Small Business Survival: The Essentials

SMB’s have been decimated with the current economic conditions. How can small businesses survive? they can recover by learning from the bigger companies, doubling down on what makes them unique, embracing digital technology and marketing, and of course, never losing focus.

The exact number of small businesses that have permanently closed is 40%. Unlike large businesses, SMB’s don’t have large cash reserves, easy access to credit form banks, or the option to raise capital from shareholders.

Learning from the titans and implementing their methods at a much smaller scale is an easy way to compete with large corporations while also setting small businesses apart.

Small Business lessons from Jeff Bezos and Amazon

Obsess over the customer

 Many large corporations as they keep growing, they move further away from what the customer wants and more towards what the management thinks is right. That is what makes the difference between the small restaurant vs. the large chain franchise. As small-medium business operators being close to the customer is an advantage, understand and delight the customer.

Small changes compound into bigger effects. Understanding the start to the end of what a customer goes through and making changes within those touchpoints can make a big difference.

An example of this is a story about a dental office (this is a small business) introduced and email booking system instead of the traditional call. This resulted in them increasing their number of general checks by 50%.  The simple move of adding a booking email to their website made a huge difference.

“is that you need to obsess over customers I can tell you that we have been doing this from the very beginning and it’s the only reason that amazon.com exists today in any form we’ve always put customers first when given the choice of obsessing over competitors or obsessing over customers we always obsess over customers we pay attention to what our competitors do but it’s not where we put our energy it’s not where we get our motivation from we really like to start with customers and work backwards and again that is the key thing that I know and it covers a lot of other mistakes if you’re truly obsessed over customers it’ll cover a lot of errors”

Inventing on behalf of customers

It is important to invent anytime we have a problem. This can be by adding to your current products/services, but if that is not possibly building a solution that solves the problem.

All Inventing is on behalf of customers, it’s not a customer’s job to invent. Listening to the problem, a business finds the solution. But customers won’t tell you everything and so invent on their behalf and that focus on the invention.

Think long term

Short term profits, solutions never build strong businesses. Generational businesses fail when they forget the long term thinking and strategy. How to keep customers coming back, increasing their lifetime value. But also what problem does a business solve for it’s customer, how to perfect solving that problem.

Focusing on a north star, a vision, is what drives long term thinking. Where do you see the business in 5,10,20 or 50 years from today. What should the world be saying about the business. Planting the seds for the future starts today, even if the results are not apparent. A quote to help in that thinking is

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”

It is always day one

The reason family-run businesses fail after three generations (most times) is that the generations forget what their ancestors believing in. They were handed a gold spoon, versus what the previous generations has to start from scratch.

Amazon has a day one mentality; Jeff Bezos for the past 23 years has always attached the first letter to shareholders in every annual report. Why? To remind everyone that it’s always day one at amazon.

“As always, I attach a copy of our original 1997 letter. It remains Day 1.”

Day one means focusing on the result not the process. If organizations forget what it takes to grow, stay competitive, that “first day” feeling that means they are complacent.

The first day feeling is whenever you go to a retail store, the owner, employees are giving their 100% for every customer that walks in. I remember visiting an ice-cream shop, being their first customer was fantastic. They were quick, gave me exactly what I wanted, the ice-cream tasted great, they threw in extra chocolate sauce (delight) and in the end the owner asked how the experience and then told us it was his first day. Four years later they have three locations and a full house every day of the week.  I visited the same store four years later and reminded the owner I was the first customer; the service and quality gave that same feeling that I got the first day I visited the store.  

The difference

The four principles are what the world’s most successful company uses. But most companies do not use these principles, they are slow, complacent, and forget the customer. Here is where the small and new businesses steps in. From ramen start-ups to traditional non-tech businesses, the principles remain the same.

As a Startup or small business, making and implementing these changes are much easier than larger companies. But the same principle can be applied to the solo-entrepreneur or personal brand.

The next series will give a step by step guide on implementing these principles, from digital tools and techniques to the strategy that is easy to implement. I am no expert on this, but I have seen many small businesses/ start-ups not have/ know the tools.  I’ve worked with businesses to grow, survive during the challenging times and also used these exact same tools when building my own businesses.  

Knowledge is like money: to be of value it must circulate, and in circulating it can increase in quantity and, hopefully, in value.

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