Regardless of how large your business is, many of the same principles apply when it comes to your business running smoothly. This article is not intended to help you start a new business, but rather give tips to businesses that are already up and running.
This article is not about starting a business. The information presented here assumes your business is already up and running and you’re looking for tips on how to keep your business running smoothly. While this article is oriented toward small businesses, the same principles apply to most businesses regardless of size.
While starting a new business is difficult enough, running it efficiently presents even more challenges, especially during tough economic times. These ideas are common sense and fairly easy to implement, but sometimes get lost in the heat of the battle.
No one knows your business better than you since you’re the brains and inspiration behind it. It’s important that this fact comes across when dealing with suppliers and customers. Your business has value, and you want everyone you deal with to understand the value you bring to the table. How your business is perceived by others is critical to your success. View your business through their eyes without your emotional attachment, and make sure they appreciate what creates the real value in your business and how that benefits them.
Give your customers reasons to come to you. Make your business the ideal place to get what they’re looking for. The key to this is an intimate understanding of the customer base you serve and their personal obsessions. You can tap into those obsessions by creating a website and marketing campaign that caters to them on a personal level.
The Internet is a dynamic environment so you can’t simply build a website and assume you’re done. Keep it fresh by updating frequently and integrating social media into your communications strategy.
If you’re a sole proprietor who built your business on your own and works alone, delegation may not be an option. If you find yourself pressed for time, especially around the holidays, consider outsourcing some of your work if you don’t want to hire anyone. This allows you to focus on important things while others take care of the more routine tasks. Possibilities include bookkeeping/accounting, administration, tax preparation, and other tasks suitable for contract labor.
There’s a temptation to think that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. That approach won’t work if you want to grow your business beyond a one-person operation.
You want to own the go-to brand, and that extends well beyond a great logo and catchy sales pitch. You want your brand to stand out, and you should view the price of accomplishing that as an investment, not a cost. Your brand may be your most valuable asset, especially during difficult economic times. Keep your brand relevant and updated to changing consumer tastes, and include money in your budget for sufficient advertising to carry your message.
Protect your brand with appropriate patents, trademarks, and copyrights. This may create downstream opportunities to exploit your brand through co-branding and licensing of rights. The potential financial rewards from this type of exposure can be immense.
Your company’s survival depends on good financial planning and fiscal discipline. Create a monthly budget and track your progress against it. If you’re missing your financial goals, don’t wait to analyze what’s causing the variances. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to dig yourself out of trouble. It’s important to understand everything from cash flow to return on investment. If you’re not already thoroughly familiar with those terms, consider enrolling in a basic finance course.
Develop a close relationship with a local bank. Make sure the bank executives understand your business and your operating plan. The time may come when you need their financial support, and a solid personal relationship may mean the difference between securing that support or not.
Technology and Automation
Stay up to date on the latest technology trends and don’t let your suppliers, customers and competitors get ahead of you. If you fall behind, you’ll find it difficult to maintain strong business relationships. If you’re not tech-savvy, consider hiring an IT consultant who can recommend an optimal design for your automation suite. This should include computers, networks, software, website design & hosting, telephone system, information security, and a top-notch mobile strategy.
Getting the most out of technology is key in today’s competitive marketplace. Use online training resources such as Media Bistro and Grovo to improve your knowledge and expertise. Use analytics to monitor website traffic and create benchmarks to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Figure out what’s working and what isn’t. Understand the importance of Search Engine Optimization and update your website as needed to achieve the best search rankings possible.
Monitor your competition
You’re not paranoid if you’re up at night wondering what the competition is doing. It helps to be aware of new innovations, price changes, and other developments at companies offering products and services similar to yours. Use this information to fine tune your product and marketing strategies.
If something is working for your competition, consider emulating it if it fits into your overall strategy. Improve on it if you can. Perhaps more importantly, learn from their mistakes. Do whatever it takes to raise customer satisfaction to the highest level possible.
Consumers are still feeling the pain of the recession and they’re spending their money more wisely than ever. They have their own technology that enables them to comparison-shop, find the best deals, and negotiate discounts. If you want their business, you need to understand how you can position your company as the preferred source for what you’re selling.
One way to do that is to frequently survey your customers and encourage their feedback, whether positive or negative. Find out what scratches their itch and take appropriate actions to respond to their suggestions. Understand your customers intimately as their complete satisfaction is paramount. Work hard for their dollars and you’ll be rewarded.