17 May 2013, by A. Cedilla
1. Manage your costs.
Financial management skills are necessary to a business’s continued operation and survival. You burn through capital without anything to show for it, you might as well have set your money on fire. A business can’t survive without money — that defeats its purpose.
- First you have to have money to start a business in the first place : a bankroll, start up funds, inventory purchasing, tools and equipment, or web-hosting costs, site design, advertising, etc.
- Then to keep it running (operational, labor and overhead costs) until it starts making money, and until it reaches the point of sustainability
- Then there are things to consider like market research costs like trend analysis and forecasting, and the work needed to gather and act on customer feedback in order to be competitive.
Luxury brands can keep their margins high because their exclusivity and craftsmanship practically guarantee that the people who can afford their products are those in their target market. Other brands make their money through sheer volume (think Forever 21). And that’s just for physical goods. Digital goods are another kettle of fish entirely…with the speed of their transmission, generating buzz, viral marketing, and social media marketing are just the tip of the iceberg. And doing all that takes time and money.
Market savvy in relation to sourcing, costing and pricing (material goods and their production), value and pricing again (e-commerce) is a very real edge in business. You need to find the sweet spot to profit, and to produce the things your market buys from you..
2. Constantly check yourself.
Without intervention and direction people plateau, and so do businesses. Can you imagine peaking in high school? Or hearing that you made it on the list of a “Where Are They Now?” gossip session? Time passes for everything, and in order to be relevant today and tomorrow, you must be able to still connect to the times and with the times.
One way is to watch the market you occupy and adapt before you’re flattened by change. Kodak, once the world leader in photography and film equipment, wasn’t able to adjust to the digital revolution, and is still struggling to get to its feet in the aftermath. For a business to last, it must find ways to stay relevant to the times, and that means numerous adjustments to stay on course.
For instance, who would have thought you could still make a living making seals and signet rings? You’d imagine a tiny, crotchety old guy crafting shiny silver thingies in a small store somewhere, but no, these craftsmen advertise on the internet and are quite active in their respective fields.
- Ward Dunham and Linnea Lundquist of Atelier Gargoyle
- Dominic Chaine of Engraving Dominique CHAINE
- Man Chung Chu of Stone Seal Engravings
- Neal Oliver at the Sealmaker
3. Invest in market research.
Know what your competition is doing: there’s always something new being cooked up . When you know what’s happening in your market and what your customers are looking for, the cross pollination of this knowledge leads to hybrid vigor that pushes sales.
You stay in a small sphere of knowledge and experience, you limit yourself to that sphere. If you’re sure and secure in that choice though, more power to you. Continuous exposure to new things may not be your thing, but mastery and exploration (going deeper into your craft) is a laudable choice. There’s a niche for everything.
4. Be obsessive about detail.
Small things can make a big impact. For example, is your website and marketing campaign optimized for accessibility across platforms? People use their smartphones and tablets too, aside from full-sized laptops and desktops with normal screen space. Thing of how big the smartphone-using market is in your area, especially if you’re a locally based business.
Food businesses with mobile eateries do a killing when they tweet their locations to followers, and you’ve probably seen this on the food and lifestyle channels. Who would have thought that telling people where you’re parked at lunchtime could result in a literal following, and not just on Twitter?
5. Don’t compromise quality.
Soundbites, promos and nice advertising can get people to take a bite, but only if they truly value what they get from you will they stay. Don’t compromise your reputation, the quality of your service or your products just to make money — undercutting, undermining the competition and promising more than you deliver is not good form, and anything people say about you and your business will follow you forever. The internet says so.
6. Know your target market.
Positioning is key to business sustainability. The very nature of niche marketing means you can’t be all things to everyone, you just have to be the Go-To Guy for your niche. Your market will determine what your products’ final form will be, how it’s presented and priced and where it will be positioned. Go where you can best thrive.
7. Ensure customer satisfaction.
This helps retain your market’s relationship with your products and service. Look at who comprises your customer base, and tailor your approach to suit their needs. We had communication ADD now becasue of the speed of ubiquitous tech. Faced with an overwhelming number of choices…for some, when they encounter problems, it’s easier to drop you and turn to another supplier than work to resolve the issue.
Customer support is part of the relationship –and it truly is a relationship, with all that ‘relationship’ entails: two-way communication, openness and clarity, and honest desire to serve the other person without feeling used or taken advantage of.
8. Develop good relationships with your business partners.
Nurture them for the long term. The world is smaller, and people talk. Good relationships just mean good business. You never know what the future will bring, so treating everyone fairly and with respect is just the right thing to do.
9. Get good feedback.
Follow up, ask for the honest truth from people you trust; You can’t do anything if you don’t know that there’s a problem. You can’t stay it touch with your market if you don’t have a way to communicate with your customers and use the feedback. An active, reliable communication channel helps with that.
10. Keep your hand in.
Personal monitoring is still an intrinsic part of having a business. It’s your baby. You had a hand in growing the business and watching it morph from a shaky, uncertain start-up to a healthy enterprise. You know how it works, and how to take its pulse to see its health.
Running a business is a process of continuous reinvention, making sure you keep fresh and relevant, able to compete with the best. Just like life, running a business is not only what you make of it, but what it makes of you, and hopefully these 10 rules make sure both you and your business will be around for the long haul.
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