There is much discussion about the importance and power of small business in political, media, and business circles. Collectively, we are seen as a major driver of the economy, yet many of us have struggled over the past couple of years. While the economy continues to be sluggish, my firm has been fortunate to grow each year. I’ve given much thought to those factors with the greatest impact on retaining and securing new customers—both in light of what I can control and marketplace influencers that I cannot. Here are five insights I’ve gained in the process:
1. It’s about the customer. If you aren’t meeting the needs of your customers, there is no reason for your company to exist. Be sure to understand what your customers need and how your skills and resources enable you to meet their needs. Companies that insist on service methods based on their own preferences and ease will lose out to small businesses that are willing to adapt to their customers’ needs.
2. Be reliable. When you say you are going to do something, deliver on your promise. It may sound like common sense, but actually doing it is not as common as you may think.
3. Be financially prudent, but don’t stop spending. During tough times, it is easy to stop spending money. But it is essential that you still spend what it takes to effectively serve your customers and ensure that they are thinking about you when they have to make their spending decisions. You have to find smart ways to cut costs while still providing quality customer service and staying visible to your customers. For example, involve employees in peer training rather than paying for external education or install Skype to have face time with clients who are long-distance.
4. Be strategic. Not all customer prospects are equally good. As the economy changes, so should your business development strategy. Match your services and products to your customers and determine which industries and companies may have the greatest need for your services in the current business climate.
5. Build a strong team. You need your employees and contractors to perform at their best. It is very important to foster teamwork in a small business environment and communicate openly about the business’s goals, expectations, resources, challenges, and opportunities.
Chief Executive Officer
Red Arrow Logistics
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