When it comes to business, we don’t just want to survive and hang in there by the skin of our teeth. We want to thrive. As an experienced business coach, I work with so many clients who want to do well, but just lack a little knowledge, know-how and experience to make it happen. Rather than being a failure statistic, most businesses have the ability to do well, if not brilliantly.
Here are some fundamental tips for small business success:
I say this time and time again – planning (documented and written down, not just thoughts floating around in your head) is critical. I recently did a ‘vision’ board with some friends. We had a lovely time, it allowed my creative side to have some fun and it let me focus on my goals. However, one critical thing was missing! What about the action steps to make those things happen? Know your long-term plan but then focus on the action steps to make it happen. Most small business owners only focus on the present so they need to regularly deal with some emergencies that they could have avoided if they did planning and foresight. They also focus in the history and become stuck from fear or a negative experience where something did not work. You have to get back up on the horse and strategise a plan moving forward.
Most business owners think that marketing is the MOST important part of a business, to the detriment of other things like finances, money, great sales processes, planning. Know your finances. Have quality bookkeeping done. Review and understand your reports weekly and monthly. If you are going for finance or looking for funding, shop around. Even consider a broker. There are some hugely expensive options out there – which might seem easy initially, but once you’re in, you are often caught in a form of quicksand you most likely won’t escape. Also, avoid the temptation of spending money on luxury items. If your main ‘tool’ is a computer, ensure it’s effective, current and efficient, but do you need all the latest gadgets. Always ask yourself “do I need this?” It’s like a lady with her dozens of pairs of shoes… do you really need a sixth pair of black shoes?
Branding & Perception
If you talk to a branding expert, they will say branding is crucial. It’s important but not the be all and end all. Rather, I believe perception is more important. This includes branding and many other aspects. You can spend a heap of money on a cool logo but if your perception is lacking, then how effective will the expensive logo be? Find balance when it comes to branding (and absolutely ensure you have it) but also be sure to focus on the perception of your business. For example, is your email address a free Hotmail or Outlook email? When you send a quote, is it typed and professionally presented (regardless of whether you are a professional business or a trade business)? Is your online message clear? Does your Facebook profile show you as one type of person but your LinkedIn profile shows something else? Do the different profiles even agree? Branding and perception is far more than just a logo – it’s the look, feel, words, images and actions that you portray.
Make sure that you effectively tell your clients the benefits they’d get from you. If you have a competitive advantage that is unique then let your prospective customers perceive it. Even if they have heard of the product or service that you offer, it doesn’t mean that they have heard your message. You need to have a clear marketing strategy. Choose the proper communication channels, images, slogan which, of course, should be consistently used on your marketing materials, labels, packaging and any other communications. You need to have a strategy, be clear about what you are selling and clear about your message. Not sure how to do this well? Hire the help of consultants because they do what they do best, while you do what you know you do best.
So you’ve spent time and energy on branding, perception and marketing. Now you need to make sure your sales processes work. I work with a multitude of clients on their sales processes (and I run training workshops on this as well) to ensure that all that time and energy will be converted into paying customers. Improve your sales process and you’ll make your marketing dollar so much more effective. There is not a business yet that I’ve worked with which hadn’t had room for improvement – some so massive, it’s really turned that business around in a huge and tangible way.
Create a great network
These may be people who will help you in your business or which you can introduce to your clients or others in business. Remember that helping others usually always comes back in a positive way to you. Gather a strong support team of experienced professionals. It really takes a whole village to run a business so create a strong support team of talented people. It is quite a pleasure and also a professional asset to get to know a lot of talented people, many of whom are strategic alliances. I use my network frequently to help my clients, help associates and help improve my own business. I also help them … making it a win-win-win for everyone.
Stay current with your professional tools
Be sure whatever technology and services you use are up-to-date and compatible with your customers. Having said that, do not try to do everything yourself. Give the customers what you do best, and refer them to others with the expertise you need but don’t have at the moment. Even within your own business, delegate tasks to others. Over the decades, I’ve seen business owners caught up doing all sorts of things, with a view to ‘saving a buck’ – everything from the office cleaning, through to the bookkeeping and marketing. Switch your mentality from penny-saving to entrepreneurial. Remember, your time is worth something!
Wow your customers
Many businesses say they provide excellent customer service, but if you asked the client/customer, what would they say? Wowing a customer doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune or do something ‘out of this world’. It can be simply going above and beyond. It might be that you’ve given that client some extra time or value or service – at no extra charge. However, be sure they know what you’ve done. I suggest to coaching clients that they show the extra on their invoice and then minus it out on the next line. They are showing the dollar value and then showing it being taken off – so the client knows the value they got and will appreciate it more. If you don’t know what someone has done for you – how can you appreciate it?
Treat your customer’s business as your own. Your time is their money so be efficient. If you’re providing an hourly-based service, don’t drag your feet in order to increase income. Instead, operate quickly and perhaps do something extra with that spare time. Imagine you’re a bookkeeping business. You’re contracted to do 3 hours each Monday. You work effectively and finish in 2.75 hours. You could have dragged it out or left early OR you could use that last 15 minutes to ring some of their customers and do some effective debt collecting. The result is that there is more money in your clients’ bank account. Do you think they will be happy? No – more likely delighted!
Remember if you’re reading to make a change to your business – give me a call or click here – I’d love to talk with you on how I can improve your business.