Tag Archives: small business tips

5 Pillars of Small Business Success

It has been a while since I’ve found an article interesting enough to use it as a “guest article” but I get asked very, very often what the keys to a successful business are and this article nailed it!

It was featured on the SBA’s website in January of this year and I’ve been going to share it for a while.  I hope it is interesting and helpful to you!

5 Pillars of Small Businesses Success

By Marco Carbajo, Guest Blogger
Published: January 13, 2015


What does it take for a small business to achieve success?Whether you’re already in business, or preparing to start a business, it takes hard work, tenacity and drive to achieve a high level of success. Lori Greiner, star shark of ABC’s Shark Tank says, “Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.”

According to Elizabeth Wilson of Entrepreneur Magazine, while some 40 million businesses are started each year, a paltry 350,000 break out of the pack and begin growing and making money. So how can a small business owner overcome some of the common business pitfalls? Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World and star of CNBC’s prime time reality series The Profit, knows all about determining the success or failure of a business. Lemonis says, “Business success is about the three P’s: People, Process and Product.” Here are five pillars that make a small business successful.

1) People

If you want your small business to succeed, you need a fantastic team. Russell Simmons, Entrepreneur and founder or Def Jam Recordings says, “Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you.” A company can accomplish amazing things when it has leadership and a team who is inspired, hardworking and believes in the company’s mission.

2) Plan

“Quality is the best business plan, period,” says John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Pixar and Disney. Just about everyone in the business world agrees that having a plan is important. And that doesn’t mean the big formal business plan document you fear like a term paper. It starts small and may grow in time. At a start-up, implementation is everything. That means it’s essential to establish responsibilities, set goals, and track performance. You will also need to answer key questions, such as:

  • Have you identified your target customers?
  • What problems are you trying to solve for them?
  • What will be the most effective marketing and promotional strategies?

3) Process

Dr. W. Edwards Deming said, “85 percent of the reasons for failure to meet customer expectations are related to deficiencies in systems and processes…rather than the employee.” It’s crucial that you have a full and clear understanding of your company’s processes and have the right systems in place.

4) Product

Does your product solve a problem? Does it exist yet? Is there something that is out there that your product does in a different way? Is there a demand for your product? Success in business requires doing something you’re passionate about that fills a need in the marketplace. Debbi Fields, Founder of Mrs. Fields Bakeries says, “Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it.”

5) Profit

When it comes to measuring a successful business, profitability is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Is the company making money? A critical component of running a successful business is knowing your numbers. “If you want to be successful in business, you need to become proficient at handling certain numbers. You need to be able to read and understand your financial dashboard” says Dawn Fotopulos, Associate Professor of Business at The King’s College in New York.

Starting and running a successful business can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. You as a small business owner should never stop learning, innovating, planning and growing. “Leaders spend five percent of their time on the problem and 95 percent of their time on the solution. Get over it & crush it!” says Tony Robbins.

About the Author:

Marco Carbajo
Marco Carbajo

Guest Blogger

Marco Carbajo is a business credit expert, author, speaker, and founder of the Business Credit Insiders Circle. He is a business credit blogger for Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp, the SBA.gov Community, About.com and All Business.com. His articles and blog; Business Credit Blogger.com, have been featured in ‘Fox Small Business’,’American Express Small Business’, ‘Business Week’, ‘The Washington Post’, ‘The New York Times’, ‘The San Francisco Tribune’, ‘Alltop’, and ‘Entrepreneur Connect’.

Women’s History Month … Seminars & Info For Businesswomen

March is Women’s History Month


The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of women whose commitment to nature and the planet have proved invaluable to society.

This week’s SBA enews is all about resources for women in business!  See below for links to seminars, webinars and great links to information!

SBA Hosts Online Events for Women Entrepreneurs During Women’s History Month

In celebration of Women’s History Month, SBA is hosting a series of online events that highlight women in business and we want you to join the conversation! Here’s what’s happening through the rest of March:

> Read more

InnovateHER: Weaving New Stories for Women’s Lives

The topic of this year’s Women’s History Month is Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives. Erin Andrew, assistant administrator for women’s business ownership, discusses this and InnovateHER, a business challenge in partnership with Microsoft, that is focused on innovative products and services that make women’s lives better.

> Read more

SBA Helping to Boost Women’s Small Business With New Online Learning Tool

SBA’s support to women entrepreneurs continues to grow. We recently launched a partnership with the Thunderbird School of Global Management, leveraging their DreamBuilder online learning program that is designed for women entrepreneurs who want to start or grow a small business.

> Read more

Google Hangout – Women in Small Business: A Conversation with the SBA

If you missed last week’s Google Hangout, not to worry! You can watch the Google Small Business Community’s chat with Erin Andrew, Assistant Administrator from SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership, on YouTube now!

> Watch now

Connect With A Women’s Business Center

Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) provide counseling, training and networking opportunities for women across the United States and its territories. With a network of nearly 100 educational centers, women around the country can receive tailored assistance to help them start and grow their small businesses. WBCs seek to “level the playing field” for women entrepreneurs, who still face unique obstacles in the business world.

> Connect with a Women’s Business Center Today

About Women’s History Month


*Women’s History Month had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28 which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.”  Throughout the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designating a week in March as “Women’s History Week.”  In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.”  Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month.  Since 1995, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.”

*From the Law Library of Congress’ guide to the legislative history of Women’s History Month.

Executive and Legislative Documents

The Law Library of Congress has compiled guides to commemorative observations, including a comprehensive inventory of the Public Laws, Presidential Proclamations and congressional resolutions related to Women’s History Month.


National Veterans Small Business Week

We join the U.S. Small Business Administration in celebrating National Veterans Small Business Week!

The military trains soldiers with the skills, discipline and leadership necessary to kick start and operate a successful business.  After serving in the military, many veterans return home and choose to run a business.  As small business owners, veteran entrepreneurs are able to pursue their passion to serve our country by creating jobs and spurring economic growth.  Veterans possess the skills, discipline, and leadership necessary to kick start and operate successful businesses.  This week we honor veteran business owners with National Veterans Small Business Week.

With over 21 million veterans in America and more than 250,000 service members transitioning from the military annually, SBA is focused on ensuring that they have access to the capital, counseling, and contracting needed to start and grow successful businesses.

Veteran business owners…

  • Are responsible for nearly one out of every ten small businesses in America
  • Employ nearly six million workers
  • Generate over 1.5 trillion dollars in receipts each year
  • Are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans

National Veterans Small Business Week Events

See what National Veterans Small Business Week events are happening in your area.Download Adobe Reader to read this link content (hint .. the closest to Northeastern Wisconsin are in Milwaukee)

SBA Resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs:

Social Media Engagement

For National Veterans Small Business Week, SBA has created the hashtag #MyVetBiz to encourage veteran business owners to share their stories and to encourage community members to highlight local veteran-owned businesses in their community and show their gratitude and support.  We’d love for you to join the conversation.

Safety plan? I need a safety plan? What the … ?!

So, yes this is Occupational Safety and Health Week.  I got on a bit of a roll with this topic.  It really grabbed my attention folks!  Probably because it is one of those things I’m sure the majority of employers don’t know they need and those issues concern me.

My goals when we had our business was to 1) cover the bills; 2) do an exemplary job for our clients; 3) keep our people employed and 4) stay out of trouble with any governmental entity that had initials they were better known by … i.e. the IRS (*shudder*) and OSHA.    Those of you who regularly read here or at our social media sites know I am an early adopter of … well, everything.   So, back in the day, when having Safety Plans and Hazard Materials Communication Programs were *the topic*; I was all over them.  I wanted to make sure we were in-line with the rules and what I discovered is that many of our peers and contemporaries as small business owners not only were not creating plans but had no idea they needed them or that they could get in huge trouble if an incident occurred.

When I was creating yesterday’s blog post about resources for small businesses I had a sense of deja vú to those days and wondered how many of our Chamber members, 75% of whom are small employers, know that they must have a safety plan in place.  I’ve been trying to think of how to make this as simple as possible, so I’ve been doing some research.  It probably won’t surprise you that it isn’t simple!  Go figure, right?

This post will NOT REPLACE A SPECIFIC PLAN FOR YOUR SPECIFIC BUSINESS.  With that said … away we go

If I wasn’t a Chamber Exec and I was going to pick a business I’d want to operate again, I’d own a Bed & Breakfast that was a coffee & treat shop all day with an antique shop attached and serving wine & appetizers in early evening.  Maybe with books.  Attached to my vineyard.   I know, I know. Keep dreamin’, right?

Anyway, my business would have 9 employees because family doesn’t count and, of course, this post isn’t about liquor, food or B&B licensing so I won’t be addressing those aspects.  Since I have less than 10 employees, I won’t have to maintain injury and illness records.  My business wouldn’t qualify under “the low hazard retail, service, finance, insurance or real estate industry” standard since part of the business is a B&B (nope, I don’t understand how a B&B is high hazard either), but I do make it under the size exemption.  *whew*  That doesn’t mean that I don’t need a written safety and health program though, because I (and you) do; the question is though: what must it include?

From OSHA’s site for small employers:  Each safety and health program should be tailored to fit the company, to blend with its unique operations and culture, and to help employers maintain a system that continually addresses workplace hazards. There are five elements that every effective program should have: management leadership and employee participation, workplace analysis, hazard prevention and control, safety and health training and education, and program evaluation.  

What do you mean by management leadership and employee participation?

Employers and employees work together to make safety and health a priority. Employer and employee involvement communication on workplace and safety and health issues are essential. For example, this partnership can be achieved when you

  • Post the company’s written safety and health policy for all to see
  • Involve employees in policymaking on safety and health issues
  • Take an active part in safety activities
  • Hold meetings that focus on employee safety and health
  • Abide by all safety and health rules
  • Show your commitment by investing time, effort, and money in your safety and health program.

 What is workplace analysis?

Put simply, it means to look at your worksite to see what your hazards are that you can see and identify.  Then you work to  either eliminate the hazard or train your employees to explain how to avoid being hurt.  You are probably asking, but what is a hazard? Well, there are, of course, a lot of definitions, but at its most basic, it is anything that can cause injury or illness.  Like:

  • Have a cord running across a walkway?  Tripping hazard!  Relocate the cord or cover it with a cord cover.
  • Have supplies or inventory stacked up high that employees need to use a ladder or step stool to reach?  Potential fall hazard!  Make sure the ladder or step stool is tall enough to reach the items without overreaching and if it is a ladder, make sure it is either well-secured or you have a plan for keeping them safe while using it.
  • Using extension cords to expand your electrical capacity for computer, printer, adding machine, phone charger and lamp?  Make sure they are commercial grade, have a surge protector and don’t overload the original circuit.  (hint:  you probably are overloading the circuit!!)

So in short, for hazard prevention and control, walk around your business and “safety proof” it, just like you childproof your house.  Use a very critical eye.  Invite someone else in to take a look around for you.  Fix anything you find or create a realistic training to avoid the hazard.  Then re-tour on a regular basis, but don’t wait for your scheduled tour-time to fix hazards and make sure your employees are empowered to fix them as well.

My plan must include (remember, your mileage may vary … this is my dream business after all!):

  • a formal written policy statement regarding safety and health at my business;
  • a fire prevention plan
    • including things like those cords & surge protectors mentioned above as well as working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers;
    • housekeeping practices; i.e.; monitoring and limiting areas where the storage of combustible or flammable materials are be kept.
    • Limiting the amount of flammable and combustible materials
    • Assuring that portable fire extinguishers are available, accessible and properly maintained
  • an evacuation plan (how are my staff & customers going to get out in case of an emergency?  are all exits WELL marked and lit?  are they accessible and unblocked?
  • a hazard communication program including new SDS sheets for any chemicals used at my business.  This is most likely to be cleaning products for us, but could be others.  If I buy in bulk size and put in smaller containers, I must make sure the smaller containers are very clearly marked as to contents and use warnings and that I have MSDS information sheets readily available.  I’m going to put mine in a tabbed section of my safety plan binder.  I’ve also got to be careful, and clear, about what products can be used together, which should *never* be used together  and how they will be safely stored.
  • a training plan for how my employees initially will be trained to learn our safety plan and how to do their job safely.  In addition, since I’m going to have a small staff, it is important they understand the safety hazards/procedures for other roles as well.  After all, we are all in this together.
  • an ongoing evaluation plan of how I’m going to revisit these areas and not only give training but get feedback.  We aren’t large enough to have a Safety Committee, but during our regular staff meetings we will make safety & hazard recognition and prevention a regular topic of discussion.

I found a great site with lots of information, AllAboutOSHA.com.  From that site, I got the following that I want to make sure to share.  It seems scary, but when you really read it, it is pretty much common sense:

What must we do to comply?

Employers have specific responsibilities under OSHA they must perform to ensure the safety and health of their workers. The following list is a summary of the most important ones:

  • Comply with OSHA Regulations – keep your workplace free from serious recognized hazards.
  • Monitor your workplace conditions to make sure they conform to OSHA standards.
  • Make sure tools and equipment are properly maintained prior to employee use.
  • Identify hazards for your employees by using color codes, posters, labels and signs.
  • Develop/maintain safe operating procedures and train employees follow the requirements.
  • Provide medical examinations and training when required by OSHA standards.
  • Post the OSHA Poster (or the state-plan equivalent) informing employees of their rights and responsibilities at a prominent location within the workplace.  This is available for FREE on the OSHA webpage.
  • Report any fatal accident or one that results in the hospitalization of three or more employees to the nearest OSHA office within 8 hours.
  • Provide employee medical & exposure records to employees or their authorized representatives upon their request.
  • Identify authorized employee representatives who may be asked to accompany the OSHA compliance officer during an inspection.
  • Do not discriminate against employees who exercise their rights under the Act.
  • Post OSHA citations at or near the work area involved until the violation has been corrected, or for three working days, whichever is longer.
  • Correct violations by the deadline set in the OSHA citation and submit required verification documentation.

Finally, don’t be afraid to call OSHA (or if like my dream business, you are a small employer in the State of Wisconsin, call WISCON).  Yes, I’m serious.  It is free and they will HELP you, not come in and close you down.  They will tell you what you need to do and then give you time to get it done.  For small employers this will likely be pretty simple and be covered by what is above.  They will review what you’ve already done and help you with filling in the gaps (if any).  Plus?  It is free!  Yes, free.

Contact for WisCon is:  http://www.slh.wisc.edu/wiscon/  Phone: 800-947-0553 or  (608) 226-5240.  They have a number of Safety Consultants around the state.  In the Green Bay area, contact Janeen Eisenman at 920-434-1866 or janeen.eisenman@slh.wisc.edu.

Contact for OSHA (or if not reading this in Wisconsin) http://www.osha.gov/html/RAmap.html 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or 1-877-889-5627 (TTY)

*whew*  I hope this post helped you without freaking you out.  The health and safety of our worksites and workers is vitally important and not as difficult as we might think. Check out the resources in today’s post and yesterday’s too to get you started.  Don’t be afraid to ask the experts at WISCON or OSHA to help you.

Please let me know if you have questions, comments or a great plan you’d like to share!



Occupational Health & Safety Week – Day 3 – Small Business Focus

90% of employers are small employers and for many small employers OSHA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is a scary branch of the government.  My husband has been in school for the last 2 years working on getting his degree in Health and Safety Management.  If you have had a spouse go to school (or even take classes), you know that means everyone is in school then.  So, I’ve been learning a lot more than I ever knew was to learn about this topic and have learned that while, yes, small business does have to meet requirements too – the real point is to have safe and healthy employees.  Today, for Day 3 of Occupational Health & Safety Week, I want to get you some resources to meet that goal.

The OSHA website has a Compliance Assistance Quick Start guide to help you get started.

As a small business owner, providing workers with a safe and healthy workplace is critical to the wellbeing of your employees and the success of your business, whether you operate a construction business, dry cleaners, print shop, or just a regular nine-to-five office, providing workers with a safe workplace is not only critical to the health of your employees and the success of your business (recent government estimates place the business cost associated with occupational injuries at close to $170 billion in company profits) but it is also the law.  Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), employers must provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that cause, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to your employees.

The following workplace safety and health resources from the U.S. Department of Labor‘s Occupational Safety and Health Administration will help you understand requirements that apply to your business and how to comply.

There is even an OSHA handbook for Small Business to help.  Additionally, a division of the CDC, the The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a great website full of resources too.

I know it seems overwhelming, I was a small business owner and felt the same pressures trying to both run a business and not run afoul of laws and regulations.  But, take a small step.  Click on one of the links above and find out something you didn’t know before that can make your worksite a better, safer place for your employees.  After all, without them safely able to do their jobs, what business do you have anyway?


May Day … oops!

No, I didn’t take yesterday off, I just oops’d!  I thought I had a post ready to go for yesterday, and well, the day got away from me!

But!  Back with it today.  Today’s post is both a story and a lesson!  Here at the Chamber, we talk to and work with businesses of all sizes and types; many are start-ups and others are businesses that go through challenges.  While our primary organization role is to foster community & economic development, we do everything we can to give advice, support and resource lists and almost naturally become somewhat invested in their success.  It can be emotional on all of us when things don’t go according to the original plan!  Today’s guest article is written by one such member, David Rovinski.  If you are a regular reader of Chamber Notes, you may recognize David’s name from his former company, Fluidity Business Planning Group.    He has recently ended Fluidity and begun a new venture … no.  Wait.  I’ll let David tell you his story in his words with a postscript from me!

Over the past 3 years, I have taken up the challenge of starting my own business and have realized many things.

First off, when you start a business you are excited for the challenge and opportunity to make it a successful business.  You create a business plan with products and services that you feel are marketable and profitable leading to success.

Over time, you realize that your assumptions on: the market opportunity, target customers, and ability to realize sales quickly, can all be in question.  The struggles of a new business, low operating capital, and a small marketing budget can make “hanging in there” challenging.

I believe it is critical to provide a service that is marketable.  It  is necessary to look honestly and clearly at your services and make adjustments along the way.

I have recently started a new business called Business Growth Resources, LLC, that is focused on business development services that provide solutions to business growth problems.  Prior to this venture, I was focused primarily at writing business plans for new businesses seeking financing, or existing businesses looking to expand.

What I found out over time was that the need for a business plan for financing was secondary to what banks look at.  Personal financial statements, cash on hand, personal investment, and collateral are a major part of getting a loan.

Thus recognizing the demand for a business plan was limited, the need for strategic planning, new  product development, and growth strategies was in greater demand for businesses looking to grow.  This is what Business Growth Resources, LLC is now offering businesses in the area.

Looking at your new business honestly, recognizing shortfalls,  identifying market opportunities, and having the courage to make changes for long-term growth is scary but can be rewarding and on the path to future business success.

Hope you enjoy some insight on starting and growing a small business.

I “like” David’s story, not because of his challenges, but because it is so REAL.  Many, many entrepreneurs end up on the same path as David but a good percentage either don’t recognize where the path leads in time to make a course correction or recognize it but are just unable to adjust.

We’ll check in with David from time-to-time, both as interest and in thought that others can learn from his experiences.  I’d love to know what you think and what your experiences have been with business growth and patterns.


Heart@Work – Protege

Inspiration (in-spuh-rey-shuhn): An influence that motivates.

Diana Gustin’s inspiration was her son Drew, who has been diagnosed with Down ’s syndrome. Gustin use this as motivation to start her own company Heart@Work, to employ adults with disabilities to produce gourmet popcorn that is sold through retail locations, corporate gifts, and fundraisers. However, it doesn’t stop there, Heart@Work also provides vocational and education training for its employees. Heart@Work also is a one of the companies of that is participating in the Green Bay Packer Mentor-Protégé Program.

Administered by AFF Research LLC  of Green Bay,  the program enables established businesses with emerging businesses. Through the 12 month term, the minority- or women-owned businesses will be given specific tools, business exposure, training, materials and resources that cannot be easily attained.

Before the participants were ever chosen, Gustin approached the application process with a nothing ventured, nothing gained-attitude. She felt as the program would not be as beneficial as one would think; however, when Heart@Work was paired with Eli Swanson, Jason Hunt and Chris Hussin from Boradman and Clark Law Firm in Madison, the benefits were immediate. With the three attorneys and the Board Members believing in the mission behind the company, and having the confidence in Gustin, it was all she needed. The acceptance from her peers gave her motivation to do more with her company and remember that she is not only doing this for her son, but for mentally challenged children’s and adults across the nation and world.

During the program, the protégé is required to outline a specific goal that they hoped to accomplish during the year, along with how the company measures the success of those goals and the commitment to a monthly meeting with the mentors to follow-up on the process. This requirement was a great lesson for Gustin, as it helped her with defined and focused goal setting.  In addition, her mentors provided legal advice and support in areas that Gustin would never have though to focus on.   Most importantly, Gustin says the sincere enthusiasm and support toward  her mission and product kept her energized and moving forward.

As her company mission does for people with disabilities, she feels the Green Bay Packer Mentor-Protégé Program does for small businesses. It provides the support that enables small business to grow to its full potential. For Heart@Work and the inspiration that is behind it, it will continue to be inspired and continue to inspire others.

Customer Loyalty

Customer retention remains at the forefront of how to succeed in business.

This guest article from Barbara Wold contains some great information on this important topic!

Customer Loyalty

Trust + Loyalty are the key ways to brand your business right through a recession.

Having a solid brand strategy at the foundation of your business will help you succeed through lean times. That’s because, at the end of the day, there are really only FOUR fundamental ways to grow your business:
• Get more customers
• Get your current customers to buy more
• Get current customers to buy more frequently and for a longer period of time through loyalty
• Get your current customers to buy different products and services from your business rather             than jumping over to a competitor. This is done through upselling and cross-selling

So, how do you do it? By building trust and loyalty.

Corporate scandals, wildly inappropriate executive compensation, failing institutions, all are signs of eroding trust in the marketplace. But people want to trust the companies they patronize.

You can build trust by creating and offering something of genuine value. Be clear about what your product or service promises, and then, over-deliver on your promises. Another way to build trust is through testimonials of satisfied customers.

Build trust through all your marketing and communications. Don’t stretch the truth. This applies to sales presentations, press releases, advertising, business cards, social media and websites. When this trust is infused in all you do and say, you’ve got a brand worth patronizing.

“Trust is probably the most basic human value,” said Fred Rogers from the children’s show, Mister Rogers Neighborhood.

Once your customers completely trust you, they’ll become loyal followers. Walmart is no slouch at building trust and loyalty themselves. Shoppers automatically assume their prices really ARE lower.

One way to build loyalty is to practice extreme customer service. While customer service is a core expectation for all businesses, you can differentiate your business by bending over backwards for your customers and prospects.

Remember that even small improvements in customer retention from trust and loyalty can increase the profits in your company.

Copyright 2012. Reprinted with permission from Barbara Wold’s Retail & Consumer Tips

Top Ten Changes for 2012 and Retail Business

Main Street Managers are about as “on the street” people as exist and as such have some great insights into what is currently happening and what to expect.  The following comes from  Nadeen Steffey (Main Street Manager, Our Town Cooperative – Borough of Canonsburg Main Street Program), who shared this via Linkedin:

2012, A Year of Change — Top Ten Changes

1.  Weekday Convenience and Weekend Experience

These will be the major drivers in 2012 in retailing. The consumer will expect you to provide convenience during the week which may mean you will need to offer different services and possibly longer hours. During the weekend customers want your store to WOW them and therefore more theatrical events will need to be organized on weekends to catch the consumer’s attention.

2.  Avoid the Big Ticket Items

Consumers will be more frugal this year. This reduction in spending will not affect all retailers, in fact sharp retailers in the food and garden sector could see an increase in sales as families stay at home, cooking and gardening become more of a pastime. But, it will be the small ticket items that will prosper. The big ticket items are the ones that you will find difficult to sell. Furniture, carpet retailers, etc. will especially find it more difficult to survive while food and garden retailers whether the storm.

3.  Social media de-cluttering as a marketing tool

Many social media guru’s are predicting that business people will start analyzing which social media channels are really working for their businesses. Discard some and focus on others. Social media will be a major marketing tool. Those retailers who do not join in the social media marketing surge will quickly get left behind, but it will be a less cluttered social media world.

4.  Video and Pictures will grow as Marketing tools

A picture is worth a 1,000 words so the saying goes. Businesses will be putting more videos and more pictures online to sell their story to their customers. This may be an important area to learn new skills.

5.  Fewer staff, but better staff

Many retailers have forgotten how important their people are and have forgotten to train them in how to be the best hosts in town. In this area of common sense many businesses are failing badly. Customer interaction will be a real key to success.

6.  Networking with other retailers

Independent businesses cannot survive on their own. The future means networking either in a group within the industry sector or with retailers within your community, or better yet, in both areas. To be a truly independent retailer and not engage with other retailers could be a major mistake.

7.  Your Local Community will be the key

Customers will engage with retailers that they feel support their community. This is why farmers markets have been so successful in recent years. The consumers want to know your values and want you to be consistent in getting that message across.

8.  Price flexibility

All the research shows that price is a driver and nothing will change in 2012. Many retailers have been too inflexible in their pricing and we will see a lot more price flexibility in 2012. This does not mean discounting. There may be special offers, but at the same time other products may be increased in price.

9.  Seasonality will reappear

Retailers will need to celebrate all the seasons. Re-embrace the seasons and use this as a marketing opportunity.

10. Fewer but better

There will be fewer retailers doing what you do. But, the retailers who are left will be stronger as a result of the clean out that is taking place.

Don’t let not having a Board of Directors Stop You!

Small businesses and most medium size businesses do not have a Board of Directors, but you can create an advisory board to help your business grow and be successful.

From Barbara Wold:

The Focus Group
Research gives a business the competitive edge.  A focus group is one excellent way to collect data and fresh new ideas from customers and staff.

1.  Gather 10 to 12 people to “brainstorm on specific areas of your business.”  To attain that
number, you’ll need to invite 20 to 24.

2.  Keep the objective of the group specific, not general.

3.  Appoint an outsider — not a company employee — to be your moderator: he or she will be more
objective and therefore effective.

4.  Provide a discussion outline and/or worksheet as a guide during the session.

5.  Hire someone to take notes.

6.  Keep the session to two hours or less.

7.  Hold the focus group session in a private room at a local restaurant.

8.  Offer compensation of a gift or a store gift certificate worth $75 to $100.

9.  Write thank you notes to all participants.

10.  Promise the attendees anonymity.  You’ll get more honest responses and results.

11.  Do not video tape or have an observation “window” overlooking the group.

Remember, people — not profits — run your company.  Show your customers and staff they are appreciated by opening lines of communication and inviting suggestions.

Copyright 2011. Reprinted with permission from Barbara Wold’s Retail & Consumer Tips, bwold@ix.netcom.com.