Small Steps to Success

January 27, 2012

Simple New Year's resolutions for small businesses

“These sure are exciting times, aren’t they?” That’s what people say, at least, when often what they mean instead is, “These sure are uncertain times, aren’t they?” or “These sure are scary times, aren’t they?”

I say that is hogwash—these are exciting times. That said, there has never been a more frightening time to be average at or indifferent about what you do. If that is the case, it is time to change.

Small business owners have to be willing to put in the work and live through the discomfort of change. It is worthwhile to put up with a little bit of awkwardness for the sake of positive change.

The following are New Year’s resolutions for your business. They are all rather simple and inexpensive, but that does not mean they are all easy.

Business Improvement

Making improvements to a small business requires owners to reflect on successes and failures.

  • Ask every employee for one suggestion on how we can make it easier for our customers and prospects to do business with us. Reward employees whose suggestions we use.
  • Include more than senior staff in brainstorming sessions in order to add fresh voices. After a brainstorming session, pick an idea and do it. Instead of holding meetings and forming committees, simply take action.
  • Conduct review sessions for each major initiative or promotion immediately following its execution and start planning how to improve the next initiative.
  • Budget time for yourself and at least one additional employee to attend the WQA Aquatech USA 2012 convention in Las Vegas this year. It has never been easier to connect online, but that does not mean it is better than meeting, learning and sharing face to face.
  • Cut the fat. Get rid of unprofitable distractions and focus on improving what is working. This includes employees who have no desire to be above average.
  • Find at least one task to delegate. Don’t do it all—this is why you have employees.


Technology & Marketing

Business owners should look into new technologies and advertising solutions to expand their reach.

  • Learn how to use social media to become a better listener and find like-minded people and businesses. Don’t use social media as another broadcast medium.
  • Ask your receptionist for a list of the five to 10 most-asked questions from people calling the office, and make sure those questions are answered and easy to find on the company website.
  • Consider conducting a professional website assessment.
  • Use Web news alerts to help you find at least five articles per day that you would not have the time to find on your own.
  • Assign someone to research media channels other than television, radio, outdoor and newspaper.


Customer Relations

Talking to customers is critical.

  • Form a customer feedback group by inviting some of your best customers to give unfiltered feedback about what your company could be doing better.
  • Develop a more evocative, gene-
  • rous referral program. Start by asking the newly formed customer feedback group.
  • Talk to five senior citizens and five teenagers to get their views on how the world is changing.


Employee Relations

Fostering a positive work atmosphere helps with employee retention.

  • Ask employees which charities matter to them and focus on ways to help them. Encourage them to submit one idea each on how your company can be more generous to local charities.
  • Once a week compliment the strengths of individual employees to encourage and build them up and to let them know they are valued.
  • Mentor someone within your company or industry.  
  • Install a pinball machine in the break room or offer other relaxing employee perks.


Baby Steps

That is quite a list and it could have continued. In fact, I consider this list a success if it did nothing more than serve as a spark for you to think of your own specific goals and plans of action.

Procrastination is the passive assassin of success. Companies that hunker down and merely hope things will get better or just go back to the way they used to be need to stop looking in the rearview mirror. It is time to move forward fiercely and take action by making one small step and then another.

The coming year is not about big dreams, it is about small actions. It also promises to be filled with success and adventure for companies that keep their wits about them and that are ready to take action. Is your company one of them?

Tim Miles is senior partner with Wizard of Ads. Miles can be reached at timmiles@wizardofads.com or 573.489.1058.

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