There is a fine line between success and failure when running a small business and many factors can tip the balance.
However, whatever your product or price margins, it is largely the way a business is run that determines how it will fare.
Small business owners who think like big business CEOs are far more likely to succeed than their less visionary counterparts.
Here are five strategic lessons to get you thinking big.
Take small steps to big success
Review progress on a monthly basis, and don’t veer off course.
At the start of the working year, large companies determine the targets they need to achieve to optimise performance and they structure their short term goals, projects and agendas accordingly.
A systematic approach is vital in the workings of a big corporation, but it can be easily applied to your small business.
Simply define what your goals are for the year and align your monthly and quarterly targets accordingly.
If one of your major aims for the year to improve your presence in the market, set yourself the target of doubling your email subscribers within three months and keep a weekly tally. Also, spend an extra few hours a week increasing your social media output.
Once you have set your goals for the year, it is vital that you allocate your resources accordingly.
Many small business owners fail to keep an eagle eye on how they are using time and money. When these factors are squandered ineffectually, profit margins inevitably slip.
Consistent assessment of what you are spending money on and how you are allocating work hours will help you streamline your enterprise like a slick big-business corporation.
For example, if you spend two hours a day raising invoices and chasing payment, invest in a new accounting package that will automate these tasks and spend the extra time focusing on the development of your business goals.
Take on the right talent
In large corporations, roles are clearly defined and only people qualified to have that title will be taken on.
A Chief Finance Officer will not be expected to introduce new technologies to the company, just as a Creative Director would not be asked to manage human resources.
All too often, the reverse approach is taken in small businesses. One person may be hired to manage all the tasks that the owner doesn’t have time to do, but this can be ineffectual in practice.
Processes such as managing the website, writing press releases and book-keeping are vital to the success of your business and can’t always be fudged together.
Find staff who are well equipped for these roles and who can do them efficiently. You will save time and money, and, moreover, your business will reap the benefits of their expertise.
Grab your slice
In the corporate world, identifying and keeping a client base is called ‘market segmentation’.
Most big businesses are adept at carving out a niche in the market for themselves.
Take Pepsi for example. Forever in the shadow of the market leading Coca-Cola, Pepsi decided to aim it’s advertising at a younger demographic using pop-stars and celebrities to win over the under thirty cola consumer.
The strategy worked, and Pepsi continues to have its share of the market with a strong brand and a loyal following.
Don’t be afraid to eliminate a section of your potential market, whatever the size of your business. Focus on the customer base that is most suited to your product and spend your marketing resources on that alone.
Develop buyer ‘personas’
Following on from the last point, another key strategy used by the most successful marketing departments is the development of buyer ‘personas’.
More than just a notion of your ideal customer base, these are fictional characters created to portray the range of people that might visit your website.
Personas are built through accumulating data from targeted questionnaires and feedback requests, as well as direct insights from your salespeople.
More than simply knowing that your target market is, for example, young professionals, crafted personas based on their habits, desires and needs can help you further hone and direct your marketing and product development.
You can even create negative personas, to clarify the types of visitors to your website who bring no value or custom.
In large corporations, staff assigned to specific areas of the business must report to the CEO on a regular basis with analysis on how their department is working.
This continual appraisal gives the CEO a clearer idea of what needs changing at any given time.
Whether it’s cash-flow, sales, marketing, staff issues or technology – each area is scrutinised habitually and methodically in order to maximise productivity.
This big-business strategy is also crucial for smaller enterprises. Even a small café or boutique will benefit from regular analysis of performance.
This way, small adjustments can be made when needed and those nasty surprises completely avoided.
Tell us what you think. How would you think big in a small business world?
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