Having been in business now for about thirty-five years, I have certainly seen dramatic changes in business practices. I wasn’t a part of the 50’s style strictly-top-down business leader, labor-against-management, group-think or even manipulative sales methods business era. I was actually President of H. Diamond Iron and Metal company when small business owners were first incorporating computers into their overall operations, when they were realizing they had to be more responsive to the needs and thinking of their employees, and when the use of sales reps and their methods were barely beginning to be interactive rather than the Mine-is-the-Best-of Everyone’s Presentation type-sales.
To stay relevant as a business coach, I had to adapt as the years have passed. Evolving technology, social media, sales approaches, marketing trends, leadership and business cultures certainly have played a major role on the learning curve of business owners.
However, as we know, change occurs at a faster rate than ever before. So, the demand on business owners to keep pace is greater than ever. Now, in addition to matters such as economic conditions, customer status, employees, and competition that business owners deal with regularly, it is now essential that they stay ever aware of perhaps less pronounced, but yet timely and extremely important matters.
Here are some for your consideration:
- Build a Community-oriented and Volunteer-minded Business – Getting involved in community and volunteerism is becoming more important to small businesses. This practice, in the past, often took a back seat to what may have been considered more pressing matters. Not only is it necessary to increase a social media fan following, it is necessary to develop a reputation as a giving and caring company as well as to build employee morale. Getting your employees involved creates a greater company unity and also helps expand your company’s reach. With technology and more networking today in associations and chambers, becoming more community minded is critical.
- Deliver Extra -Special Customer Service – Paying greater attention to your customers not only demonstrates to them that you care, it also is one of the best word-of-mouth strategies you can have. With the continued importance of trust from your customers in online reviews on websites like Yelp and Google, it is imperative to have a powerful strategy to make sure those reviews are stellar. You must develop extra special ways to show your customers how much you care. Your customers will be talking about your customer service for a long time to come if you give them good reason to do so.
- Focus on Continually Distinguishing Your Company for Others – With so much advertising and social media presence, setting your business apart becomes even more vital. Brainstorm with employees, mentors, and coaches to create ideas that make prospects and customers recognize the exceptional value your company offers. Ask, “What do my customers most often say about us?” Those answers will give you a good start. Of course, it is too easy, and no longer effective, to simply state that you offer excellent service because that is what all representatives for their companies say. If you review your mission, vision, company core values and target market, what sets you apart will become more easily evident.
- Have More Fun – As an entrepreneur, it is likely that you are overworked and stressed much of the time. That intensity is communicated to employees and customers. Taking things too seriously, as you know, can be a big bore. Work with employees to think of ways to make your business more fun. Doing this doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant. According to an online Fast Company article fun “brings a tangible increase in workplace happiness.” Some suggestions for creating a fun atmosphere at work are: host a book club, guess childhood photos, organize office pot lucks, bring in board games, have employees create contests and awards, group exercise, etc.
- It’s a Multi-Media World – I am still remarkably a novice when it comes to what methods or sites do the best job of showcasing your product or service. I do know that your prospects and customers are using social media and having an online presence is increasingly more necessary for market success. Whether it’s to extend your client base or simply entertain your customers, using social media is a must today. Do a little research to find the appropriate sites and methods that suit your message. Whether you choose YouTube, blogging, podcasts, mobile marketing, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, etc., you must not discount the importance of multimedia for your business. With all the modern demands for your time, perhaps your best option is to hire someone to do this for you. That’s what I do.
It doesn’t matter how old you or your company is. You must stay aware and make the effort to move forward with the times. The vitality and the longevity of your business depend on it.