Leadership Tips – Small Business Requires Faster Decisions

Introduction

This leadership tip has something in it for managers everywhere, but it’s particularly targeted at those of you with large company backgrounds who have made career moves to smaller businesses that you own and/or manage.

My background is primarily in large scale management of IT organizations. The companies where I’ve worked were places where changing a process or behavior took some time. I always thought I was quicker than most, and action oriented. As a small business owner, I found I had to be much quicker.

I’ll offer this leadership tip in the form of a story. It’s a story of how taking your eye of the ball can cost you money, and worse than that can cost you customers.

My First Small Business

I opened a small personal services business. It was located about an hour from my home office, and with all my other commitments I knew how important hiring the right manager would be for this shop. It took a few tries, but I found one with a good background and references, and she seemed to quickly develop loyalty to the business and to me.

For the first six months we grew slowly but steadily. We were behind plan in terms of customers and revenue, but the trend was up. There were a few staff issues, but overall turnover was okay. I decided to invest a little more in marketing to try and get more new faces in the door.

Over the next three months, customer counts were mostly flat, and average sale was actually down a little. Concerned, I visited the shop a few times more than usual. The people were not as upbeat as they had been. When asked about that, they attributed their moods to less business and less enjoyment of the job. I wondered about seasonality, the economy, and whether I needed even more marketing investment.

Want to know what was really going on? My trusted manager had some personal problems that I had not been aware of before, and was exhibiting some totally unacceptable behaviors:

  • Criticizing staff in front of customers
  • Intimidating staff, letting them know they were at risk of being fired, and telling them I was out to get them.
  • Stealing money by voiding transactions and other means

The Damages

I’m still figuring out how much money all this cost me, but the money is only today’s problem. The customers I’ve lost are a more serious longer term issue, because many of them won’t be coming back.

When I figured out what was going on, I moved quickly to fire the manager. There were only two problems:

  1. I was too late, and there had been several months of damage done;
  2. There was collateral damage. I had to fire two other employees who had adopted the attitude and behaviors of the manager.

Today, I’m working on putting together data to see if I can assemble a case for prosecuting the employees and the manager. An even higher priority, though, is the work I’m doing to recruit and orient new staff and develop a recovery plan for our customer service reputation.
This leadership tip was a painful lesson that I hope never to repeat.

Small Business Strategy: 4 Vital Tips for Success

Your small business strategy rests directly on the foundation of your marketing system; and if you don’t have a marketing system and you’re not planning on creating one, then you have no small business strategy. End of.

If being successful in business is important to you, then there is no alternative but to take marketing very seriously indeed, and to educate yourself to become very, very good at it. Frankly, the level of marketing expertise I see from most small business owners is embarrassing.

The furthest most of them go is to have some fuzzy notion about the need for more business, and then to leave the rest to chance, hoping, wishing and even praying for punters to walk through the door or hit their website and buy something from them. But hope is a rotten strategy for success.

If you want to enjoy the advantages of a successful marketing system, you need to understand most of what you listen to, believe, and probably think you know about marketing and small business strategy is incorrect. The business world is dominated by marketing myths, and they serve no one but a few phonies.

Strategy idea # 1: Marketing is a money maker

Most small business strategy is curbed by an unscientific “marketing budget”. But why? If you’re marketing properly, then you should be getting an expected positive ROI from everything you do. So… why would you limit your marketing according to some number a bean counter has pulled out of his butt? Bottom line: when your marketing is making money like this, and it’s measurable, trackable and predictable, be ready to plough back as much as you have into it.

Strategy tip # 2: Grab the keys to the Mint!

OK, now let’s pretend you have this stupendous marketing system and you know from experience there’s a 90 % probability every time you run it you’re going to make a handsome profit. A nice place to be, right?

Right. (it’s eminently practical for your business, too).

Nope. If you had any sense at all you’d keep pushing that button like a rat with a wire in its head giving it the shots of “happy juice”

Strategy tip # 3: Look before you leap
But, be smart about this. Start with small tests and monitor responses like a hawk watching a mouse. And even when you have a process that works, don’t wager more than you can stand losing, because the unpredictable happens, and you don’t want to be cleared out by rotten luck falling on bad judgement.

The safe thing to do is determine your evil “budget” as a fraction of profits, so the more you bring in, the more money you can spend on your marketing.

More than once small business owners have said to me they can’t do any more marketing this year on the grounds that they don’t have the budget for it, even though their marketing is making them a profit. Some years ago, right at the beginning of the 2007 recession, I heard a real estate agent say she was stopping all of her advertising, even though it was the only thing bringing in business. Now THAT is insane..

Strategy tip # 4: How to make it pay

So how do you know when your marketing is working?

When it’s making you money.

How do you know that?

By ruthlessly and conscientiously tracking and measuring everything you do.

So the “secret” here is to ensure that your small business strategy is designed in a way to let you track every sale to the marketing activity that brought it in. Right down to every email, postcard and sales call. You can never ever have too much information about this, since it’s the difference that’ll make you wealthy.

Small Business Marketing Strategies

Small business marketing strategies identify and implement the goals of the company. A sound marketing strategy is inevitable for the success of any business. The strategy helps to focus the marketing on the business target. Small business marketing strategies include market research, identification of customer groups and target competitors and efforts to tailor the product pricing. The success of the strategy relies on the proper implementation of the formulated methods. It also judges the effectiveness of the marketing plan. Small businesses have unique marketing strategies to meet customer needs, while offering maximum profitability with minimum investment. Attractive marketing materials and ambient after sales support are also a part of small business marketing strategy.

Small business marketing strategies consist of three basic steps. They are increase the number of customers, increase the average transaction amount and increase the frequency of repurchase. They start with client problems and demonstrate methods to rectify it. This will help to build a network of clients. Consistent after sales support also enhances the popularity and credibility of the product. Marketing strategies also assess the profitability of an approach before actual promotion, to avoid the pitfalls.

Small business marketing strategies include various options to increase business revenue. They try to acquire more customers, sell more expensive products, come up with more profitable products and persuade each customer to buy more. The marketing strategy is developed according to the nature of the product or service. The business concern will tailor the product option according to the target group. Thus there are premier versions for those who choose expensive goods, comprehensive plans for profit seeking customers and a few basic products. The quality and reliability of products ultimately determine customer satisfaction.

Small businesses also introduce unique marketing strategies to differentiate a company from its competitors. Cause-related marketing is an attractive strategy that helps to gain customer loyalty and media coverage. The association with an organization helps to profit from the situation without much financial burden. Referral marketing is the most powerful, cost-effective marketing strategy. Promotions and offers intimated to the existing database through regular newsletters or mail alerts will help.

Small business marketing strategies are a summary of the goals of marketing plans. They provide guidelines and motivate companies to achieve a competent sales record.

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