Business Mastery: Smart Strategies Every Business Owner Needs to Promote, Protect and Prosper

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1 Business Mastery: Smart Strategies Every Business Owner Needs to Promote, Protect and Prosper Susan Wilson Solovic Sponsored by: AT&T 2012 Susan Wilson Solovic, all rights reserved

2 Business Mastery: Smart Strategies Every Business Owner Needs to Promote, Protect and Prosper Do you ever wonder why some businesses flourish while others flounder? One of the biggest reasons is most small business owners don t understand the critical business fundamentals that it takes to grow a successful and sustainable business. I work with small business owners just like you, and most of the time when a business is struggling there s a weakness in one of the key business fundamentals. This ebook outlines six of the critical areas every business owners needs to understand in order to promote, protect and prosper. All of these areas work interdependently and a weakness in any one can minimize your ability to succeed. If you d like to know more about any of these principles, you ll find me on AT&T s Networking Exchange Blog. Master Your Attitude The mind is a powerful tool. If you think negatively about your business, your customers, your employees, the economy, etc., you re sure to get negative results. Our internal beliefs are reflected in our external results. So before you dig any deeper, make sure you have the right attitude toward business success. * Self-Talk. What are you telling yourself about your business? It s tough for many small businesses in today s economy, but it doesn t mean you can t succeed. Some of the most successful brands have started in down economies. The founders of companies such as Federal Express, Apple and Southwest Airlines, didn t fret over the things they couldn t control. Rather they adjusted their attitude and focused on a way to succeed despite current economic circumstances. Whatever your business challenges are today, there are ways to work around the obstacles. It s never about what you don t have, it s what you do have. Change your attitude -- change your results. * Stake Your Claim for Success. Establish a bold vision for success and tell the world what you intend to do. Don t keep it a secret. Shout it out. The more boldly you share your vision, the greater the chances of success. I remember when I decided I wanted to write a book. I began telling people, I m going to write a book. Then I researched the process and submitted a proposal to several publishers. When I finally signed the contract, I realized Wow! Now I really have to write a book. And I did it. But if I hadn t boldly staked my claim for success, I m not sure that first book would have ever happened. * Be a Constant Learner. You know the old saying; there are two things in life that are for certain -- death and taxes. Well actually there s one more thing -- change. Nothing is constant in the world and change is happening at lightning speed. As a business owner, you can t become stagnate. You must embrace change and be a constant learner. Running your business today the same way you did yesterday won t 2

3 work. You must be an innovator -- continually enhancing your product or service offer. Expanding your knowledge base is one way to stay a step ahead of your competition. Master Your Team Who invented the light bulb? If you said Thomas Edison, you d only be partly correct. Edison never took credit for solely inventing the light bulb. He acknowledged it took a team of diverse talent with a passion for excellence. To invent your successful business, you need a diverse team of players who augment your skill set and who also want to stake a claim for success. * The Right People. The key to building a successful team is to identify the right people and then put them in the right seats. Too often small businesses settle for a warm body instead of a rock star performer. It may take longer and cost more to find that top performer for your team, but it s worth every penny. An A player can dramatically affect your company s productivity and profitability. * Build an ACE Team. Even with the right people in the right seats, if you don t leverage their skills, your business won t succeed. I recommend creating what I call ACE teams -- Accountable, Collaborative and Empowered. * Accountable. Every member of your team should be accountable for the overall results of your business. Two things that grate on my nerves is someone who adopts the attitude It s not my job or who waits for direction before taking action. A small growth organization needs a team filled with people who understand their role and who understand how and why they are accountable for the company s success. If your business loses a sale, it s everyone s responsibility, not just the sales representative. Help your team understand your business model and your vision. Share results openly with them. Allow them to be invested in your success. * Collaborative. A strong team is collaborative. Everyone works together to get the job done. So when you hire a team member, make sure they are a good fit with your company culture and committed to excellence. One misfit can destroy the collaborative nature of a team and minimize your ability to succeed. * Empowered. Finally, even with a stable of A players, if you don t give them the power to make things happen, you won t achieve the success you desire. At Facebook, the mantra is Done is better than perfect. As I noted above, change is the one thing you can count on in business. If you micromanage your team or project an attitude of it s my way or the highway, you ll minimize the results your team can produce. The person who figures out how to harness the collective genius of the people in his organization will blow the competition away, Harvard Business Review. 3

4 Master Your Money Every business owner agrees, cash is king. After all, you re in business to make money, right? But not all sales are good sales. If not managed correctly, you could be in the money one week and out of business the next. Here are some considerations to help you be a sustainable business. * Don t put all your eggs in one basket. So you landed a big elephant. You re getting tons of business. (No pun intended.) In fact, this one customer is consuming most of your bandwidth. Then suddenly that customer decides to go to a competitor or worse -- goes out of business. Now what? Most likely, you ll go out of business too. I ve seen it happen numerous times, including to me in one of my earlier businesses. You can t put all your eggs in one basket. My recommendation is to never let any customer be more than 30 or 35 percent of your business portfolio. * Don t be the bank. Most businesses today must extend some form of credit to customers. But what happens when that customer doesn t pay. It s tough to maintain a relationship with your customer and play collection agency too. So it s important to establish clear credit policies in advance. Make sure your customer understands the terms of your agreement and put it in writing. Try to get some money upfront if you can. Then don t allow a customer to get too far behind in payment. Don t be shy about reminding them. Keep the communication channel open. And don t be afraid to stop work if the amount owed to your business builds up. * Don t Undersell Yourself. An understandable and common mistake many small businesses make is underselling their product or service. Everyone wants to get the business so you lower your prices to make your offering attractive. But that s the wrong approach. People will pay for what they value. And if you re competing on price, you are nothing more than a commodity. Your brand will suffer and so will your cash flow. Make sure you articulate a strong value proposition and then ask for what you re worth. One of my clients increased her prices by 50 percent and her business soared. You can do it too. Master Your Process Growth organizations recognize the key to sustainability hinges on the development of systems. Successful small businesses are built with a product or service that is teachable, repeatable and can be consistently delivered. In other words, the business is bigger than the business owner himself. Technology helps small companies today develop systems that years ago might only have been available to larger enterprises. Yet many smaller firms fail to embrace technology. Are you one of them? 4

5 Even if you aren t the technology expert, there are excellent resources on the web to help you understand how technology tools can help you build processes that streamline your organization and help you become more productive and profitable. * Cloud computing solutions. Small businesses can benefit even more than large organizations from cloud computing solutions. You can get access to the most sophisticated and cutting-edge technology at an affordable cost because you pay only for what you need. Plus it s scalable. When your business grows, you can seamlessly add additional resources based on your current needs. Finally, and most importantly, your critical business information is protected in the event of a disaster. Because it s stored in the cloud, your information is available from anywhere at any time. * Mobile Applications. Small business owners no longer need to be tethered to their offices or burning the midnight oil to catch up on administrative functions. Thanks to innovative mobile applications, you can run your business from your mobile device. There are myriad applications to help you manage your expenses, customer relations, fleet, sales and inventory. And because you can do it from your mobile device, you save time which means you can focus more on building your business. Master Your Brand Your brand should have a personality all of its own. It should resonate with your market and project a strong message that helps you stand out from your field of competitors. What makes your business unique? Why should someone choose your company over a competitor? While many business owners think they know what their brand message is, they are often far off the mark. Your brand is more than your company name, logo and marketing material. It encompasses every aspect of your business from the way your phone is answered to the way you follow up with your customers. * Define Your Value Proposition. Strong brands stand for something. What is it you are really selling? Zappos sells happiness in a box, not shoes. Ace Hardware is all about helpfulness, not necessarily the hardware. So what business are you really in? What value do you offer your customers that they can t get anywhere else? I can t answer that for you. You ll need to listen to your market and your customers to determine what unique need you fill. Once you ve defined it then build your brand around it. * Deliver On Your Brand Promise. Once you ve defined your value proposition, make sure your brand message is consistent throughout your organization. Communicating your brand externally is important, but it s equally important to communicate it internally. Everyone in your organization should clearly understand your brand and for what your business stands. The delivery of your brand promise should be evident in every area of your business. If your brand mantra is customer service, and someone calls your office and can t get through, it hurts your brand. Unmet expectations can undo expensive marketing campaigns. So make sure you re delivering at every point of contact. 5

6 Master You Relationships Why are you in business? I imagine many of you said to make money. Actually, we re all in business to serve our customers. Building trusted relationships with our customers is critical to our success. How do you stay in touch with and engage with your customers. You know the old adage; Out of sight out of mind. Once again, technology helps small businesses stay in touch with their customers and build loyal relationships via social media, marketing and mobile marketing -- all for little or no cost. Did you know that approximately 91 percent of adults engage in social media regularly? Today it s not a question of whether you should use social media or not, it s whether or not you re out-performing your competitors. People do business with people they like and trust. By engaging your customers and providing them with useful information, they ll see you as the credible expert who has their best interest in mind. * Give Customers a WOW Experience. In today s competitive market, good isn t good enough. You ve got to give customers something extra special to keep them coming back. Nearly 70 percent of Americans are willing to spend over 10 percent more with companies that provide exceptional customer service. What can you do to make your customers feel special? I recently had coupons from two similar shoe discounters. When I presented them to each cashier, I realized the coupons had expired. One eagerly accepted the coupon while the other refused. Guess where I won t be doing my shoe shopping, and imagine how many people I told about both the good and the bad experiences. Your customers can become your most powerful marketing resources if you give them a WOW experience. * Listen to Your Customers. Customers are talking about your brand in a myriad of platforms today and you need to listen. Customer review sites such as Yelp shouldn t be ignored. An unhappy customer review needs to be addressed professionally and in a timely fashion. And don t forget Twitter. Make sure you are monitoring comments via this social media platform. The company FLOWERS responds to Twitter comments within five minutes. It s an excellent customer service tool and can help you turn a negative situation into a positive one. * Reach and Teach. Whether through social media, e-newsletters, webinars or in-person presentations, become a source of reliable information for your customers. Remember, it s about building trust. If you communicate with your customers regularly with pertinent information, they ll reward you in return. The new marketing paradigm isn t about selling, it s about informing. Keep the dialogue going just as you do with your good friends. Be there for your customers. 6

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