It is a challenge to keep a small business afloat. There are regulations, customer issues, employee problems and marketing short-falls that cause daily angst. The average business owner struggles not only with the fires they face daily but also the unknown “gotchas” they haven’t discovered yet. So, how do you minimize the stress? Knowledge! Always be focused on learning.
Know Your Customer
When is the last time you really took time with a customer and just listened to their observations about your business and the challenges they are facing in their daily life? Just because your business is online and you rarely “see” your customer, doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to them. You should always be on the lookout for opportunities to speak to customers and learn things like how they perceive your marketing, what causes them to buy your product over the competition, what they don’t like about your operations. The more in touch you are with your customer, the more effective you will be with marketing and the more successful your product or service will be.
Know your Competition
Many entrepreneurs get a sick feeling when a new competitor comes on the scene or an old competitor scores a big win. However, both of these situations are actually positives. They point to a market that truly needs your product or service. Instead of losing sleep over the competition’s success, use their win to increase your knowledge. How did they win that new client? What marketing was used to reach the customer? Why did the new competitor choose the location they did? What can I do to capitalize on the surge in market interest my competitor is generating? The answer to these questions and more will help position your business to be the market leader for your product or service.
Know your Numbers
You can’t manage what you don’t measure as they say. The financials in your business measure the effectiveness of your efforts as a business owner. Sit down with your financials at least monthly. Compare this month to last. This quarter and this year to last year. If the trends you see are not favorable, dig deeper. What caused the negative trend? Can you pinpoint an operational or marketing event that caused a peak or valley? Is it possible to avoid the negative or duplicate the positive event? Many small businesses do not keep reliable financial data. If the business survives, in most cases, the owner is working harder than they need to and spending more than required to get the results they are experiencing. Knowledge of your numbers will help you work smarter, not harder.
It seems cliche but, knowledge is power. Especially in business. The more you know, the fewer your mistakes and the more effective you will be with your time and resources.