into the business, give them a clear job description and train them, communicate with them, equip them with the knowledge they need to weork on your behalf and give them good working conditions and pay. The better you treat your staff the better they will treat you and your business.
Remember your staff often know more about the day to day running of your business than you do and they are usually closer to your customers. Staff are your first customers!
All businesses use suppliers. These are people who also supply others, including your competition. Treat them well, pay them on time, keep appointments and think of their needs as well before you make demands of them.
Some businesses, especially very small ones, use the services of contractors. These are often people with specific skills or experiences that you only need from time to time. You may contract the services of a bookkeeper or accountant, an IT person or a marketing specialist.
Follow the same approach as with staff and suppliers – treat them with respect, be clear what you expect from them, have a written agreement, communicate regularly and give clear feedback.
If you run your business with others (business partners) then you need to work as a strong team. Have a written agreement between you and meet at least weekly to manage the operations of the business and also to focus on business strategy and future plans. If you are looking for a business partner, take care to put the effort in to find the right person or people.
Don’t just rely on your first impressions. Be clear about the financial arrangements between you and make sure you share the same expectations! Many businesses face problems as they grow and become more successful as it becomes clear that partners are not on the same page!
Think about the other business relationships you have, including your bank! Do you give them the information they need, when they need it? Are you making the most of the relationship with them? Do you invite them to visit the business and actually see what you do?
Finally, friends and families are often the main source of support especially for small businesses in the Pacific. They can provide a huge amount of support and encouragement and they can also be the cause of major problems!
Sustainable businesses require sustainable relationships with customers and a whole range of others as outlined in this article. All relationships are two way and require effort from both parties.
You are in control of your businesses, and it is your responsibility to identify the key relationships you need to help you provide the best service you can. Communicate well and regularly with everyone; make sure they all know what you expect and need from them and thank them for everything they are doing for you.
Finally, ask their opinion of your business.
They will see your business differently to you – find out what they think and try to understand their perspective.
You might learn something that will help you become more profitable and sustainable. A business coach will help you develop the confidence you need to do this well.
Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours. Remember, we all need each other, and we cannot create sustainable businesses alone.
Please contact me if you would like to discuss these issues further or need support. Next week, before I start to conclude this series with an overview of sustainability and resilience, I will focus more on working with friends and families.
If you have any other suggestions or any questions or comments, please contact me.