In business, like most of life, most problems come down to a failure to communicate. If you have human resource (HR) issues, you likely are having internal communication problems. If you have challenges reaching your customers, getting them to buy, or even knowing who they are, you probably have external communication problems. The point being, if your business is struggling, look for communication problems.
If your expenses are too high for your revenue, you might have communication problems on both sides of the coin – internal and external. You might be lacking the communication that expenses can not be that high and not connecting with your customers.
The question now becomes, how do we fix communication problems. Arguably, this may be where things differentiate from your personal relationships. Businesses can fix most communication problems in business by simplifying the message and the medium. The message is what needs to be said, while the medium is how it’s delivered.
When crafting messages to external users, this holds. Simplifying the message of what problem you can solve, or better yet, be the guide to help the client solve is a good start. The client probably has a direct, external problem that you can directly solve. However, there are probably other problems that can be solved by solving those external problems. Those other problems are the ones that provide a true benefit to the customer.
For example, the virtual assistant solves the problem of getting the letter written for the client. However, the client’s real benefit is focusing on higher return activities – client acquisition, billable work, etc.
A lot of communication problems internally can also be fixed by simplifying the message and medium. Reducing the number of channels can also help fix internal communication problems. A channel is a path for communication. You can calculate the number of communication channels with the following formula: n(n-1)/2 where n is the number of channel members.
To give you a sense of how the numbers of channels can change dramatically, here’s an example. Bev has a small business, and it’s her and two employees. Between the three of them, they handle everything. With three people, there are three communication channels (3(3-1)/2). Bev decides to hire one more person, now there are six communication channels (4(4-1)/2), and Bev finds herself spending a lot more time correcting the communication. The same thing happens in businesses, especially small businesses that are growing. If you ever wonder why big companies or government struggle getting anything done, this is largely why.
Dealing with internal communication problems
There are ways you can reduce internal communication problems. First, make sure roles and descriptions are clear. Second, make sure you don’t have more people than you need to have. As businesses start to make a bit of money, they often hire people to fix problems. However, because of what happens with the number of communication channels, hiring can compound problems. Third, instill a culture of being direct with people. Make sure you communicate expectations and allow your people to share back with you. Foster an environment of transparency, and you will likely find you’ll have a more efficient workplace.
I will write more on transparency in the future, as I have found that small business owners fear such. As always, if you need anything, by all means, contact us.