Business advice can be like trees in a forest; there’s so many it’s hard to know which ones are important. But consider this: advice you hear repeatedly is probably important, so keep listening, learning and evolving your business by taking cues from other’s. This list of business advice includes some basics and just may help you get through tough times.
1 Have a Plan: And use it. A good rule off thumb is to plan out a whole year in advance: When are you going to offer specials? How much do you hope to clear by certain dates? When do you want to hire? Whatever it is try, follow the habits of many successful people and write it down.
2 Change Your Plan: That’s right, the plan you wrote down six months ago should be used as a guide to measure whether your ideas and predictions worked or not. Change things not working by re-doubling your efforts or perhaps using new strategies.
3 Always Ask Questions and re-evaluate what you’re doing. Don’t sit back while your competition finds new ways to out-compete with you. Scour the Internet for ideas to improve your business; join local business associations and compare notes, trends and strategies with other business people around you. Ask your clients how you’re doing.
4 Always Try to Improve. If you think your business is perfect, you’re making a mistake. At least try new things once in a while to see if your marketing, or your website, office procedures, etc. could be made to work better for you. A deal site (like BizSaves) might make it cheaper to find and try new ideas
5 Trust Your Customers and listen and look for trends in buying or repeat purchases. Abandoned shopping carts, returned items, no referral business or a host of other things are people trying to tell you something. Be aware and change.
6 Be Kind to Strangers: OK, the customer is not always right, but it behooves you to take the high road and never be angry or mean to anyone; you never know who might hear about your outburst.
7 Love Your Clients: Speaking of strangers; remember they are the reason for you being in business; they make your business happen. Cherish them secretly; be gracious publicly, and always try to make their experience with you so rewarding they’ll tell all their friends.
8 Love your Vendors: More people without whom your business would not work. Someday you may need a favor or a special delivery; never overlook the importance of good relations with the vendors you count on.
9 Love Your Employees: OK, promise, this is the last “Love” one. Most employees work harder, stay more committed and produce more with praise and constructive criticism. Sure sometimes you have to straighten someone out and even fire them, but coaxing people to excellence is almost always more effective than threatening them or yelling.
10 Connect With Your Competition: This may sound strange, but reaching out with a phone call or note to a new competitor is a good way to measure the threat they pose and if they have some secret weapon. At the least it will let them know you’re watching them, and you’re confident enough to not be afraid of them.
11 Support Your Community: It never hurts to hug back the community which has given your business a chance. Sponsor a holiday food drive; give a free lecture about your field at the local library; join the local Lions club or business organization. Be visible.
12 Talk Up Your Business: Always have business cards; at gatherings give friendly advice in your field, use email signatures that have links, etc. Don’t overlook the contact that might refer your next big client.
13 Know When to Stop. Don’t talk people to death: you want to quickly inform and tease them about your business, not drone on. It’s always better to leave them wanting more; not wishing you would go away.
14 Volunteer a Class: Teaching a class about running your own small business could be of real use to the community. It can also help cement you into the local landscape.
15 Use Your SBA. Your local Small Business Administration office is full of seasoned business people in your area that are a wealth of helpful information, contacts and resources. Contact them and participate.
16 Stay Positive. Sometimes easier said then done, but studies have shown that optimistic people tend to handle conflict better and make wiser decisions (as well as live longer). If you’re naturally a gloomy person, at least don’t let your clients see it. A smile actually makes you feel better. Any problem can be solved.
17 Don’t Do Everything. Unless you’re a solo violinist, learn to trust people and benefit from their strengths, especially to compliment your weaknesses. Seek out a great accountant, or carpenter or marketing expert to guide you. You can’t be the best at everything. Focus on your core business.
What’s your best advice?
Mark Hess is a marketer specializing in helping small businesses find and use modern, growth enhancing marketing, products and services. His company, BizSaves.com offers the best of the web.