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8 Ways to Make Your Small Business Better

By: Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan
Posted: March 29, 2013, from the April 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Entrepreneurs have to rely on who they’ve always relied on to be successful: themselves, their employees and their clients. Get the basics right—proven business practices—and keep the entrepreneurial engine humming along.

1. Embrace your size. Small companies are flexible. They can communicate quickly and they’re less risk-averse, allowing them to turn on a dime in response to market changes and customer demands. Even a shortage of cash can be an advantage because it makes spas more innovative, forcing them to discover and employ unorthodox tactics and strategies. Cost-saving ideas and marketing concepts can come from anywhere.

2. Think creatively. Partner with nonprofit organizations that believe in the same causes you do. Get out into the community to talk about causes you are passionate about, your spa and your nonprofit partners—at the same time. Worthy cause marketing (WCM) gains you access to potential clients and gives them a social reason to buy your products or services. It also gives employees a level of satisfaction that goes far beyond making a sale—they get to make a difference. WCM really works and actually can be more effective than advertising.

3. Find good people. Make great people. Of course you need to find people who are not only qualified, but who have foundational qualities you can build upon: enthusiasm, confidence, integrity, teachability and a sense of humor. But don’t stop there—make sure to provide the encouragement, resources and flexibility for them to grow. Allow people to be creative, experiment and even make mistakes, and put energy into mentoring and training. Do everything possible to help them live up to their full potential.

4. Use performance-based compensation. Most compensation plans are based on an hourly rate, which is paying for attendance, not necessarily production. Consider offering bonuses based on sales, cost reductions and customer retention. In other words, give them a financial reason to help the team perform. With the ideal compensation system, non-producers can’t afford to work for you, and producers can’t afford to leave.

5. Share the wealth. Some spa owners want to have it all, but in the process, cut off the very folks they need to get what they want. Sharing the wealth allows you to reduce turnover, attract go-getters and motivate people to produce even more. Best of all, increased profit is found money—it really costs you nothing. Just make sure the payment is tied into profitability, and not based solely on growth.

6. Let information flow freely. Big corporations tend to treat information like a coveted commodity. Instead, respect the intellect of your human resources. Be transparent about challenges and ask the entire staff for solutions. Make sure all people are getting bonuses on sales, which means that sharing information and ideas is good for everybody’s paycheck.

7. Listen to your people. Run everything that affects your image by your team. Before you allow a change or improvement to products or services, or even promotions, check with the folks who have to make the sale. Top-down thinking can undermine what has taken years to establish.

8. Establish a positive culture. Company culture has a direct bearing on the survival and growth of a company. This starts from the top and permeates throughout an organization. Make it fun! Encourage your team to be playful to keep your spa fresh and its people involved. Incorporate customer service into that culture. Imagine a facility that views its displays as retail entertainment, adding color, fun and themes for the enjoyment of its clients! This is the ultimate in customer service.

Most of all, be grateful for the opportunity to have a dream, bring it to life, provide a good living for your employees and make life better for clients.

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Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan, authors of The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built a Bestselling Wine (Evolve Publishing, 2013), founded the national Barefoot Wine brand.