By Ron Consolino
Small business owners today know one thing for sure: conditions on the business playing field can change rapidly. Buyer moods can shift, and proven marketing strategies may not seem to work any more. The technology that seemed cutting edge at one point is now outdated; or worse, obsolete.
An important key to successfully piloting a small business now and in the years ahead will be embracing new ways of thinking. My SCORE colleague and successful businessman, Irwin Miller, puts it this way, “If it ain’t broke, fix it!” If it works today, it may not work tomorrow because the environment is always changing. You need the attitude that whatever is done today, can always be done better.
Anticipating trends can be extremely valuable in keeping you current on everything from sales strategies and customer desires to technology tools and the general economy. As your business grows, change will be inevitable and small business owners should constantly look ahead and seek out ways to shake things up. The more you test the winds of change, the better your chances of success down the road.
Truisms like “stick to what your business does best” are outmoded. If you want your business to grow or just survive, consider that past business traditions and processes might only hold you back. Trying new approaches is vital.
To get ideas about new products, services or markets talk to your customers and suppliers, attend trade association meetings, and read trade journals and other materials. Anticipating trends in the business environment is not easy but is essential in remaining successful over the long term.
Not all customers are created equal. Some are more valuable and loyal than others, and those are the ones you should lavish the most attention on with special savings and service offers.
Just as your customers put pressure on you, you should challenge your suppliers to find ways to reduce their prices, improve their delivery times, or evolve their materials or services to better meet your changing requirements.
Advances in technology will continue to radically change how small companies do business. You will need to keep up. Small business owners who know how to acquire and manage information will achieve the most success. Capturing and analyzing data about customer needs, wants, behavior and how they use your product or service is becoming increasingly critical.
And don’t expect loyalty from employees without giving them something in return. Employees are looking for ways to enhance their skills and grow their careers. Our society is becoming ever more mobile, so, if you don’t or can’t help them, they will seek opportunities elsewhere.
Ron Consolino is a business counselor for SCORE, a non-profit association whose volunteers help start small businesses and reach new levels of success in existing businesses. Send questions or volunteer enquiries to email@example.com, or call 713-773-6565, or visit www.scorehouston.org.