While politicians and those who stare dreamily past cubicle walls fantasizing about greener pastures routinely tout the joys of running a small business, being the one in charge of a small business can feel anything but joyful when bills are due and cash is low. From wearing a dozen different hats before noon to sleeping as little as a new mom with twins, getting and keeping your small business in the black is more than a full-time job.
Given that you’re investing so much of yourself in it, how can you make sure you succeed, especially since your competition is most likely working as hard as you are? While there are no guaranteed routes to success, here are six ways your small business is likely to gain an edge over the competition so, at the least, you can stay in the hunt for another glorious day.
1. Better Reports
With big data and analytics revolutionizing almost every industry, generating reports has taken on an even greater importance. Especially with companies like Windward creating reporting tools with robust capabilities that can give you more information faster than ever before, not investing in better reports is tantamount to giving away your pin number to a Nigerian prince you met over email. Better reports can help you see the forest and the trees. Locate where your supply chain bottleneck is affecting your inventory, now—not in two months. Find out which types of customer service issues take the longest to resolve, now—not after you’ve lost a dozen formerly loyal customers. Better reports can help give you gain an edge that can translate into a more efficient and effective business.
2. Better Positioning
One great way to gain an advantage over your competition is to position yourself within your industry as a leading expert or authority. Write in-depth and helpful blogs on a bi-weekly basis. Set up a YouTube channel where you post How-To videos that give your customer base help while showcasing your knowledge. Guest post on other blogs that are industry related. As much as you can, show yourself to be someone who knows what’s going on in your field, and the customers and sales will follow.
3. Better People
Offering great customer service is one of the clearest paths to get out ahead of everyone else in your field, and while good training, good software, and good systems can help you in that department, when it comes down to it, who you hire is the most important part of running the kind of business that treats customers well. Hire better people than your competition, and, while you’ll probably have to pay them more, they’ll be worth it. Don’t let the desire to save a little money on payroll keep you from gaining and keeping the kinds of people who can help you gain and keep new customers.
4. Better Differentiation
How is your company different from others offering a similar product or service? Unless you can do a better job than your competitors of articulating why you’re different, and why that difference is desirable, you’ll just be at the bottom of the pile, fighting over scraps. Setting yourself apart can be as simple as making sure your marketing hones in on your stellar customer service, better hours, or longer warranties. Do something different, and do it better than your competitors. After that’s happening, shine a light on it.
5. Better Alliances
Who are your allies? By seeking and landing strong and strategic alliances with organizations in related and symbiotic fields, you can benefit from everything from cross-marketing to the sharing of resources and people. Just be sure to seek alliances with people and businesses that are honest and well-respected. Anyrelationship is only as good as the people who are in it. Don’t spoil your own good name and reputation by making hasty or quick money-centered decisions. Make sure the alliances you forge really are for the better.
6. Better Decisions
One of the key components of the current big data revolution is the ability to gain clearer and better insight into all aspects of your business and customer base. Of course, better insight is only useful if you’re able to leverage it to make better decisions. To that end, keep a tight rein on your values. Too often, people set their sights too short when they gain new information about the marketplace. Good decision-making should keep you in business as long as you want it to. Following your values as you make decisions will help you do that.
Running a successful small business is hard. Follow these six tips, and you won’t just keep up with the competition, you’ll most likely be out ahead of them.