Because Small Business is Big Business


ChangeRuth Graham writes, “It is difficult to trust things that change. Trust is built on the assurance of constancy.” It’s almost cliché to say that we live in times of constant change – we know more change than we do steadiness. Fourth generation (4G) mobile technology is being released and I didn’t even know there was such a thing as generations of technology! The iPod was launched in 2001 and is in its 6th generation, meaning that the technology is waaaayyyy better today than it was in 2001, right? Besides technology, we see change everywhere around us. Egypt is in the midst of a chaotic change to its political system as individuals take to the streets demanding to be heard. Companies have had to react to economic changes, forcing some to shut their doors for good, others to lay off scores of workers, while others took the opportunity to reinvent themselves to survive and thrive rather than fall victim of the recession.

So what is a leader to do when followers are looking for an anchor when change is swirling around them? The simple answer is character. The leader who forgets that people are looking for stability will soon find their followers stopped in their tracks, unable to move forward because uncertainty has paralyzed them. This disengagement occurs when leaders put forward momentum before relationships and miss opportunities to assure stability of character despite uncertainty and shifting priorities within the organization. I worked for a company that had three CEOs in less than five years and a new one was just coming in the door when I was leaving. Each executive had his own agenda, which meant no one knew from one year to the next what was going to happen to their job. It didn’t help that this company has a reputation for regular layoffs, so the level of uncertainty was magnified and pandemonium reigned. People put in their time, but politics and turf wars prevented the organization from thriving.

But there were some managers who did especially well even in this tumultuous climate. Leaders were often in the same boat as their followers however, I witnessed a couple of outliers who managed to maintain the trust of their team even though the future was uncertain. These leaders demonstrated constancy of character in the following ways:

  1. Transparency. The leaders who were best at creating constancy amidst change were honest and open. They shared their own concerns and frustrations in a way that promoted dialogue without promising anything beyond what they could commit to. They didn’t pretend and they didn’t ignore the issues, but faced them plainly and honestly.
  2. Positivity. Those leaders who could keep a proper perspective helped their followers to do the same. Positivity in the middle of uncertainty is challenging, but I saw leaders who could communicate with a long-term vision and foster a sense of “everything is going to be alright” amongst their teams. They remind people that change can be good and that even if we don’t initially like the outcome we will adapt, learn, or find something that fits us better in the long run.
  3. Reliability. Leaders who avoided jumping on the bandwagon of rumor, second-guessing, and chasing scape-goats provide an anchor for followers, a positive example of reliability and duty that strengthens the group. The reliable leader listens well but doesn’t allow finger-pointing or back-stabbing. This sends a message that the leader can be trusted and a calm in the storm.

Assuring constancy amidst constant change is a critical skill for leaders to develop in our fast-paced world. The first century Greek philosopher Epictetus, in The Art of Living, says, “To live a life of virtue, you have to become consistent, even when it isn’t convenient, comfortable, or easy.” Virtuous leaders who develop the consistent character traits of transparency, positivity and reliability when it is inconvenient and difficult, find that they are boosted by the support of faithful followers. This mutual partnership can withstand constant change in circumstances because it runs deeper than the external chaos in which it operates.

Want more great tips to lead your people, check out the A Guide to Peak Performance Through People


Tips After Startup Phase

Here are six tips after startup phaseTips After Startup Phase

  1. Market, market, and then market more!  I can’t stress the importance of letting the world know that you have something to sell them.  Market daily.
  2. Network, network, and then network more!  You can’t sit at your desk or stand behind a counter 5 to 7 days a week.  It is critical that you venture out and network with potential business-to-business buyers.
  3. Draw no or minimal payroll from the profits in your new business for as long as you can.  Doing this allows you to build a reserve for repairs, new equipment, unexpected expenses, and emergencies.
  4. Change our businesses website monthly to offer new services or products and to create tickler headings that will fuel potential buyers to read more and call you and/or walk in the door of your business.
  5. Throw out the old adage that the customer is always right.  If the customer were always right, they would not need your services or products.  The customer is missing something and it’s whatever you have to sell.  You are the expert; you are right and you have something to share that is of value.
  6. Brand your name and your business via social media marketing.  Be the go-to expert for all areas related to your business.  Stay visible by submitting articles to your local news media, tweeting daily, posting to LinkedIn, and create a Facebook page for your business.

For more great ways to build and sustain your small business, check out the book A Guide to Sustainability for Small Business


Data Needed?

Data NeededWhere does a small business owner go to find the important statistics, information, and other data needed to make sound business decisions? Generally, free information and paid data are available. The good news is that volumes of reliable information exist just for the asking or for clicking on the Internet. Most organizations in the business of data collection, analysis, and publication in easy-to-read formats are eager to share with interested parties.

Resources where the information resides include:

  • National consumer reports
  • U.S. Census Bureau
  • Product catalogs
  • Trade shows
  • Magazines
  • Web sites
  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • Library reference materials
  • Business journals
  • Testimonials
  • Direct user feedback and opinions

In today’s age of instant information, there is little shortage of facts, statistics, and revealing data, which can be put to use in the ultimate goal of market research: Know Your Customer. Want to learning more on market research?  Check out the “Small Business Guide to Marketing Basics


Form Letters

Image result for mail mergeWe’ve all received form letters and mailings from businesses that have personalized information inserted throughout the document. Frequently they will look something like this: READ MORE »


Franchising Your Small Business

Fanchising Small Business GrowthWhile there are several books dealing specifically with business finances, including A Guide to Financing Your Small Business and A Guide to Small Business Finances, any consideration of business growth has to encompass at least some discussion on financing options such as mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures and franchising.  READ MORE »

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