Grantz Ventures is the umbrella corporation of several businesses including merchant services, online media sales, security, web technology licensing, and online marketing. The merchant services company processes over $50 Million of transactions in a year. The online media sales company revenues in the millions of dollars.
Like any small, but lucrative business there are many required operational tasks to be performed in the day to day operations of the company.The challenge is to keep all the plates spinning, maintain or increase revenue, get everyone paid on time, and customer service. Looking forward is important in developing a strategy for long term health, success, and growth of the company.
The Many Hats of a Small Business
The many hats of a small business include: General manager, marketing manager, copywriter, customer service, data manager, transactions, IT, technology, hiring, training, sales, etc. Each member of a small business can’t just wear two hats.
A few titles that can be passed around in a small business: CEO, CFO, CTO, CIO, CMO. Some business owners are all five.
Operations: Lessons Learned
Always on Mentality
I developed an “Always on mentality.” You needed to be ready for whatever happened because the strangest things would happen. A part of that the always on mentality is to always be available via phone, text, and email. Being a part of operations included servicing equipment when parts should fail. For many businesses, they make the majority of their sales for the day during only a few windows of time in the day. If their payment system went down, that could close business for the day. Guaranteeing 24/7 service relieves the stress of cash flow concerns. But you can’t just say you’ll be there eventually in 24/7 the promise is to be there in a reasonable amount of time.
To manage remote teams it is important to have the right strategies and technologies in place. The standard toolbox I learned was texting, phone calling, and email. I never hesitated to contact a team member as soon as I needed because chances are one team member cannot talk right now, but at least I put the ball in their court. Making myself available via Skype for a quick message was good for quick check ins.
Pick Up the Phone Right Sway
When you’re a small business, one of your greatest selling points is superior and local customer service. One way to prove that is true is to pick as the phone when a customer, client, or vendor calls and remind them that your service is not a touchtone phone robot. Calling for service and getting fast answers from an actual person is very reassuring to the customer.
Another reason to pick up right away is to ensure that the team could rely on each other during a dilemma. One time a minor glitch had occurred with our equipment and I was sent out into the field to deal with it. Each piece of equipment varied enough that minor setting changes could stop the client’s cashflow indefinitely. So I called our service technician over the phone and he walked me through the servicing steps. I didn’t have to wait and that looked extremely professional with the client.
Customer Service: Lessons Learned
Immediate Follow Up and Constant Status Updates
If you have a customer issue, message the customer as soon as possible. Do not wait longer than an hour. If the issue will take a lot of time then update them of the situation even if there has been no change in status. This lets the customer know that they are important and that you’re doing your best to help them. If you had to err on the side of communicating too little or communicating too much, choose to communicate too much. When a negative experience occurs for a customer they may be thinking of all the ways they can leave a bad review, but by over communicating with them you give yourself a chance to prove you can make things right.
Calming Down a Vendor
There was a time when we were trying to get a new credit card account going with a third party vendor. My CEO was fed up with the process and had some cross words with the rep on the phone. He handed the phone over to me and said, “I’m fed up, you deal with this.” I picked up the phone and said, “Hello, Steve?” Steve was clearly rattled and speaking quickly and frustratingly. Steve told me how offended he was and how good he was at his job. He didn’t like the disrespect he had felt. I made sure to listen to his concerns and address them back to him. “So you don’t like that you were disrespected… Okay, I’m sorry about that we’re just a little frustrated here on our end. It’s been almost three weeks and we’re counting on you.” I was of course interrupted repeatedly, but I let Steve finish every time he started back up again. I actually said, “Let’s all just take a breathe and take a step back. We’re on the same side here.” I wanted to make sure that he knew I was on his side and he could trust at me, at the least, to be fair. I praised his work, because clearly we weren’t always easy to work with. In the end, Steve thanked me and the relationship was good from then on because he got us a new account shortly after.
Administration: Lessons Learned
It was important to have a weekly meeting to refocus our efforts. Meetings were weekly even if team members were in different time zones or having vacations. Everyone was responsible for a key metric for their responsibilities, such as number of new users, followers on twitter, revenue, and project progress. Maintaining a consistent day and time of the week was equally as important.
Sales: Lessons Learned
Pick up the phone
At Grantz Ventures was the first time I ever picked up a phone for sales. It sounds simple to just pick up the phone, but it wasn’t always that easy. Now I know to just let go of what you hope for the conversation and remember that you’re just talking to a human being on the other end. If you’re really genuine and trying to be helpful, you can’t go wrong.
I learned that sales is not an event, it is a process. It starts with the initial call, then an in person meeting, and then eventually a close. It has a beginning, middle, and an end. Understanding this can help you succeed. You need to understand that you need a lot of prospects in the beginning then as they proceed forward through the sales process some may buy and some may not. Different steps of the sales process can inform you that maybe you’re choosing the wrong prospects or maybe it’s you as a salesperson that needs to improve your delivery of your value proposition.
Financials: Lessons Learned
Prepare Business Plan
I wrote a business plan to help get as a special account for the finance department. I learned that business plans are important when applying to loans and new bank accounts. Writing these quickly and concisely helped push the process much faster meaning.
Human Resources: Lessons Learned
Some Hiring Tips
Print out your candidates resume ahead of time to take notes. When you’re across the table from an interviewee, write down your notes in a way that is ineligible to them but readable to you. That way if there is a note that reflects negatively upon them or positively, they don’t know. Do so on their resume. That way you have the information to review with the rest of the hiring team.
Marketing: Lessons Learned
For a web company, your users are the product. You must develop your user base in order to get more output from them. You have to listen to concerns, address issues, and be as transparent as you can without divulging too much information.
I wrote a 25 page ebook that outlined the buying strategy a prospective client should use. This taught me the power of inbound marketing. By having a reference that a prospective client found useful we were able to establish expertise, build trust, and start a conversation.
It’s important to reward your community leaders. Fancy dinners and extravagant trips were built into the marketing strategy.
Have physical promotional items to give out to reward customers. This helps you spread awareness of your brand as well as gives people something to share about on social media.
Final Thoughts on Grantz Ventures
This was a career changing position for me. I am grateful for the opportunity to have interfaced with hundreds of business owners directly to provide service to them as well as get to know their business first hand. I learned what it takes to succeed as a small business and it isn’t an easy feat. You need to be always on.
*This is one of the posts I will continually update as I remember events and reminisce situations. Some lessons I leave out because they are that valuable not to share.