Small Business Survival
In today's economic climate, the first priority for the small business entrepreneur is survival. A glance at newspapers, business journals, or cable news channels reveals a succession of corporations striving to stay on top of their game, and often failing, to slow the growth of outsourcing or to show real growth within their market space. In such times, knowing how to achieve long-term success is more critical than ever.
The most important thing today's small businesses can do is expose their organizations to critical self-analysis. Small businesses survive not by competing head-on with global corporations, but by pursuing the market niches larger operators ignore. Such a strategy requires constant attention to detail, necessitating self-analysis well beyond the operational level; it is crucial that everything from the basic business model down to the operation of the mailroom is subject to rigorous study. This means determining what, precisely, the business is aiming to offer its customers, how this differentiates it from its competitors, and how well it is delivering on these core products and services.
Much of this analysis can be readily conducted by the business itself, but a substantial part of a company's success is down to perception ? how customers (existing or potential) view its products, services and overall performance. However, determining such perceptions is notoriously difficult for companies that typically lack personnel trained in the specifics of marketing, public relations and advertising.
The most obvious alternative, turning to outside experts ? dedicated market research companies, for example ? is often impossible when money is tight and budgets small, but this does not mean entrepreneurs can ignore the example set by the most successful corporations. What almost all business success stories have in common is a relentless commitment to factors that reinforce competitive advantage: product research and development; marketing, advertising and public relations activities; and customer relations.
What the most successful companies have recognized is that survival hinges on two separate, yet intertwined factors ? being the best, and being recognized as being the best.
Being the best requires a commitment to excellence in all areas. That means small business leaders cannot shy away from hard decisions, where employment is concerned for example. Staff that consistently fail to perform must be replaced with those that will. The smaller the company, the more difficult such actions may be to take, but they are essential. Similarly, leaders need to ensure they have staff who are prepared to do what it takes to deliver results, no matter if that means asking for a commitment from staff far greater than business rivals demand of their employees.Being the best also requires a company to recognize when it is lacking in excellence in key areas, and to identify whether that excellence can be delivered through hiring new employees, retraining existing staff, or seeking outside counsel. Money invested in improving core business competencies is never better spent than in tough times like today, because it directly impacts productivity, sales, and perceptions.
Making sure a company is recognized as being the best is often seen by small business entrepreneurs as secondary in importance to "real" issues such as production, distribution and sales. The common viewpoint is that if the product is "right" the customers will buy it. Yet it is precisely this attitude that dooms many businesses, regardless of the quality of their products or services. Small businesses need to give as much attention to their public relations, marketing and advertising strategies as large corporations.
Many entrepreneurs cry that this is simply beyond their means ? they cannot contemplate spending tens of thousands of dollars on "fancy" market analyses from specialized researchers. The argument is valid, but consider this: if marketing, advertising and public relations dollars are in short supply, how critical is it that those dollars are well spent? A small business can far less afford just one marketing effort to miss its target than can a huge international corporation.
What small businesses must do is learn the core skills marketing experts take for granted. They need to take every opportunity to speak to customers, potential customers and vendors to uncover how well the company is perceived. Likewise, a simple analysis of publicly available materials (such as census data) can help a small business better identify key target markets, reducing the waste of valuable resources inherent in blindly blanketing an area with its advertising. Such an analysis might lack the sophistication of a professional market analysis, but it can make the difference between success and failure ? and there is nothing to stop the company utilizing a more professional analysis in the future when it is growing strongly.
It comes back to the issue of self-analysis. If a company has a clear vision of where it wants to go, the task of identifying its market, and the optimal ways to attack that target, is much easier. This allows for a concentration of limited resources where they can best help deliver success. Such a focus of effort lies at the heart of corporate survival, no matter if the company is large or small.
Laura Aldridge is CEO of Aldridge Corporation, a minority, woman-owned strategic marketing communication & public relations firm. Big deal. That title sounds powerful, but don't be fooled. She readily admits you might catch her in the line of a local Los Angeles area store, playing with her husband and kids at the lake, coaching her daughter's cheerleading squad, watching youth football practices, or art show.
And on occasion she finds time to write articles on various topics, writing training material for technology based applications, speak at a conference or two, designing just about anything for almost anybody, making calls and trying to get her client's all the press and exposure they can handle, and serve on the board of directors for some great organizations. She's worked for a couple of great companies that saw the value of her ideas and style; she has won an award or two. But don't let the "powerful" title trick you; she's just "Laura" to most people.
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Many of us have noticed how some nearby communities seem to be "wealthier" than other nearby communities. They seem to have more shopping markets, more restaurants, more choices; items often cost more in these communities than they do in surrounding areas, yet the affluence remains where the prices are high; people are drawn to these communities, bringing even more resources and more wealth.
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American small business is again in transition. Many employees, now working from home, are no longer tied to a geographic office and the woes of commuting. This is a relatively new phenomenon with hints of explosive sector growth in the days ahead. As this turbulent economy has forced downsizing, offshore restructuring and closures in large companies, many new entrepreneurs have been born. These are people, who instead of tirelessly attempting to find new employment and possibly enduring the same fate as previously experienced, are now starting small businesses and enjoying the benefits and perils of self-employment.
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Auto Detailers and Competitive Aspects of Automobile Detailing
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Do You Really Need a Toll-Free Number for Your Business?
Do You Really Need a Toll-Free Number for Your Business? The answer is YES! If you run a home business, whether it's a direct sales business, a part-time venture, or if you work full-time from home, if you don't have a toll-free number, you could be leaving money on the table.
Fleet Washing Operations Manual Sample Outline
In the Truck Washing Business every single type of vehicle is washed differently. If you are going to run a mobile onsite fleet washing business with multiple trucks in multiple cities you will in fact need a comprehensive manual to keep your crews and equipment running at an optimum. Below you will see a sample outline to assist you in constructing a washing procedure manual, which will include many different types of fleet vehicles.
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Pressure Washing Business; Steam Cleaner Fuel Maintenance
It is essential that you fully understand how the fuel system works on your hot water pressure washer or steam cleaner. If you mess it up it could catch on fire and if you are not right there to put it out, you could potentially lose your machine. This type of equipment has been known to explode and Hydrotek out of California actually has a CD Rom video of a machine exploding when a fuel leak is ignited just to show operators what could happen. We recommend the Hydrotek Hot Water Pressure Washers. Some people prefer Landa, but we have tried them all.
Covenants Not To Compete: Another Franchise Quandary
Imagine that you have operated a successful franchise business for the past several years. Your franchise agreement's term expires in the near future and you are contemplating whether renewing the agreement would be a wise business decision. In the past couple of years it has become all too apparent that you are receiving little, if any, benefit or assistance from your franchisor. Yet, you continue to pay the franchisor thousands of dollars each year in royalties and other fees. You therefore decide that it would make better "business sense" to operate independently after expiration of your franchise term. After all, you are very familiar with the business and have worked extremely hard in developing and establishing a solid client base to enable you to continue running a profitable and prosperous operation.
How to Raise Your Fees and Thrill Your Customers
Think the best way to get more customers is to have the lowest prices in town? Think again. Think the best way to create a successful business is to try to appeal to everyone? Wrong again.
Who Does Over Disclosure Really Hurt In Franchising?
Costs of over regulation and over disclosure end up hurting the very consumer that the regulatory bodies are trying to protect. Over disclosure and over regulation is in itself the worst evil of civilization, as it stifles free enterprise, innovation and free markets. In franchising the disclosure documents have in fact grown to over 200 plus pages in length on average. You should be happy you are not a tree in the forest right now.
Passion Is Key To A Successful Business
Passion. Passion alone can make your business successful. As an entrepreneur, you are a passionate person. For why would anyone invest such incredible amounts of time and energy on something they have no REAL desire to do? If you do such a thing, then it's just bullshit. You have built an unreal, superficial way work environment and based on that you most likely are not very satisfied in what you do.
Home Based Franchise; What About Future Expansion?
As a franchisor I am always asked by new and existing franchisees about future expansion. I find this to be a most wonderful question because I admire the strength of today's entrepreneur. With all and over regulation we still see hard chargers willing to battle the Tsunami of laws, rules and regulations as the debris rushes ashore. Indeed, with the Hurricane of lawyers presently in practice and Earthquake stampeding new attorneys getting out of law school, it is amazing the new warriors of free enterprise still press. Yes, in fact the modern entrepreneur has more floating and flying debris then ever before in our nations history. The of course want to shoot all the lawyers and regulators who have never made an honest dollar in their entire lives, yet no one has that much ammo and it is time consuming to run down all the much mold and slime.
Franchise Rule to be Revised; Why?
The FTC, Federal Trade Commission, is considering modifying the franchise rule. So far it has be a ten-year process; just imagine working that slow in your business? In 1995, 1997 and 1999 when the comments were first considered and taken in, which spans a ten-year period. When you combine those comments with this current rule making period they may have broken the record for the longest rule making session since voting on the slavery issue; one heck of a long rule making period by any means.
Small Business - Is The Accounting Profession Ripping Them Off?
My 16 year-old daughter said, "Gee Dad! You look just like an accountant" And she wasn't being complimentary. Accountants are perceived to be boring, stodgy and conservative.Over the years we've been the butt of many jokes. I've heard them all.Why did the accountant cross the road? Because he looked up the file and that's what they did last year! Ha Ha!What do accountants use as a contraceptive? Their personality! Ha Ha!"Why do accountants become accountants? They don't have the charisma to be undertakers! Ha Ha!What do they call an accountant at the bottom of the sea? A bloody good start! Ha Ha!I think I am the exception.That's why I've begun to call myself a business strategist and counselor. "You're still an accountant," says teenage daughter. I am still an accountant and I'm still as passionate about it as the day I started. Because accountants have an impact on people's lives. The advice we give changes people's businesses which in turn changes their lives. I'm excited in my role of accountant.Accounting is not stodgy. Accounting is exciting. Accounting is cool! My ambition is to become the "cool dude of accounting". (do they still say "dude", do they still say "cool". Remember that song: When I say, "cool, man, cool, I don't mean cool, man, cool, I mean you leave me cold, Jack")We were throwing some ideas around with some of our clients as we do from time to time, looking for that unique benefit that our firm gives to our clients. That unique something that distinguishes us from other accounting practices.One said, "You have helped me to improve my business. Not only am I making more profits and have more to spend, but I also have more time to spend away from the business. The more time I spend at home with my family the happier my life is. And the happier I am the happier my wife and children seem to be. When my wife is happy all sorts of good things happen ? even our sex life improves. That's it! You can advertise that using Kelvyn Peters CPA and Associates improves your sex life"I don't think so! Sorry, we haven't accepted his idea. You're completely on your own in that department, but we can help you improve your business and consequently your life. And your goal might not be extra profit but extra time for living! We know we can because we are doing it for others.We repeat ourselves so often because the truth is the truth and there is only a limited number of ways to tell it. You've heard this before. If you are spending every waking moment in a hassle about your business, there must be a better way. There is! Accountants have been ripping off their clients for yearsIn 1973 I attended a workshop for accountants at the Finance Management Research Center then headed by Dr Keith Cleland. The workshop was intended to drag participants into the 20th century."Accountants have been ripping off their clients for years", he told us. The 25 participants were shocked. These represented vibrant accounting firms from all around Australia, both large firms and small. They were at the cutting edge of the industry. Otherwise they would not have been at this kind of workshop.To a person they resented that comment and one fellow wanted to punch him on the nose. (It wasn't me, but I would have held his coat).By the week's end we discovered how we were charging high fees for things that our clients couldn't understand, couldn't use and didn't need. At the same time we were neglecting the information that they did need to increase their profits and safeguard their businesses. 20 Years Later what's Changed? I attended a week long seminar hosted by CPA Australia in 1993 which was to train us in "client based accounting".Dr Cleland presented the initial module. He did not openly criticize accountants this time, after all, it was the CPA's hosting it, but he gave almost the same speech (same jokes, too) as he had 20 years before."These things aren't taught in Universities", he said, "so the accounting profession has mostly ignored them. They have let small business down but things are changing".Know-it-all, Kelvyn Peters had to jump to his feet and say that the doctor had said exactly the same thing 20 years ago. Where were the signs of change? Universities were still not teaching accountants how to help their clients."This seminar with CPA Australia and the suggestion they might make client based accounting a speciality is a good sign", he replied.10 Years Later?Nothing has changed. Our hopes have withered on the vine and small business must look elsewhere for help. Recently I was called in to assist an ailing restaurant. We were happy to work with their existing accountant. We'd rather do the fun stuff and let the accountant do the boring tax returns and compliance work. In this case the client insisted we take over the whole of the accounting function.The accountant was most unhappy. "They are difficult clients", he said, "I have kept the fee lower than it should be and I have done extra to help them".Indeed, he had! The financial statements were beautiful to behold with colored graphs and key ratios compared against industry average. (most accountants still don't do that.I had advised that both wages costs and cost of foodstuffs were too high. Our focus was to form tactics to reduce them."But I had already told them that", said the Accountant, "what do they need you for?'I told him that the client knew the kitchen wages were too high and what he wanted was for someone to show them how to reduce the wages in the kitchen."I can't do that", he said, "I'm an accountant". I would have to camp down there in the restaurant to see what's going on. And they wouldn't pay the fee".Yes they would. They were going to pay me.Most accountants see their role as being the provider of financial statements, cash-flow projections and tax returns, and there's the rub. Each of these is a tool not an end in itself. It's like giving the client a hammer and saw and telling him to go build a house. He needs more than the tools, he needs to be shown how to use them.Of course the client will complain about fees whatever the level if all he receives are not useful to him. Accountants generally are flat out preparing financial statements and tax returns. Meeting dead-lines. They haven't the time to 'smell the roses'. Anything that doesn't help meet a dead-line has to wait until later. Often its too late.I may still look like an accountant, even the cool dude of accounting, but there is nothing I like more than talking with a business owner about his business. There's nothing a business owner likes more than discussing his business and planning to make more money. It's great fun and he loves to pay me for it.
Do I Have to Do EVERYTHING Myself?!
The air in my client's office nearly crackled with her irritation. A scheduling snafu had left a client without important services. "I guess I just have to do everything myself," she ranted.
Discover How You Can Start Making Your Small Business Dream Come True
As a teenager I worked for my father's small business. At18 I worked for a small video rental business owned by twopartners; there were 4 employees. At 23 I worked for anauto body shop, the owner was from Greece; there were 8employees. At 25 I became CEO of my family's smallbusiness; we have 15 employees. Today, I own a 3-employeeautomotive repair shop; an online business; a promotionallicensing business and I still consult for my family'sbusiness.
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