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.

Marketing Tips – Small Business Pricing

Pricing is a key determinant in the decision making process customers use to purchase your product or service as well as a key element in determining the profitability of your business. Setting a price for your product or service that appeals to your target market and encourages them to buy is therefore an essential part of your business and marketing strategy.

Before determining your pricing strategy for your business it is important to consider the following:

Your Customer

An effective marketing strategy begins and ends with your customer. It is therefore important to establish how much your customers are willing to pay for your product or service, how sensitive your customers are to changes in price and how price discounting will affect the level of demand and profitability of your business.

Your Product or Service’s Features and Benefits

Unless you have a product or service that offers a unique or additional benefit, and you can communicate this benefit adequately to your target market, if your price is too high you may price yourself out of the market. Look at the features and benefits your product or service offers and how they compare to your competitors. Remember the benefits you provide can either be physical, emotional or both. For example, some customers may see a high price as equalling high quality and are therefore willing to pay a premium.

The Cost of Doing Business

Before setting your price you need to determine what your small business must charge for its product or service in order for you to make and sustain a profit. Look at what the cost and expenses are of doing business and what price you will need to sell at to ensure these expenses are covered. Unless you have a sustainable cost advantage, if your price is too low, your sales volume may not generate enough revenue to cover the costs associated with your business.

The Market and Your Competitors

Your competitors play an important role when setting your pricing strategy. For example, there may be competitors nearby where customers can compare prices so you may need to price match. If it is hard for your customers to compare prices you may be able to charge a premium.

Distribution Channels

Some customers may expect to pay a different price for a product or service depending on which distribution channel they use. For example, if a customer purchases a product over the internet or by mail they may expect to pay a lower price due to the elimination of the middle person i.e. the retailer.

Life Cycle of Your Product or Service

At different stages of your product or service life cycle you may change your pricing strategy to suite your business needs. For example, when you are launching a new product or service you may adopt a low price strategy to encourage trial and repurchase of your product/service on a regular basis. Alternatively if your product or service has a unique point of difference or high cost of production you may charge a premium over your competitors. As your product or service grows in customer awareness and credibility you may be able to sustain a price increase. Alternatively as sales increase, your production costs may be reduced and you may be able to pass on some of these savings in a price reduction or regular promotional offers.

(c) Marketing for Business Success Pty Ltd 2008

Key Small Business Tips for Success

Small business tips for starting your own business can put you on the path to financial success.

The SBA says that the term small business includes concerns that are organized to make a profit and have fewer than 500 employees. In this post, small business includes work at home, affiliate marketing, network marketing and online home based businesses, and I will explore small business tips to help you achieve your business goals. These tips will help you get customers and generate more sales quickly.

Here are key small business tips and questions to consider:

1. Why do you want to start a small business? Starting your own business requires commitment. So, don’t proceed to do so unless you are prepared for long hours and frustration while you are establishing your business. For many, enduring this is well worth the potential of financial security.

2. Will you market a product or service? A service business is one where you offer your expertise to clients. For a product business, you will need to offer a tangible product. Typically, a product business is more expensive to launch than a service business.

3. Do you have a simplified business plan? The thought of writing a business plan is intimidating to most aspiring entrepreneurs. However, it is possible to write a one-page plan that tells the what, who, how and where of your business. You should keep it simple. You can add details as you go. Just get it started.

4. Who is your customer? Describe your target customer in as much detail as possible. Know their needs and wants. Know how you can provide a solution to their problem. This profile will help you create a targeted marketing message and save you time and money in reaching prospects.

5. What is your pricing? Pricing is an art and a science. You need to cover your costs and generate a reasonable profit. Doing research to see what your competitors are charging can help.

6. Are you watching your costs? Many entrepreneurs tend to underestimate how long it will take for their small business to turn a profit. Don’t burden your business with too many costs too quickly. To keep costs to a minimum, hire interns and outsource or barter for services.

7. What’s your plan for getting customers? One of my coaches says the secret to business success is spending 85% of your time doing things that will lead to sales and 15% of your time doing everything else. You’ll need a marketing plan. How do you plan on attracting prospects and converting them to paying customers? Design your advertising to generate sales. Your advertising should always include an offer and an easy way for prospects to respond.

8. Are you using social media? More and more businesses are moving to social media because their prospects are on social media. Only about 25% of small businesses are using social media to build their business. So, creating a presence on social media will give you an edge. This typically means building a fan page on Facebook. There are many resources you can use to build a fan page.

Here are some small business tips to attract more customers online:

1. Be sure to add local content targeted for your specific area.
2. Make sure prospects can find you online and offline.
3. Be very clear about what your business offers.
4. Participate on social media consistently.
5. Watch what your competitors are doing. See what is working and what is not working.

These small business tips require you to be consistent. It takes persistence to establish a social media presence.

If you act on the small business tips above, you will increase your chances of success, you will effectively leverage your time, and promote your business profitably.