3 Tips to Aggressively Move Your Small Business Forward in 2011

It’s official: We are two months into the new year and one month away from slipping back into old and sometimes unproductive habits. We know what this looks like—we see it all around us. From calorie-conscious shoppers in the grocery store because everyone is dieting for the New Year to overcrowded gyms because all of us are redesigning our bodies. “Give it a month,” said the lady beside me at the gym, “and half of these people will disappear. Then there will be plenty of room.  Just wait. You’ll see.”

But is that what we really want in our business? To slip back into old habits? I want better outcomes for myself and my clients. So let’s get fit to achieve our 2011 business goals.

1. Shop and See

Every business sells something to somebody for some reason. You know your product, you know your customer, but do you know their purchasing environment?  John Mariotti, consultant and novelist, suggests that we master the art of competitive shopping.  It lets you study your product from your (potential) client’s perspective.

In other words, put yourself in your customers’ shoes.  Go to the stores where they shop and see what sits on the shelf beside your product.   Experience it the way your client does.  Whether you sell services or products, competitive shopping allows you to hear the background noise that your (potential) customers deal with.  Putting yourself in the market and making honest observations can help you (and your team) discover how to cut through the noise and stand out.

2. Call the Accountant

Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends, recently provided 5 smart steps for cutting costs and keeping more of what you make. Many small business owners shy away from the financials but in this economy (and for long-term success), pinching pennies is still a savvy move.

Among her tips, Anita suggests that we call the accountant sooner than later.  “A good accountant can help shape up your business’s finances all year long.” A good accountant can help you discover room for improvement, including cost-cutting solutions that you can implement now as well as reviewing and fine-tuning your financial systems.  Why go through another year with “good enough” accounting and cash management when great is available (and could save you time and money too)?

3. Ask for Referrals

Ivana Taylor, author and CEO of Third Force, a strategy firm for small businesses, suggests 9 tips to get more ideal customers calling you instead of you cold calling them.  Sounds great, doesn’t it? Just the solution that we’ve been waiting for.

Well, if we actually intend to move our business forward in–spite of the economy (or whatever we blame our weaknesses on this week), then it requires smart work on our end.   And we just may have to do things in ways that we have never done them before.

  • It is up to us to PARTNER, to identify our people, the responsive connections in our lives, the ones who take our phone calls, the non-competing members in our industry and connect with them.
  • It is up to us to PLAN, to develop an easy strategy for helping others share information about our company and services. This includes describing your company, understanding your ideal customer and giving your people (your referral team) sound bites that make sense. In other words, teach them how to refer you business.
  • It is up to us to work the PROCESS, to consistently implement our referral request plan. Taylor suggests that we meet  in person, via online software like Skype or GoToMeeting, or by phone.  Whatever it takes—just connect.

And when you do it, don’t act like a salesperson; act like a friend in business. See how you can help them (first), but also tell them what you are trying to do and ask for feedback. The connection will make you top of mind.

See, your referral partners meet your ideal customers everyday, but it’s up to you to give your partners what they need in order to say your name, mention your service, and strongly and naturally suggest your products.

Get to It

Implementing business solutions is like working out.  You’re not a kid in the gym forced to do mandatory exercise anymore. You’re in charge.  You control how often you go, the kind of exercise (run, step, dance—whatever you like) you do, and how intense you make it.  And because you control all of that, then you control how quickly success comes and how long it lasts.

Choose (at least) one and get to it.  Referral team, here I come.


Jamillah Warner Jamillah Warner (Ms.J), a poet with a passion for business, is a Georgia-based writer and speaker and the Marketing Coordinator at Nobuko Solutions. She also provides marketing and communication quick tips in her getCLEAR! MicroNewsletter.

7 Reactions
  1. Asking for referrals can be hard, but if you’re asking the right people (satisfied customers for example) they will be very open to the idea because they already like you. Sometimes they just need a little encouragement to think of other people they might know who could benefit from your product/service.

  2. “And because you control all of that, then you control how quickly success comes and how long it lasts.”

    Yes, freedom and responsibility can be a double edged sword sometimes. This post is chock full of great advice for succeeding in today’s tough economy. Much appreciated!

  3. Great information and tips Jamillah. If you don’t mind, I would like to add …. Moving your small business forward takes the 3 D’s …. Desire, Devotion and Determination.

    First, have a plan, especially when researching your market niche for the products or services you are considering to offer. Then create some short term goals that moves you forward each and every day implementing your plan.

    And as Jamillah points out, ‘you control how quickly success comes and how long it lasts’. However, this isn’t a race, every step you take should be thought out which will increase awareness about you, your company, products and services.

    And most of all, you are in control so it is all up to you to make each day count towards the success of your online business.

  4. At the end of the day, success is largely dependent on self-discipline and personal accountability. Unfortunately, a lot of people struggle with this. Once you realize that you are 100% responsible for your own success or failure in business, you will start to move forward and make things happen.

  5. As a CPA that works with small businesses I must admit I’m a little biased but I can’t strongly enough endorse your statement “A good accountant can help shape up your business’s finances all year long.” To add to that – A good accountant will provide cost savings that will more than pay for his fees. After the year is over all we can do is clean up the accounting records and produce financial statements that reflect what happened (the income statement) and where you are (the balance sheet). When engaged during the year we can provide analysis and help to guide you to make better decisions leading to greater profitability.