A.Michelle Blakeley

Simplicity Mastered™ - Micro Business Therapist™
Sacramento, CA

    57 Ways to Turn Small Business Adversities into Advantages

    August 5, 2014

    Over 29 small business professionals and experts shared tasks and activities small business owners often overlook and ignore, but are indispensable for a healthy, profitable business. Their small business advice is not meant to overwhelm, but to give small business owners some ideas on how they can refocus their time and energy on key areas of their business that will yield measurable results. Most of the items can be tracked (via metrics, surveys, industry stats, benchmarks, etc.) to measure effectiveness, which is essential in conducting, growing and developing your business. An honest look at how you and your business are affected by the items on this list can help you evaluate your performance, priorities and progress.

    There is a distinct difference between being busy and being productive. Peter Drucker says, “Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.” Where does the difference lie with you and in your business?

    1. Analyze all aspects of their business to determine what is really paying 
off--especially things that consume time and money. Too often businesses 
use the same advertising, they use the same procedures, the same suppliers,
 etc. without ever taking the time to evaluate the payoff. Beverly Solomon, www.beverlysolomon.com

    2. Stay up with politics--especially in your area--and especially 
concerning tax issues, regulations, zoning, etc. Often city officials are
 more concerned with buying votes by catering to special interest groups
 than in promoting and supporting business. The more socialist the city, the 
more likely it is to give away money to buy votes and also be the least 
likely to a have a good business climate. Beverly Solomon, www.beverlysolomon.com

    3. Stay up with future local and regional planning. A future freeway could
 make or break your business. A building project can cut off access to 
your location for months and even years. By knowing what is being planned 
for future construction and expansion, you can plan to stay, move or invest 
to make money. Beverly Solomon, www.beverlysolomon.com

    4. Hiring technical talent by leveraging the benefits of the J-1 visa program
.(http://www.ciee.org/hire/intern/). People just don't know about it. But it 
brings diversity of thought and talent to your company. Selena S. Cuffe, www.heritagelinkbrands.com

    5. Export your products and services into Africa. People don't realize how
 many subsidies exist to do so, and because people have been focused on China for so long, it hasn't hit their radar. This will change soon with 
the inaugural
 US/Africa Leaders summit approaching. Selena S. Cuffe,www.heritagelinkbrands.com

    6. Explore growing your business by listing on a foreign stock exchange.
 Some have lower revenue hurdles and often times are regulated in such a way 
that make them safer than even the NYSE or NASDAQ: one example, the
 Stock Exchange <www.jse.co.za/listing-process/listing-on-the-jse>
 Selena S. Cuffe, www.heritagelinkbrands.com

    7. Practice your breathing. You have enough stress and probably see this as 
an automatic trait as humans, but conscientious breathing allows you to be 
more productive and healthy. Selena S. Cuffe,www.heritagelinkbrands.com

    8. Product Mindset
 What many entrepreneurs fail to realize is that their product is not what is sitting on the shelves of their stores or the services they offer. Their product is the experience the customer has with their establishment. Andrew Thompson, www.createpeakperformance.com

Handling Problems. 

The problem is almost NEVER the problem. The RESPONSE to the problem is almost always the real problem. Small business owners will come up against challenges on a daily basis and the focus is how you handle your challenges.

 Perception is the key. We live in a world of perception and small business owners need the discipline to see the truth BUT not to make more of the truth that it actually is.

 Andrew Thompson, www.createpeakperformance.com

    10. Thank You Notes

. Unfortunately, it has become a lost art on saying “…thank you.” Small business owners today could have a powerful weapon at their side if they focused a part of their day on sending thank you notes to people who deserve it, but may not expect it. It’s not the president of a major company that you send a thank you note after a meeting, it’s the assistant that got you the meeting you send a hand-written thank you note.

Andrew Thompson, www.createpeakperformance.com

    11. Managing cash flow daily. We see profitable companies struggle because they’re short of cash. And the worst time to raise money is when you really need it. Successful owners get a cash flow forecast weekly, which shows the company’s cash position at least 90 days out. Jim Stewart,www.profitpath.com

    12. Focus on business 2 and 3 years from now. Yes, it's important to 
have income now, but too many people get caught up in the now and fail to 
plan ahead. What companies/clientele do you want to go after? Who do you
 want to consider you to be an expert? How will you make yourself 'known' to 
that group? Nanette Miner, Ed.D, www.trainingdr.com

    13. Volunteer your time and services. When someone is new 
to business, giving their time and expertise away for free seems ludicrous, but it does get you out in front of people and there is the theory of 
reciprocity. People will feel good about you/your company and want to 
repay you in some way. Nanette Miner, Ed.D, www.trainingdr.com

    14. Take someone to lunch once per week. Simply to discuss what you do and
 what kind of clientele you are looking for (and if you haven't figured that
 out yet - then the FIRST thing you should do is focus on 'who is my 
customer?' because not everybody is. It is the cheapest way to market. Lunch will cost you about
 $20 and you are basically creating an unpaid salesperson for your business. Nanette Miner, Ed.D, www.trainingdr.com

    15. Join your local professional association AND local community 
organizations. Be selective because this can take up a lot of 
your time if you join everything. When I first started in business I joined 
the local chapter of my professional association (ASTD) and immediately 
joined the membership committee. Within 2 or 3 years I was the Membership VP
- this gave me a great reason to pick up the phone and call people. I knew 
everyone's name in my local industry-community, and they knew mine. Nanette Miner, Ed.D, www.trainingdr.com

    16. Stop spreading yourself too thin. Most small business owners try go 'wide and deep' at the same time. This direction is too overwhelming
 and disruptive. You can be drawn into many different directions that may 
have nothing to do with your business objectives. Daria M. Brezinski, PhD, www.docdaria.com

    17. Know the difference between “brick and mortar” and “online business” and what that means for your business. When you are in a small business, 
there is only so much time and few extra finances. If you start a 
brick-and-mortar business, yet decide to draw people in with an online 
presence, these two require different skill sets. It is better to become 
established with one or the other. If people begin following you online, 
they want to see daily updates. If they are coming into your
 establishment, they want the front window dressing changed frequently with new and different stock. Daria M. Brezinski, PhD, www.docdaria.com

    18. Define what small business means to you. For some people, it is
$200,000 a year while for others it is $1 million. For some it is 2
employees while for others it is 10. Be very clear in your mind what
 'small' means so everyone is clear and has the same expectations. Daria M. Brezinski, PhD,www.docdaria.com

    19. Forego bank loans and get creative financing first. Bank
 loans can be a disaster for a small business because there is no leeway
 or give when things happen, and they will certainly happen (natural disaster, broken pipes, late payers, etc.). If you have an 
institutional loan, there is no leeway. However, if you have real people 
invested who are a part of the passion and/or daily events, they are
 more likely to be flexible and give you time additional time to pay. Daria M. Brezinski, PhD, www.docdaria.com

    20. Beware of the pitfalls of working with family. Family businesses are wrought with intense 
emotion, past baggage and vastly different priorities, values, points of
 view and beliefs. If you want to keep your family as a family, think
 hard before bringing them into the business. Daria M. Brezinski, PhD,www.docdaria.com

    21. Understanding what matters to their customers. Truly understanding their target market and focusing on the customer's wants and specific style of the community. Carie, www.sasseagency.com

    22. Consistently develop client database. 
As a small business coach and consultant the one thing I see being overlooked by too many small businesses is building their database. If you look at most small business websites you will notice the absence of any email sign-up forms. Small business owners are missing a huge opportunity by not having a way to capture the name and email of site visitors and developing an ongoing system of automated emails to maintain the relationship. Jim Donovan,www.JimDonovan.com

    23. Systems. Incorporate systems and document the “how-to” of operations, so that parts or all of the business becomes independent of its owner. Building a repeatable revenue stream and robust business provides stability to customers, the owner and team members. Jacqui Jones,www.waywedo.com

    24. Scorecard. Understand and religiously know the top 5-10 metrics that drive your business so you know where to look to quickly rectify issues. Metrics should include both lag and leading indicators. E.g. “total sales” versus “number of proposals issued and their average value.” Jacqui Jones,www.waywedo.com

    25. Reassess Suppliers and Results. Regularly review supplier relationships to ensure you are getting the best outcomes for the right price. For example, leaving your Google AdWords campaign running without checking it in 6 months is a no-no or not knowing what your SEO guy is doing for the money you are paying is leaving you open to be taken advantage of. Jacqui Jones, www.waywedo.com

    26. Retention of profitable customers. Customers whose purchases have a healthy margin, customers who are easy to process, customers who refer prospects to the business. Retention may mean cutting them special deals on occasion (e.g., bulk buys) but more likely it means treating them as if they are important and you care about them. Linda Carlson, www.lindacarlson.com

    27. Maintaining a balance between spending on what’s important (an excellent order fulfillment system, say, or the best distributor in the marketplace) and avoiding spending on things, which are fun or satisfy the ego (e.g., fancy website, catalog or letterhead designs or big ads in media that doesn’t reach the customer base). Linda Carlson, www.lindacarlson.com

    28. Storytelling. Whatever their business is. People are touched by stories
 and human emotions (especially on social media). Christopher Wells, 

    29. Quit trying to be everything to everybody. You want to provide a
 million different things to a million different customers and therefore, you 
never really perfect and amaze your customers because you're always 
chasing the next big opportunity. If you want to make revenue, determine 
what you're great at and what you love to do and stick to those things. Kendra Wright, www.heykendra.com

    30. Limiting the hours in your workday. The tasks will expand in your
 day to the amount of time you allot them. Set hard deadlines for when you 
will stop working for the day, no matter what. You'll find that with less 
time to procrastinate you get down to business and carve out more time to 
recharge with your friends and family -- something equally important to the 
health of your business. Kendra Wright,www.heykendra.com

    31. Customer data. Every customer interaction is a tiny nugget of gold and
 over time those nuggets add up to a mother lode. Few small businesses 
focus on collecting, managing and mining their own customer data. Kevin Hoult, http://kevonhoultmba.blogspot.com

    32. Balance sheet. It’s the financial statement too many small businesses never look at,
 let alone focus on. Are you managing your asset base and equity? Are you 
building a business of value or do you have a hobby business? Is your 
business running in place, destined to end just a bit south of where it

 Kevin Hoult, http://kevonhoultmba.blogspot.com

    33. Exit plan. What does your life look like when you're no longer in 
business? What does your business look like when you're no longer in the 
business? Do you have a means of providing for your retirement? Are you 
focusing on the illusion of selling your business for your retirement
 funds? Will your business really sell for the amount of money you will
 need or should you start a retirement plan?
 Kevin Hoult,http://kevonhoultmba.blogspot.com

    34. Your family. Business owners are looking to the future. Their families are not. You may understand the purpose of long workdays, but children just understand that dad or mom is not around - thus purveying that work is more important than they are. Your spouse will just see that your business, not your marriage, is more important to you than they are. You just have to ask any divorced business owner to confirm my point. Chris Rither, www.onemeandream.com

    35. Don’t let competitors dictate your actions. Setting yourself apart as the best alternative for your customers is the best way to beat your competitors. You must set the standard and be the one they want to copy. If not you become like them, and not better. People love using the best, and its hard to be best when you spend all your time reacting to your competitors. Chris Rither,www.onemeandream.com

    36. Use the money you earn to make more money. It’s easy to spend all the profits on nice things. Yet ‘nice things’ cost money to use and maintain, and thus become liabilities. Small business ownership is often a time of feast or famine. So make sure you invest money in things that increase in value or pay a dividend, since your ability to make money in your current business venture can change at any time. Chris Rither, www.onemeandream.com

    37. Ask for referrals. Just asking for referrals from really happy
 customers will do wonders for your reach and exposure. But if you don't
ask you won't get them. John Turner, www.usersthink.com

    38. Recommend other services/businesses. Customers don't just have the
 pains that you solve, they have other ones too. If you can identify those 
pains correctly, and they aren't ones that you solve, figure out how they 
should solve them and give those recommendations out freely. Your 
customers will think more highly of you, and it'll become more likely that
 those other services will refer their customers to you as well. John Turner, www.usersthink.com

    39. Migrate away from TV and radio advertising to online advertising. This includes everything from Netflix/Hulu for "cutting the cord" to DVR to
 skip commercials.
 The easiest ROI we've had so far is search (including paid search such as 
Google Adwords). In part due to skipping commercials and in part due to prospects
 wanting to read online reviews and do their own research. Many consumers 
now find small businesses by going online and searching for them first. Through search, they reach consumers at the time they make their buying
decision rather than when they're on the couch relaxing. Sid Savara,www.sidsavara.com

    40. Protecting your business from fraud. Depending on your business, there are 
various contact validation tools that can help you thwart bogus information 
from entering your customer database. Fraudsters prey on small businesses 
as much as possible because generally, SMBs are more vulnerable. Wendy Breakstone,

    41. Industry Trends.
 What is
 often omitted in the hustle and bustle of daily activities is keeping an 
eye out for long term industry trends that often pose both an opportunity 
to grow for early adapters or certain failure for those that maintain the 
status-quo. Jeremy Schaedler, www.schaedlerinsurance.com

    42. Contact details on the homepage. This is vital and often ignored (i.e. not having a phone number or 
not having a custom email (@gmail.com instead of @mybusiness.com).

    43. Mobile website. Most SMBs don't have a mobile website. Fear of cost
 and lack of understanding as to how to do it are often the reasons. Alyse Speyer, www.yola.com

    44. Clear Call to Action. With 10 seconds to attract a visitor, having
 a newsletter sign up form or button that directs to a contact page is
 critical and often neglected. SMBs often don't realize that the ask needs
 to be up front and not necessarily "buy." Alyse Speyer, www.yola.com

    45. Be willing to admit that you're wrong, even when you're not.

 Sometimes, some requests you get from your customers are absolutely absurd.
 Sometimes, it's not even your fault, but rather the customers' fault. Just 
remember, that an angry customer is much more vocal than a happy customer.
 You shouldn't be willing to bend backwards to make everyone happy, but if 
it's within your power to make it happen, then do it. The goodwill
 generated from your act of kindness will leave long residual effects. Tri Nguyen, www.zodist.com

    46. Be Passionate about your product

. As you grow your company, whether it's opening up a new store, or scaling
 your start-up, never lose your passion for your product. It's challenging 
because your job is to watch the top line and bottom line, and it's easy to 
just look at your product as a line item in your income statement. Never
 stop being passionate about your product. Tri Nguyen, www.zodist.com

    47. Keep your website updated and current. If you have a poor website while your competitor has a better one, who do you think is going to get a client’s business? If they have a bad experience on your site, that’s usually a good indicator they’ll have a bad experience working with you. Allen,spyguysecurity.com

    48. Negotiate credit card fees. Usually when owners have a credit card processing account, they just let it stay that way forever. They need to renegotiate their credit card fees every 6 months - for a company doing $10,000/month in sales, it could save them more than $1,200/year. 

    49. Pay off all business (and personal) debt as quickly as possible and to build retained earnings equal to at least 3 months of expenses. Any veteran business owner can tell you that even though your business is going well now, there will always be an unexpected dip, that often happens when you least expect (and are least ready for it). Focus on building a solid foundation before you focus on expansion and you will whether the storm and be poised for growth. And business debt? Avoid it at all costs - grow organically, build a solid foundation, and pour in the sweat equity. Katie Provinziano,www.westsidenannies.com

    50. Get discounts on early payments. If a small business sells to other businesses, they should investigate and see if they can receive earlier payments in exchange for a small discount 
off the invoice.
 Many small businesses resort to short term loans—at absurd interest
 rates—because they have to make payroll every two weeks, but don't receive 
payments from the companies they sell to for months. 
But many companies offer earlier payments for small discounts with rates much
 better than short-term loans.

 Keith Chapman, www.taulia.com

    51. A job description and expectations for each role in your business. Before you know it one of the many hats you wear in your small business grows to a full/part time postion.
 You need to have the outline of duties and expectations to advertise, guide and manage the position. Neil Porter, www.millitnow.com

    52. Express gratitude towards your customers and employees. When
 your business is small, there are a select few clients, vendors and
 employees whom you completely depend on for survival and growth. Sincerely 
telling these people how important they are to you is the surest way to get
 them to evangelize what your business, product, and service. Gratitude 
in the workplace is incredibly important for the overall health of a the 
company and growth potential. Matt Richardson, www.gramr.us

    53. Separate your “home office” from your “home.” Mohammad Khan (Momekh),http://blog.momekh.com/

    54. Don’t give too much weight to your idea. "Ideas are cheaper than table
salt," Stephen King (rightly) says. In fact, execution and action should be
the holy grail, not having and/or sitting on an idea. Mohammad Khan (Momekh), http://blog.momekh.com/

    55. Continue to learn. After you secure contracts and other forms of business. Read blogs, attend classes, do whatever it takes to stay in the know. Learning does not stop. Vanessa Wade, (no website provided)

    56. Have Fun! Most people
 consider this an option, but I find if a business owner wants to maintain
 their passion and enthusiasm for a long period of time there needs to be
 something in it for them, personally. As business owners we have the great 
luxury of designing our roles and our schedules. Make sure that there is 
something in what you do that makes it fun and interesting for you. 

Jennifer Martin, www.zestbusinessconsulting.com

    57. Find your tribe. You've heard that it takes a village to raise a child. Well to keep a 
healthy, positive, savvy business owner working at full steam being alone 
isn't an option. As the person in charge you don't have to go it alone. Find or start a peer to peer group, hire a coach, or find a mentor so you 
have a team supporting your success.


Jennifer Martin
, www.zestbusinessconsulting.com

    Did we miss something? I’m sure we did. What are some of the things YOU think small business owners should be doing, but many are not?

    There you have it, 57 actionable acts of wisdom that could be just what you needed to shift your business into the fast lane. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do a bunch at the same time. Take 1 or 2 and master them. Get them under control and then work on 1 or 2 more until your business is running like a well-oiled machine.

    A.Michelle Blakeley is a Micro Business Therapist™ who is an expert in quick, simple and relevant small business advice. How can she help? You can reach her at www.simplicitymastered.com or Twitter @simplicityinc or even call at (916) 287-1432. Be sure to read her NEW! online magazine, Micro Business Therapy for timely and transformational small business advice.

    Read A.Michelle's other blog entries >

Please Wait