Nowhere is the adage, “the only constant in life is change,” more true than in small business. Regardless of what things were like when you began serving customers, it’s quite likely that conditions have changed. The economy may have shifted, new competitors may have arrived on the scene, or your mix of marketing tools may no longer be optimal.
What’s more, you have changed. You’ve gained knowledge and experience that only comes with running a business. But there’s always something more you can learn.
That’s why small business owners should be constantly in planning mode—taking stock of their businesses, the environments in which they operate, and the trends that are influencing what their customers want. Here are some tips to help keep your small business on track for long-term growth:
Revisit your business plan. Your business plan is a “living document” that should be updated as needed with new or modified contingencies, and adjusted timeframes for key milestones such as expansions or new product/service lines. Though a yearly review is standard, retired technology industry executive and SCORE mentor Mark Lowenstein recommends more frequent assessments for new businesses. “If you’re still feeling your way through, you want to see if you’re on the right track, and how well things are working,” he explains.
Watch those numbers. “If you are not evaluating your financials and something is wrong, it may be too late to fix it,” observes small business consultant Carol Roth, author of The Entrepreneur Equation. She adds that financials can tell you much more than whether or not you’re making money. “They can tell you if you need more diversity in your customers and which products contribute the most profit margin.”
Watch your industry. In today’s interconnected global economy, any change anywhere can have a ripple effect on any small business. Stay current with world and community events; study your sales records; and communicate with customers, suppliers, and colleagues. Local business groups and professional and trade organizations are a great way to stay in touch.
Watch yourself. Make sure you’re mentally prepared and focused to handle the challenges and opportunities that come with growing a small business. “Business is not about having a fantastic idea; it’s about consistency of execution over a long period of time,” Roth says. “While it’s natural to be exuberant about a new endeavor, you also need the stamina and resources to carry on over the long haul.”
Another great source for small business expertise is SCORE “For the Life of Your Business.” SCORE is a non-profit organization of more than 12,000 volunteers who provide free, confidential business mentoring and training workshops to small business owners.
To learn more about the local chapters of SCORE, visit www.thevillagesocala.score.org or www.lakesumter.score.org