Running a small business is not for the faint of heart. In addition to working long work weeks, small business owners must overcome financing hurdles, regulatory requirements and other challenges to successfully compete in their industries, according the Small Business Administration’s State of Small Business Annual Report for 2004.
“If you think you are the kind of person who can succeed working solo or with a small staff, you need to have a great idea plus self-discipline. You need to be self-directed, motivated and organized. You need to be customer-centric. It’s important to think about the needs of your customer and how can you organize your business so that it meets their needs,” says Anne Blum Hach, director of the Key Entrepreneur Development Center at Tri-C’s Corporate College.
Hach offers the following 10 tips on things you can do to grow your business now.
- Focus on your core product. Concentrate your sales efforts on products or services that generate the highest return. If these are not your core products, consider why not.
- Update your marketing pitch. Make sure that your marketing statement fits into a concise 30-second pitch that includes the benefits of your company and its products. You need to come up with an easy way for people to remember you and establish a reason for them to contact you.
- Stay up to date. Make sure that the information you have about your market is current. Don’t make decisions based on market information from five years ago. Know the current trends of your industry and those of your customers.
- Set the right price. Make sure that you have priced your product correctly. Raising prices is never fun, but then neither is selling at a loss. Analyze your cost structure, your market position and your competition to make sure that your current prices reflect where you want to be.
- Incorporate your business plan into your to-do list. Many people create a business plan when they start their business but fail to make it part of their day-to-day operations. Break down each goal you established in your business plan to specific action steps and make them a part of your weekly to-do list.
- Offer rewards. Reward customers for word-of-mouth referrals and make it easy for current customers to pass your name along. Word-of-mouth is still the best form of advertising but you need to make it easy for people to refer your name. Offer a reward or, at the very least, remember to say thank you.
- Network. Join associations and organizations to network with customers and potential referral sources. It’s not what you know or who you know, it’s who knows you.
- Consider forming strategic alliances with related businesses. Find people who serve the same market but sell different products or services from yours. Talk to each other. Refer each other. Both of your businesses will grow. Remember the best way to get a lead is to give a lead.
- Take a step back. Take time out to work on your business, not just in your business. This is the classic dilemma: You work so hard to get a client and then you get the client and they give you a pile of work. You work hard for months to complete the project. Now that it’s finished, you have to work to find more clients. Never stop looking for new clients.
- Consider the nuts and bolts of your business. Think about these questions: Have I picked the right business for me? Do I have all the right permits to do what I’m doing? Do I know how to keep track of receivables and payables for the IRS? What kind of insurance do I need?
Denise Reading is president of Corporate College. For further information on Corporate College, visit www.corporatecollege.com or call (866) 806-2677.