Running a small to medium business requires having the right knowledge and applying self discipline on a daily basis. For this reason I have prepared what I call the “12 Step Business Growth Plan.” The 12 step plan is the core of what we need to do to keep us focused on proven management practices. I recommend that you print them and post them in your work area to review daily while planning for the next day’s activities.
1. Set Specific Goals
Goals must be specific. Saying that we’re going to get more customers is not good enough. How many? By when? What type of customers? These are kind of questions we need to be asking ourselves. Put your goals in writing. More than 90% of people that write down SMART goals actually achieve their goals! Finally, visualise yourself in the future. Most people think in pictures. As we begin to write down our vision we place ourselves in the future and make it seem real. You will be amazed at the results.
2. Seek Out Change
Let’s face it change is the only constant. The longer we “do what we’ve always done,” the harder it will be to do something different. It is ideas that bring change about in our world. Nearly every great invention, system or model was born from the idea of a lone entrepreneur. Psychologists are now saying that creativity is a “learned trait.” Experiment with creative ways of doing things. Don’t just settle for the “easy way.” Do this daily and watch our creativity grow and our business soar!
3. Focus on Branding
Branding is not merely for the BIG players. Entrepreneurs and small to medium business owners can also differentiate themselves with this kind of branding strategy. In fact it is even MORE important for smaller organisations to set themselves apart, particularly if they are competing with the BIG GUYS! Remember, our customer’s perceptions of WHO we are is all the matters to them. Often our reputation is wrapped up in what advertising guru; Bill Bernbach called the Unique Selling Proposition (USP). What sets us apart from the crowd? What do we do that no one else does? This is far more important than the quality or price of our product or service. Everything that we do or say both internally and externally should revolve around this.
4. Be an Influencer NOT a Salesperson
Our goal is not to SELL to our customers but rather to influence them. When we SELL to them, they move away from us because they are fearful of being coerced into making the wrong decision. Ask more questions. Find out what’s important to them. Find a way to get them to look up to us. We must earn the right to influence customers by aligning ourselves with them in a way that sets us apart as a friend, advisor and confidant. Then we will become the ONLY solution to their needs.
5. Speak in Terms of the Customers Interest
As the great master of human relations, Dale Carnegie said, we must “speak in terms of the other person’s interest.” The reason people are running away from us is that we are trying to TAKE. Be willing to give. “What can we give?” we ask? If nothing else, give them an education. That’s right EDUCATE our prospect and we will create a customer for life! Ask plenty of questions. Show that we really care. We will learn more, build stronger relationships and get more business.
6. Develop a Practical Sales and Marketing Plan
A sales and marketing plan creates the kind of attention we need to get in front of the right type of organisations. It is what attracts people to us! A good sales and marketing plan implemented cost effectively, efficiently, and consistently, will eliminate the need for “cold calls!” Our marketing plan should also include a sales plan. There’s no other sure way to gage the financial growth and progress of our business. We need a realistic map for where the sales will come from, how they’ll come and from whom. I have recently joined a marketing group called Basic Bananas, their tag line is ‘Small Business Marketing made Simple’. The reason I did this was to educate myself on marketing because like most sales people we only know how to sell our business we don’t know how to market our business. www.basicbananas.com
7. Know Our Customers
Changes in our customers’ preferences and our competitors’ products and services can leave us in the dust unless we get to know our customers well. What is it that they are looking for today? What will they likely want in the future? What are their buying patterns? How can we be a resource for them even if we don’t have the right products or services for them now!
8. Manage Our Cash Daily
Only cash flow can keep a company alive. No matter how impressive our company’s profits might be, if we run out of cash, it’s over! Understand the importance of aligning performance measurement goals to gross margin. Learn about various pricing strategies, contribution margins and how to stay on top of our cash position every minute of the day if necessary.
9. Be a Leader
Jack Welch, CEO of G.E. loved the small to medium business model so much his first step in turning around G.E. was to break up the giant into 350 smaller companies. He told Business Week Magazine, “Most small companies are simple informal and grow on good ideas. Think small” Understand our role as the leader of our organisation is to inspire, simplify processes, drive the company toward their vision, spread the gospel and admit our mistakes and keep things ever moving forward. ~ Jack Welch ~ ‘winning ways’
10. Get Help
Get an advisory board or a mentor/s sounds crazy for a small operation? It’s not! Ask them to review your business plans and results. Having someone outside the day to day business to bounce ideas off and get an objective opinion is critical.
11. Communicate Clearly
We might be the key to everything BUT we cannot DO everything and grow at the same time. Even modest success could overwhelm us; unless we hire the right people and delegate responsibility. Good communication skills are the key to winning strong relationships. We must learn to listen in an active way. Stop thinking about what we are going to say next and put the focus back on them.
12. Don’t Give Up!
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs failed several times before doing extremely well. So, if we’re failing, fail. And fail fast. And learn. And try again, with this new wisdom. Do NOT give up. In a slower economy such as we are experiencing today, only the persistent will win!