Below is a list compiled from talking to and evaluating hundreds of small businesses. Small business opportunities to improve are often very easy and inexpensive, it just takes a little attention to detail and a commitment to improvement. Here is my list:
1. Detailed written procedures for critical or repetitive tasks. Most small business owners struggle with "finding good employees" the problem is usually not that the employees are not "good" it's that new employees learn differently and written instructions can get new employees productive faster and less likely to get frustrated and give up.
2. No system to follow up on sales opportunities. It's incredible how often we see this. Customer calls, asks a few questions then says "I'll call back", business doesn't even ask for a phone number much less check back with the customer.
3. Poor accounting makes the financial statements essentially useless for operating the business. The lack of accurate financials makes budgeting very difficult and consequently we often ask the question "How's the business doing?" The answer, "Seems pretty good, I guess my accountant will tell me in March." Not good.
4. The small business owner really has no idea how his pricing is compared to competitors. They don't do any "research". Their only feedback is when their customers tell them "Your price is too high!" Duh, most customers will tell them that even if it's the lowest price they received!
5. Failure to seek expert advice until they have a problem. You know the saying, an ounce of prevention....... Often small business owners do not want to pay an attorney, CPA, financial planner because they think the issue won't be a problem....but when it is a problem... it costs them 10 times as much as it would have if they had done a little up front work.