It started with a good idea. It was fleshed out in a detailed, realistic business plan. Financed out of pocket, operating in a spare room at first, and now, your small business isn’t quite so small. But has your thinking grown and evolved along with your company?

Many small business owners are reluctant to look at the business from a different point of view; to rework operational systems that have become outdated; to offer new services and products to the target demographic. They don’t want to “rock the boat,” so they stick with what’s worked, and they stick with it over and over and over.

Successful businesses evolve, often starting in one direction and then moving in a completely different direction as market conditions change – from a new competitor down the street to shifting tastes of consumers.  Small business owners watch trends and prepare for changing times and changing technology.

Now may be a good time to take stock of your original business plan, see how it compares to current conditions, and make adjustments as needed.  

Think big. Maybe you started with one client, one computer, and a second-hand desk. That’s how many small businesses begin. But if you’ve been successful so far, it may pay to think big – to set ambitious goals and work hard to achieve those business objectives.

If your current service area is 25 square miles, would you consider expanding with a satellite office? Whether you go small or think big, you’re going to work just as hard, so you might as well re-think your business model to encourage ever-increasing company value.

How about expanding online sales and going global? Have you thought about expanding your product line? Amazon started as an online bookseller. Now Amazon ships millions of boxes per day of all kinds of products.

Make life better for customers. If you focus all your attention on internal business matters, the customer – the person or company paying the bills – may get lost.

Constantly look for ways to improve the lives of your customers – their business lives or their personal lives. Is your business making things better for the customers you have today? If you don’t know, it might be wise to invest in surveys or hire “secret shoppers” to gauge customer satisfaction. If you can afford it, consider hiring a customer service manager to maintain a stable base of clients or customers.

Streamline business operations. When you started the company 15 years ago, you sent paper bills to customers and often waited 30 days (or longer) to get paid. Rethink how cash flows through the business.

Today, banks offer remote payment capture. Your sales rep or technician swipes a debit card or takes a picture of a check, and payment is in the account faster and with much lower collection costs. No more paper billing. No more postage. No more slow pays.

If you need to deposit checks regularly, you can now create digital images of the checks at your office and send them to the bank using Remote Deposits instead of spending time and gas money to drive to your local branch.

Don’t do what everybody else does. If everyone else is doing things the old-fashioned way, your company can stand out by doing something new.

Car dealers use balloons, high-impact signage, those air-blown attention-grabbing characters, big prices on windshields. This is the way car dealerships have sold cars since Studebaker. Today’s consumer can log on, comparison-shop a broad area, enter search preferences and find the perfect car for them.

All the balloons and free hot dogs aren’t going to sway today’s tech-savvy car buyer who knows they can get a better deal down the street, and you can keep the balloons.

Market everywhere. Rethink how you’re currently marketing and how prospects are most likely to find you. How long has it been since you conducted an evaluation of your advertising programs to see if you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck?

Times are changing. Are your potential customers reading the daily newspaper anymore? If not, why advertise there? Most companies now need an interactive website and a social media presence. You may need push ads and incentives texted to smart phones. FREE TIRE ROTATION. Just show your smartphone screen to the service manager and collect.

In the past, many small businesses had to take a passive approach to sales. They placed an ad in local media. They bought an expensive ad in the phone book – and waited for customers to stumble on these marketing tools and hope they take action. Now, you can take a proactive approach to sales. You can send useful newsletters via email. You can send video coupons to smartphone screens. You can update customers on specials, loyalty incentives, or annual reminders to tune up the furnace.

Don’t keep doing the same things over and over just because they’ve brought a modicum of success. As a small business owner, always be on the lookout for new and better ways to run your business, adding value and improving margins while keeping your customers smiling.

Take time to regularly rethink your business to improve it, grow it, streamline it, and make it better for your customers and for you.

 

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC