Your customers should be the heart of all you do. Face it- they have more choices today than ever. Make sure that they know you value them so they keep coming back to you. You want them to know implicitly that you are willing to move mountains to make them happy. Suggest to them how they can excel in ways they might never have considered and become a partner in success together. If you do this, they will help you grow through their loyalty. If you don’t, a new vendor/company is just a click away. Don’t give them reason to shop somewhere else.
Modest Growth is respectable growth. If you stick by this mantra, it will help you deal with unexpected change. Hiring now might mean paying a relative to help out short term; that’s growth too. Given the economy is still in recovery mode, this is not the time to expand rapidly. Rather, it is likely the time to recoup and regroup. This means building sales first, acquiring new customers in innovative ways and accumulating enough cash flow to weather possible tough future times.
Accept that you need to put in the time up front to see the efforts pay off down the road. A friend of mine who is a small business owner has spent countless hours making new forms, as well as entering customer and pertinent tax data in the past months. Why? Not because he enjoys giving up weekends and evenings. The reasoning is simple: long-term it will help save him time on a regular basis- like when tax time rolls around. It’s a painful process today, but the benefits will pay off handsomely down the road.
Know when to let go. There are regulations everywhere and it’s not getting any easier to navigate them all, or the many new ones coming. Small businesses are feeling the pressure more acutely as each one has a direct impact on their business model. According to the NFIB Research Foundation Study, regulations force project cancellations, abandonment and significant adjustment to project plans. How does a small business owner tackle them to stay compliant while still focusing on their company? The best option might be to outsource this task, or bring in someone on a short term basis to tackle it for you. After all, this is a moving target and maybe getting an expert in short term will give you one less thing to worry about.
Maneuver with skill. The steps being taken to spur growth of small businesses can most appropriately summed up in one word: confused. On one hand, they may appear beneficial. However, when looking closer, are they? The corporate tax rate is slated to drop to 28% from 35% to spur growth. On the flip side, any small business over 50 employees is going to need to provide health insurance. Will what’s saved in taxes go to health insurance costs? Some companies might choose to stay at 49 employees just to save costs. However, that’s not a good long term strategy. A better one might be to hire your relative, bring on short term contractors or even move out of state. Managing your business will require looking at it holistically – with the adeptness to change fast and be able to have the right buttons to turn on/off easily. These buttons could be ones like hiring that 50th employee, outsourcing production, or even forgoing investment in new equipment.
Become a Balancing Expert: As a small business owner, you need to not only continue to run your business effectively, but also continue to master new things coming. Many of the answers you find on your quest for certainty and clarity may be found in unlikely places- from peers who’ve made mistakes you can learn from, your own mishaps, or even from that part time expert you had to hire to help you navigate the new health care laws or business regulations. Whatever you do, don’t sit back and hope for clarity or an easy break. It’s not likely to come soon in this dynamic business climate. Put yourself in control instead.
About the Author:
Jennifer Schulze is a small business owner in San Francisco, California. She also helps companies manage their small business challenges at SAP, where she markets software that aids small and midsize companies in running better.