The Greenville SBDC was lucky enough to have Janet Christy conduct her “Capitalizing on Being A Woman or Minority Owned Business” workshop for our clients and contacts in April. We had a great turnout, and it was a very informative workshop. It was there that I came across Janet’s Top Ten Resolutions for Small Businesses in 2011 (5th annual version). As we head into June, I would like to share these with you and pose the question: Is your business in shape for the summer?
1) If a task or decision is nagging at you, take action. New for 2011 Most likely if something is stuck in your brain and thwarting your good mood or continuously hammering at the edge of your thoughts it needs to be dealt with. If there is some chore or project that you know you should handle, then handle it. If there is a decision that you have avoided but continue to think about, make the decision. If it is bothering you it is probably important and may be the missing piece in a larger puzzle. Taking action will not only put the nagging voices to rest, it will probably move you forward on some significant goal. You will also save mental, and possibly physical, energy because you are doubtless spending more time and effort evading than you would doing.
2) Be certain you know who your customers/clients are. New for 2011 Bankers and Small Business consultants say the biggest obstacle for all Small Businesses is that they do not really know who their customers/clients are. If you are too general in the description of your customers (using words such as “all” or “every”) you will likely be too general in your message and not stimulate actual purchases. If you do not bore down to specific customer/client types you will probably spend some of your time, effort and money marketing to the wrong people. Look back at the misses and successes of the last two years and use that data to help you reassess your idea of your real customers/clients and prospects.
3) Speak in the language of your prospects, customers and clients . New for 2011. Remember that you are not selling your products or services, you are meeting the needs or solving the problems of your prospects and clients/ customers; package and market your products/services in a way that addresses that need or problem. Look at it from their view point. Knowing the language of your customers/clients means you must know who they are as discussed in the previous resolution.
4) Do not let desperation cloud your thinking. Carried over from 2010 The perfect storm of desperation is not over. This storm was initially caused by customers/clients buying less, expenses rising, customers/clients going out of business and increasing competition for every little opportunity. The storm continues because there are signs of economic recovery and everyone wants some of the new revenue crumbs. The perfect storm makes you vulnerable to charlatans who know how to use the right words and prey on your desperation. You will be offered “the secrets to getting your share of the millions being spent by the government.” You will receive promotional material about events, networking sites and distribution lists that will “get your message to thousands of prospects”. If your desperation clouds your thinking you will not be able to evaluate invitations and announcements for their true opportunity value. Assess the value of the opportunity and compare it to its cost – actual fees and your time. Don’t let your fear or false hope override your good sense.
5) Adopt the philosophy that some revenue is better than none. Combination of several past resolutions Many Small Businesses miss opportunities because they are not willing or do not know how to take advantage of chances at part of a sale, project or contract. Subcontracting, partnering and being the recipient of outsourced functions increase your opportunities for revenue. Do not stall your success because you 1) are afraid partnering will reveal your secrets to a potential competitor, 2) do not want to share the revenue, 3) do not want to be seen as “too small” or not capable, or 4) do not want to do the research and negotiation necessary to establish a working relationship with another company.
6) Put it in writing. New for 2011 If you put the specifics of every agreement and arrangement in writing you will save yourself time, money, agony and broken relationships. Any partnering or subcontracting arrangement should be spelled out in an agreement and signed by all parties. Any contract with a customer/client should include a Scope of Work/Services that clearly states what you will do, what the customer/client will do and the amount and schedule of payment. All of this applies even if you know your partner, trust your prime contractor, think you understand the project/product requirements or believe in handshake agreements. Things can happen that will alter the original circumstances – people leave, new factors arise, funds are delayed – and if you are not protected by having terms in writing, you could jeopardize your revenue and/or reputation. If you are working with or for friends or relatives, putting conditions and stipulations in writing is just as important and sometimes even more so because it may save a relationship.
7) Follow Up and Follow Through New for 2011. The primary criticism of all Small Businesses by buyers (government and commercial) is that they do not follow up or follow through on promised actions and information. How well a vendor follows up or follows through on promises is part of the test to determine if they will be a quality supplier. Another reason follow up is so important is that old saying “out of sight, out of mind”; buyers say they deal with many vendors so they need for you to remind them that your business is still in operation and that you are still interested in meeting their needs.
8) Treat marketing activities as you would any task or project for a customer/client. New take on an all time favorite. You should develop a schedule of marketing actions, put them on your calendar and carry them out – just as you would any product or service development and delivery for a customer/client. Because many people are not comfortable with marketing, do not like it or feel that other things are more important it often does not receive the proper level of attention. If you do not schedule the actions and commit to completing them, they will keep getting pushed aside and maybe never done. And we all know that if you do not market your business, you will eventually have no business.
9) Research. Important resolution from the archives. Most of the previous resolutions require some research to carry them out effectively. Research is an investment of time to insure that you find the right prospects, do the right thing, use the most compelling words, avoid pitfalls, minimize mistakes and reap the most benefits. This is another thing that should be scheduled, committed to and carried out.
10) Avoid spending too much time “getting ready” instead of “doing”. New for 2011. If there is something you do not really want to do or are not comfortable with, there is the risk of avoiding it by getting trapped in the preparation phase. Some examples of this are: 1) listening to motivational types to get inspired about a project instead of breaking it down into bite size pieces doing it, 2) writing and re-writing and re-writing copy for a marketing piece instead of sending out a decent effort or 3) asking everyone you know for input on an important decision instead of making the decision. You will know when you reach the point where preparation turns into avoidance, when you reach that point – act.
More detailed information and guidance is provided by Janet W. Christy in her books 101 Winning Marketing Actions for Small Businesses and Capitalizing on Being Woman Owned and in articles on her websites www.leverageanddevelopment.com and www.janetchristy.com
Janet W. Christy is the founder and President of Leverage & Development, LLC, a consulting firm that helps Small and Woman/Minority-owned businesses use their status to their advantage. Her services include marketing research and planning, certification assistance, sales guidance, and assistance in government bidding. She is based in Greer, South Carolina; she does offer phone consultations.