It is easy when you are a small business owner to have a narrow view of how you are doing. If things are going well and you are making a profit, you are in good shape, right? And, if you are in a rough spot and money is tight, then you need to be doing something better, no?
Let me suggest that both views are probably too myopic, and as a result, probably incorrect as well. Judging the success or failure of your business by a snapshot of how you are doing today, or this week, or even this month, is not what the savvy businessperson does. Do you think Howard Schultz determines how Starbucks is doing based on the sales of one day, or one region, or one product? Of course not. A lot more factors into the equation.
Here then are 7 things to examine vis-à-vis your business in order to determine how you are really doing.
1. Marketing: Of course you have a few marketing tricks up your sleeve, after all, if you didn’t, you would not be in business. But having some old standbys is not good enough. When was the last time you invented a new marketing campaign? Great businesses not only have a variety of marketing methods, but the marketing tactics are innovative and refreshed on an ongoing basis. They all may not work, but the point is, by continuing to market in different ways, you will learn what does work, and that’s key.
2. Social media: Hot on the tail of marketing generally is social media – specifically Twitter and Facebook. Compared to more traditional marketing approaches, social media is the new frontier. It is an area that you should have begun making traction in; if this isn’t the case, you need to determine how social media best aligns with your business goals and begin immediately.
3. Culture: All small businesses have a culture. While most are by default, what you want is a culture by design. Why? Culture is the air that your staff breathes - and the values they work by. It is your vision for your business made tangible on a daily basis. Is your small business a fun, engaging place to work? Are people treated with respect? These things make a huge difference.
4. Brand: Think of your brand as your culture turned inside out. If your culture is how your business is run internally, your brand is what people see from the outside. The best businesses have a synergy and integrity between their culture and brand. The values of each should be identical.
5. Operations: How is your business run on a day-to-day basis? Is it efficient and effective? Do you treat customers well? Are emails returned promptly and professionally? What about returns? It’s essential not to overlook operations – because your customers surely won’t.
6. Innovation: It doesn’t matter whether you work in a big or small business, great businesses innovate. Innovation may be a new product that shocks the world, or it could just be a new way to serve sushi. Either way, new ideas are exciting, get people jazzed and lead to new business opportunities.
7. Strategic planning: Lastly, the best businesses continue to take their vision, brand, culture and the rest and put them down on paper. They strive to apply their lofty rhetoric to the real world by setting goals and committing to numbers. These visionary leaders don’t lose sight of the big picture, and continue to work toward positioning their business for future success.
If you had to grade your performance today, what would you give yourself? Share your thoughts with the SBOC community below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss