Small business management is a delicate balance of planning, action and intrinsic perspective. With minimal resources, time and money must be spent wisely. Business fundamentals must be incorporated at all times. Below are 7 "best practice” seeds to plant. When watered (acted upon), they will help your business grow.
Be clear about what need your business fulfills – Just because you have business cards and your sign says "open,” doesn’t’ mean you have a sale. Be clear about how your product or service helps or benefits someone. We have so many choices these days and people are savvier than ever about how and where they spend their money. Make sure you have something of real value and use and be ready to explain why and how it makes life easier or better.
Know where to find your ideal clients and how to communicate with them. It doesn’t make much sense to have the perfect product or service for pilots who fly charter planes if you are spending your time connecting and marketing to them on Facebook or Myspace. You have to know where to find your ideal clients and how to communicate with them. Too many small business owners are still marketing to "everyone” or the "general public.” It can quickly kill a business. Refine your target market and define your ideal client.
Have a clear, concise and consistent marketing message – Do potential clients know what you do based on the information on your business card, website, social network profile? What is your elevator pitch? Do you have one? Can you clearly define your business AND its benefit in 30 seconds? You never know when an opportunity will arise or when you will spontaneously be in the presence of your biggest client. Always be prepared to explain what you do, how you do it, why you do it and what’s the benefit.
Take inventory of your existing resources – Small business owners are in constant "I need” and "If only I had” mode. The truth is, often times what you need is already in your bag of resources. You had a life before you started your business and you have colleagues, friends and family. Always be sure you check your sphere of influence for your needs first before looking outside. The people that already know you are your greatest asset. If you need clients, tell them first. If you have a sale or promotion, tell them first. If you need help, tell them first.
Have a functional system in place – As a small business owner, you probably can’t afford to get sick or take long vacations. Which is why it is vital that you have functional systems in place that will minimize unexpected absences and the need for damage control. You should document your processes. When your business is streamlined and you have systems in place, it reduces chaos and stress on bad days, missed days and sick days. It also makes it easier for someone to come in and "follow along” when help is needed.
Communicate with your clients… often – Many small business owners spend an inappropriate amount of time generating new clients. This time and energy is better spent if you focus on cultivating relationships with your existing clients. How many of your existing clients are "repeat customers?” If your "new clients” outweigh your "repeat clients,” you have a problem. Repeat clients are the ones who are singing your praises to their friends and family. Word of mouth advertising is priceless. Repeat clients are the ones who will continue to patronize you out of loyalty through price changes, varied economic climates, and a bad day. Yes, you need to engage new clients, but your existing clients are your foundation.
Stay ahead of the curve – The best way to stay ahead of the curve is to continue to educate yourself in all areas of your business and industry. You also want to keep your finger on the pulse of your clients’ needs. Clients’ needs change with the wind and the quicker you can adapt to the changes (while maintaining the integrity and purpose of your business) the better your business will be for it. Anticipate change and adapt.
Michelle Blakeley is the Founder and CEO of Simplicity, Inc.; a progressive small business development firm. She manages her clients’ business expectations and prevents information overload via Micro Business Therapy™ and Micro Business Action Plans. She is featured in Forbes.com and the Financial Post as one of 30 Women Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter, contributor for the San Francisco Examiner, the host of Simple Truths for Women Entrepreneurson BlogTalkRadio.com and author of the NEW e-book: "Get it Right and Move Along… a collection of practical tips, tools and techniques for small business owners.”