Your small business is young and ready to be taken to the next level. You've survived the challenging first few months or years of business and understand what it takes to manage your enterprise. Standing on your past accomplishments won't help you move forward, however, while clarity of purpose and a renewed vision can help your business reach higher. Savvy entrepreneurs are always on the look out for business bolstering tips; we serve seven up for your review and possible implementation here.
1. Visit your customers. Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. When was the last time you paid them a visit? Are they located out of state? Then get on the phone and check in.
It is easy to take your faithful customers for granted, but unless you maintain dialogue with them, you may not be able to head off problems just as fast as they occur. Even a faithful customer can grow dissatisfied and look for greener pastures when things go wrong or if they feel neglected. Take your local customers out to lunch; remember all your customers with gifts, but not just at Christmas.
2. Take action quicker. What is procrastination? The Princeton University WordNet Search describes procrastination as “…putting off or delaying or deferring action to a later time.” Procrastination is also a sign of inefficiency as each time you put off a project or task, you're spending time figuring out how best to avoid it. “Time is money,” or so the saying goes.
One sure way to kill procrastination is to divide your responsibilities into categories such as immediate, tomorrow, next week or whenever. The whenever category should only include those tasks with absolutely no bearing on your business such as archiving old files. Mostly everything else should be placed in one of the three categories, but with a definitive start and end date so it doesn't get pushed back until tomorrow. For procrastinators “tomorrow” never comes as it is, well, always tomorrow.
3. Entice your prospects. You not only need to demonstrate to potential customers your products or services, but you need to woo them. Wooing is enticement, an effort that you make where customers will say, “I must have this product!”
Successful car dealers learned long ago that the best way to get a customer to buy was to turn over the keys of a new car for several hours if not overnight, to give customers the chance to get a feel for that car. As expected, many customers would be mesmerized by the car laden with features not available in their vehicles such as GPS navigation, heated seats or even just the new car smell. You can win new customers by giving out free samples of your products or offering a service at no charge. Product giveaways, by the way, are counted by the IRS as an advertising expense, one that is fully tax deductible.
4. Expand your network. You may be in business by yourself, but you need not do business by yourself. This means that your network of contacts can help you do your business better, perhaps enabling you to reach a higher level than what you would be able to do on your own. You'll provide the same support to them through this mutual arrangement.
One example of business support is Business Network International, a group consisting of two to four dozen professionals of differing backgrounds. Members meet once per week, explain to each other what they do and share leads with each other. Those passing on a name of a customer to a member. You can expand your network through BNI, your local Chamber of Commerce, a business association group, or online with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
5. Streamline your operation. Is there fat in your organization? No, not people, rather processes.
Examine how you get your main tasks done, if there are extra steps in the process that impedes a natural flow of business, then remove these. This may include no longer requiring a supervisor to sign off on a delivery or be present to negotiate a price that your employees can handle. Which leads to our next point — empowerment.
6. Empower your people. Once your business has gotten a solid footing, you'll know which employees can handle limited oversight and which ones still need much handholding. You may not be able to promote your key employees, but you can reward them by turning them loose.
Allow your more independent employees to make decisions without your input. For instance, if you run a restaurant and a customer expresses dissatisfaction with their meal or service, you can empower your people to offer a new meal, a refund or a coupon for a new meal at a later date. Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of Homeland Security, once said, “You have to enable and empower people to make decisions independent of you. As I've learned, each person on a team is an extension of your leadership; if they feel empowered by you they will magnify your power to lead.” When leaders empower their employees they become better leaders, delegating tasks and building trust.
7. Give back to the community. Every business is part of a community whether that business is a retail outlet, an office or a factory. If you sell exclusively online, then your customers may be from anywhere in the world. Still, you can give locally just as you can give globally. Giving back has some benefits to you including raising your personal visibility in the community.
Among the ways to give back include donating a good or service to a silent auction. Or, by allowing your employees to engage in an “action day” where they might help build a house for Habitat for Humanity or pack food at a food bank. A financial contribution to a cash-starved charity can help too. Show your generosity and your business will benefit in the long run.
Savvy entrepreneurs are the way that they are because they think outside of the box. Sometimes that means taking risks or otherwise exploring options that they normally would not consider. Be open to change and embrace it.
Image via: forbes.com[hr]
About the author: Patrick Sullivan is the Communications and Marketing Manager at Real Capital Markets, a company that provides cost-effective solutions for Commercial Real Estate Sales, bank REO, non-performing/performing note sales and more.