Running a fast-growing small business -The example of Garden Cosmética Natural
Garden Cosmética Natural is a family business founded in 2000, being the first business dedicated to natural cosmetics in the city of Rio Grande, in the south of Argentina.
Their vision is to provide a space where health, mind and spirit can reconnect with each other. Garden Cosmética Natural offers personalized natural and traditional experiences to take care of the body and our essence. They do it through aromatherapy, skin and body care products and services that have several certifications: "No Animal Testing", "Paraben Free", "Gluten Free", "Organic", "100% natural active ingredients", "Vegan", "Friendly with the Body".
In 2019, Elizabeth and Cristina Romero, mother and daughter, took over the management of the spa. As new business owners, they had a mission to structure and reorganize the business to ensure its long-term existence.
In september 2020, Cristina onboarded me as a Strategy consultant. Together, we focused on Finance, Sustainability and Data management:
Assess the business processes, systems and documents in place
Identify areas of weakness in the Business Management
Document the Business Plan
Restructure the available documentation
Dress a budget and financial projections to 3 years
Map administrative processes and elaborate a manual for data administration
Establish a Sustainability strategy in line with their values
Set up a list of objectives and indicators together with a Strategic Action Plan
Who does what?
In small businesses, it is common to see crucial administrative tasks being unassigned and done on the initiative of different individuals. This often causes inefficiencies: the tasks can be postponed or forgotten, they can be duplicated, or even done incorrectly due to lack of training. When your business is growing, your team will grow with it. The more people are involved in certain tasks the messier it gets. My first concern with Garden Cosmética Natural has been to identify the roles and responsibilities within the team to ensure efficiency and responsibility for all tasks that are necessary to run the activity. After mapping the operational processes, Cristina started working with her team on defining grey areas and identifying task owners, based on the knowledge, role and interest of each member of her staff.
Documenting and structuring
In line with my previous observation, in a fast growing business things can easily get out of control. Documenting and structuring helps keeping track of what should be done, when and how. It helps managers give clear instructions to their team and ensure accuracy of the processes in place. Oftentimes, the team does not see the big picture and reasons behind certain decisions. Putting things in context helps communicating the importance of specific tasks, and providing the team with check-lists and guides is important for them to understand the manager’s vision. Be on the same page, write it down!
Data accuracy vs. efficiency, a crucial challenge for businesses
Database management systems are a pain for most organizations. System issues, complex wording, illogical formulas… Garden Cosmética Natural is facing the same issues as most businesses. How to keep the system updated when we don’t understand it? Yet, one cannot run a business without a visibility of their expenses, cash-flow, stocks or suppliers orders. In Garden, Cristina inherited a complex ERP, which her team was not equipped to use to its full potential. Her short term solution: use Excel instead. Yes, Excel is a great tool for data analysis, but limited in the fields of data one can track, record, cross and check. After hours of investigating and testing the system, Cristina and myself managed to set up the system in ways that can release her from the time spent maintaining several Excel documents and provide her with all the reports she needs for management purpose and much more. The user guide for the team is now ready, including the list of reports they can all check to follow up: suppliers invoices pending payment, inventory and reallocation of products for internal use, sales per vendor per month, etc.
Sustainability: it is what we do
Garden Cosmética Natural has always been proactive and mindful of Sustainable development and is constantly working towards the Sustainable Development Goals. But what is their actual impact? As many small businesses in the area of sustainability, structuring and setting up a Sustainability strategy based on their current actions and their values is key to keep track of their impact and identify areas of improvement. Cristina is currently working on establishing measurable goals and key indicators. As Sustainability is embedded in all activities of Garden Cosmética Natural, this project falls in line with the overall business development plan and strategy.
Garden Cosmética Natural's conclusion
'What we appreciated about the business consulting services from Morgane was her compromise to understand and skin our business to the point of feeling the reason for our existence. Also, she was teaching us on how to do things on our own and not to be dependent on costly tools or services. She definitely used her knowledge and confidence to bring our business to the next level by organizing, prioritizing, and having documentations, executing and implementing strategy to all our areas based on standardization and legalization. She is straightforward, honest and efficient. The most valuable action is her true commitment to our organization which provided us deep trust.'