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Monthly Archives: May 2017

Tips to Create Small Business Strategy

1. Define your business vision. If there were no barriers, nothing stopping you from taking your company as far as you could — what would that look like? How much would you make? How will you create your income? What markets would you seek to dominate?

2. Decide your company’s core operating values? What are its guiding principles? In other words, why are you in business and how do you do business?

3. Now create a 3 to 5 year plan. Your strategic is based on the top-level aims that are devised to get from where you are now, to where you want to be.

4. Develop a plan for this year. These are the specific goals you plan to achieve in the next 12 months that will lead you closer to your long-term goals. Remember to be “SMART” when setting your annual goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound). As with any plan you need to define the tasks, who by and when. Perform a gap analysis on the resources you need against the resources you have. You may need to adjust your objectives at this stage. Now build your plan.

5. . Create a set of benchmarks. This step is important. This is very important, so that you can measure your progress.

6. Communicate your strategy and plan. The short-term plan from your strategy creates the momentum and direction for your day to day activities.

7. Walk the Talk. Actions speak louder than words.

8. Make sure you know exactly how you are doing on a day by day basis. Create a dashboard to report on your key performance indicators.Prompt corrective action is often more important that the plan itself.

9. Put a process in place so you do the same thing each year.

Building a robust, realistic and achievable business strategy is not easy. It requires commitment, effort and discipline. Yet the rewards are obvious. Juat about every successful business has an active, documented business strategy.

About Small Business Ecosystem

I didn’t really excel in science in school, but to me the parallel is obvious. In an ecosystem, the many parts are dependent upon each other for success. In a small business, this is equally true and just as hard to measure and control.

There are lots of small businesses out there that appear healthy and happy on the outside but are being held back by some component of the overall system. The very first thing you must do is acknowledge this idea of dependant parts. If one isn’t thriving, isn’t even noticed, others will suffer.

It’s very hard to have a healthy business if the employees don’t feel appreciated. It’s very hard to have a healthy business if clients don’t know how your business is unique. It’s very hard to have a healthy business if your referral partners don’t know who makes an ideal client for your business.

There are countless examples of growing businesses that ignore what I’m suggesting, but I wonder if they are fun places to work and do business with?

Thinking strategically about your own small business ecosystem requires understanding who all the players are, the experience you want them to have with your business, and the tools you need to employ to make this integration happen.

First let’s take a look at the major players in the small business ecosystem.

You may have some combination of:

Suspects – folks you’ve identified that might need what you do

Prospects – those who have responded to your lead activities

Clients- someone who has purchased something

Advocates – purchases lots and tells others

Associates – your staff

Vendors – companies you might purchase from

Partners – companies that might help you produce a product or co-create services and clients

You can define what each of these is in your business, but the strongest businesses understand that they need to embrace, feed and sell each – sometimes in order for one to thrive. For instance, your clients will become stronger advocates or referral sources the more they feel connected to your community of clients, associates and partners.

One of the ways to create these connections among all of the members of your ecosystem is to have and communicate in no uncertain terms your firm’s unique core message. That message should contain a clear statement about your brand and how it’s unique and who should care. The goal then becomes finding ways for your clients, advocates, partners, and associates to connect to this brand in a way that feeds them.

Technology and a host of new media tools have made the important task of feeding and integrating all of the parties in a small business world much easier.

Let’s cover a few examples:

Blogs allow you to produce frequently changing content and interact with clients and prospects

Websites allow you to give access to a great deal of educational content

Web apps like Basecamp allow you to collaborate with clients and partners in real time

Online meeting tools like WebEx give you the ability to hold instant virtual sales presentations and peer-to-peer client conversations

Podcasting can open up doors to new media and give a true voice to the people in your firm

RSS technology allows you to create dynamic content that can be personalized to the individual

CRM systems give you the ability to track a prospect’s education process and know when they need more

Social software can give your clients the ability to generate marketing content for you and about you in an environment of trust

Autoresponders can provide education and training whenever it’s requested

Intranet styled offerings and even chat platforms make remote and virtual communication with your suppliers and associates simple and seamless

Content management systems can give your firm’s employees and clients access to your entire searchable library of documented knowledge

Streaming video and video screen capture makes providing simple help and training a snap

I suspect you get the point from the list above, but, of course, technology itself isn’t the answer. It is the beautiful way in which you tap the power it possesses to help meet and exceed your client’s expectations, build a thriving community of partners, associates, and advocates around your business, and generate and close more deals, more profitably.

To do this you must embrace new tools, new media, and new technology and figure out how to bend them to serve the goals of feeding your unique small business ecosystem.

 

3 Main Styles of Communication in Small Business

There are three main “voices” or styles of communication: one-under, one-up, and equal.

1. One-under communication is a style that is typified by minimizing what you are saying, or putting yourself or your words “one-under” in importance to another person’s. The intent here is to focus on the other person in order to gain greater clarity about what he or she is saying. “Seek first to understand than to be heard” is an axiom that would apply here.

2. One-up communication is an aggressive style that is often accompanied with raised voices and excessive reinforcements, absolutes, and “you” statements. Boundary-busting is what this type of communication is often considered. This is because the person speaking thinks that what he or she is saying is more important than what anyone else is saying. This style of delivery will automatically shut down the avenues of communication or incite angry retorts.

3. Equal communication is a style that is epitomized by direct and respectful communication and the use of “I” statements and reflective listening skills. Its purpose is to open up the avenues of communication and encourage dialogue. At its core is the understanding that each person matters and what he or she has to say is valuable. “Two heads are better than one” is the adage at the heart of this communication style.

The Dialogue

The next step to becoming a more effective communicator is to learn to practice “the dialogue.” Good communication consists of three distinct parts: what the speaker says, what the listener hears, and the gray area in-between. Here’s how the dialogue works:

– The first part is for the speaker to articulate directly and clearly what he or she wants to say.

– The second part is for the listener to reflect back to the speaker what he or she heard. Useful phrases that help the listener put what the speaker said into his or her own words include: “What I just heard is. . . .” and “Let me see if I understand what you’re saying. . . .”

– The third-and probably most important-part is for the listener to check with the speaker by asking, “Is that correct?” That one question will eliminate any misunderstandings or assumptions on the part of the listener. It will also give the speaker the chance to revise and clarify what he or she said.

7 Tips for the Talk

Finally, in addition to the dialogue, there are seven other things to consider when it’s me and you and a dog named Boo in a conversation together.

Tip #1: Address issues as they come up. Don’t piggy-back unresolved issues from the past onto the present topic of discussion. Stay on point.

Tip #2: Use “I” statements, and speak only from your perspective. Don’t overload your speech with absolutes such as: “You never . . . “or “You always . . . . ” Stick with “I.”

Tip #3: Focus on the behaviors you are observing, not the opinions of others. Resist the urge to press your point by listing the scores of people who agree with you and your point of view. Stand and speak only for yourself.

Tip #4: When someone else is speaking, listen. If you’re interrupting or forming your response as the other person is talking, you’re not listening. Your full attention should be on the speaker.

Tip #5: Check in from time to time to make sure everyone is on the same page. Don’t assume that the other person is in agreement with you or what you are saying. Check it out.

Tip #6: Follow the bouncing ball. Don’t change the subject without a nod in the direction of the previous topic of discussion. Mind your segue.

Tip #7: Be open to the possibility of another perspective. There is no absolute truth. Truth is relative.