Five Starting Points for Small Businesses

Managing a small business in tough economic times calls for a wide variety of skills. To be a successful small business, you are going to need to tap into many skills sets that include lean thinking, strategic and tactical planning, negotiations, marketing, legal, social and intellectual skills. The good small business person does a lot of things to be successful. Here is how to start:

  • Cut costs. Start with running lean. If you have put off looking at costs until today, now is the time to act. Start with recurring costs, utilities, services, and fees that you have every month. Find ways to reduce your monthly expenditures.
  • Negotiate. Negotiate hard when you are looking at new expenses. Compare prices, look at other offers, and talk to industry friends and do research on the Internet. Become well informed before you make a deal. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal. You can always come back to it later. It never hurts to ask for better terms or deals.
  • Build relationships. Getting into fights and arguing with suppliers, bankers, customers, and employees is counterproductive. You use a tremendous amount of energy fighting and you get nowhere fast. Work with people with whom you can get things accomplished. Build relationships for the long term. This took me several years to learn, but now pays huge dividends in productivity and peace of mind.
  • Focus on key players or processes. Several leading management experts will tell you that you don’t have to change the whole organization, but just 15 percent, to bring about critical change. Knowing where to focus is the key. An important customer, lender, operation or process may be the key to your long-term success. Understanding those relationships and dynamics is where your experience and expertise should be focused.
  • Stay flexible. Things change – the market changes and customers change – so don’t get trapped in the same old mindset about your business. Be quick to see new opportunities and technologies. Maurice Welton with Edible Arrangements told me once that what he is selling today is totally different from what he was selling five years ago. Maurice said, “I am always looking to see what my customers are wanting and what is going on in the market. Keeping the “wow!” effect–it is changing constantly.”

Quote of the week: “Be careful reading the fine print. There is no way you are going to like it.”