Four Key Principles for Small Business Success

Someone asked me recently, “if you were talking to a group of small business owners today, what would you say to them about finding success in this economy”? I thought through a range of responses, but the one thing I keep coming back to is this, be smart! Hidden in that simple response are four key principles of small business success. Let me explain what I mean.

First, be smart means decide to grow. I can’t over emphasize how important this is. Too many business owners say that their goal for this year is to keep even or minimize losses. Believe me, if your goal is to lose as little as possible you can be sure of one thing, you will lose. Why not turn that around and make it your goal to grow as much as possible and then reach. Set a clear goal for growth and then take action.

Second, be smart means get started. Often business owners set goals and dream big dreams, but when it comes time to make them happen they get lost in the day to day struggle for survival. The CEO Rule here is simple – “We do what we plan to do.” So, now that you have goals, what actions will you take in the next 90 days to accomplish those goals? Translate your goals into specific and measurable action plans and then begin to measure for results.

One more CEO Rule applies – “people respond to what you measure.” Turn your goals and objectives into daily, weekly and monthly activities or behaviors that will work together to produce the results you want. Let’s your goal is to make 8 new sales this month. You know that making 15 phone calls a day will produce 10 sales appointments next week and that 10 sales appointments are likely to result in 2 closed sales. If this is true, then the thing to measure first is not how many sales you made, but how many phone calls you made. Measure the numbers behind the numbers.

Setting and tracking these “key impact numbers” is one of your most powerful tools to motivate your people to succeed. . To make these numbers work, you need to set goals and establish the standards for success. Your people responsible for tracking and reporting against that goal or standard.

When people track their own numbers they see where they actually are in relationship to their goals on a regular basis. With very little involvement from you, other than keeping that number in front of them or having them report the number to you, they will always know where they stand. As you develop and implement these systems, your team will begin to work more effectively to produce the results desired.

Third, be smart means plan to grow by starting with your current customer or client base. Think about this, how many people or businesses do you already know who love your product or service? What strategies have you already implemented to make sure that you are turning those people into your most powerful marketing allies? Try this:

1. Create a plan to touch every one of your customers in the next 90 days to say thank you and to let them know you appreciate their business. This might mean putting together a data base of all your current or former customers. You might need to work your way through old sales records to get all the names you need. Whatever it takes, make the effort. It’s worth it.

2. Whatever you do to reach out to your past and current customers, make sure you include some means for them to let you know if you did a good job serving them and meeting their needs. You might include a short survey (no more than 3-5 questions). The point is to demonstrate that you genuinely care about your customers and you are committed to making sure that you are meeting their needs.

3. As you reach out to show your appreciation and test your quality, take the opportunity to ask for referrals. When you ask, don’t settle for a list of names and phone numbers. Wherever possible, arrange for introductions or at least direct referrals that put you face to face with new prospects. Find ways to make it easy for your customers to refer their friends and colleagues. Use coupons, promotions and specials to create referral incentives. Be creative, be smart.

Finally, be smart means focus on your value to the customer and the prospect. Here is the bottom line. In this economy, as difficult as it appears right now, people will still spend money. But their spending decisions will be different. They will be more careful about who they spend with and how much they spend. The dollars that will be spent in this economy will flow to value and opportunity. Your task is to make sure that you are providing the highest possible value. Do this, and the message will get out that your product, your service is the right investment for this difficult time.

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