The most important lesson that small businesses can learn from their larger cousins is to focus on long-term sustainability. Take these steps to transition from operating in default mode to operating with purposeful, well-informed actions.
Write and use a strategic business plan that’s based on a SWOT Analysis. The SWOT Analysis helps you identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for your business. The plan describes the specific actions you will take to achieve your goals and objectives. The plan gets the executive team, management, and staff on the same page with a commitment to results-oriented actions.
Develop a clear, consistent brand and relevant messages. Define what you most want people to know about you and find out how your target audiences perceive your company and services / products. Work to ensure that customers’ experiences match their expectations.
Be strategic in marketing and public relations. Base your marketing decisions on research not hunches. Focus on what you do well and don’t put scarce resources where they won’t generate results. Build awareness through community involvement and delivering on your brand promise.
Use SMART Objectives. S=Specific; be precise about what you will achieve. M=Measurable;; quantify what you will achieve; A=Achievable; it’s a bit of a stretch goal; R=Realistic; you have the people, dollars, material, and time to make it happen. T=Timed; by when you will achieve your objective.
Measure and track results. In addition to basic financial reporting, businesses need to measure customer segment growth, service / product quality, new service / product ROI, best and worst performing services / products (if you have multiple offerings), customer feedback, and trends. At a minimum, these data help you to accurately revise your strategic plan as needed, identify and address the need for service / product improvement, and identify and address any gaps in employee training.
Use technology to support your brand. An interactive website (with functionalities to sell services / products, provide valuable information through posted articles and links to relevant resources, show short video-clips to engage customers and prospects, capture visitor data for future communications), a social media program, e-announcements with valuable industry and company news, professional presentations, podcasts, and DVD/video brochures are examples of how a small business can cost-effectively reach more people, generate interest for employee recruitment, and grow beyond its local geography.
Establish appropriate strategic partnerships or alliances. These relationships help small businesses expand geographic reach, reduce costs through buying consortiums or resource sharing, expand networks for customers and suppliers, and provide you with access to subject matter experts who may otherwise not be available to you.
By staying focused on these essentials, a small business will have a good foundation for long-term business health.