07 October 2011

Don’t be a BEIGE business….

I was watching the Anthony Bourdain show “No Reservations” recently and I had to laugh when I saw small business innovation at its very best. Anthony and his team were sailing up the Hudson River on a classic old timber yacht, with the perfect mountain backdrop and a postcard moment clearly emerging from the mist, when a little pontoon boat appeared out of nowhere, tooting its ridiculously loud horn and shattering the tranquility of the moment.

Now this little boat was a floating hot dog stand. How funny is this and how clever is it? Don’t wait for the customer to come to you, get out on the water and sell those hot dogs. I love it and so did Anthony Bourdain and his crew.

At the moment there is so much negativity regarding the financial state of various global markets and its potential impact on business everywhere, it is easy to get paralysed with fear. But this leads to even more problems for the average business. Now is not the time to be hiding out the back, worried about the state of affairs, now is the time to be bold, to be looking for new markets, to be giving new ideas a try and to be putting as much energy as you can into generating new business.

I fully understand that it is not that easy to leap out from behind your counter and start running down the street knocking on doors, but believe me, the days of waiting for business to come to us are long gone, and I honestly don’t think they will be back. The world has changed.

My advice is simple.

  1. It’s time to accept that the world has changed. There is no one single thing that is going to suddenly make your business overflow with new customers.
  2. The days of waiting for business to come to us are over. We need to be creative, bold and energised enough to go and chase new customers, to find new markets and to drive our business success actively.
  3. It’s time to brush up on those networking skills. Now more than ever we need to be working with others who can refer business to us.
  4. We need to get really good at talking about our business. It’s time to brush off the “I LOVE MY BUSINESS” t-shirt and get excited about what you are doing. If you aren’t passionate about your business don’t expect your customers to be.
  5. If your business doesn’t get noticed, it’s what I call a beige business. No one buys from a beige business. Beige businesses are lack luster, they don’t stand out from the crowd, they blend in to the background on every level, they have little to no relevance and no one talks about them. Beige is bad.

I think it is only natural that we want things to get back to the way they were, but when you accept that they won’t, it actually frees you up to focus on the future instead of lamenting on the past.

Often people say that what I talk about is common sense. I don’t know whether this is a compliment or not, but I do know that common sense isn’t that common these days. If it was, surely every business would be a huge success and every small business owner would be driving a Maserati.

One piece of common sense that I do know, is that now, more than ever, to be successful in business you need to be brave enough and bold enough to get out and chase new business. Get good at this and you will be miles ahead of your competitors.

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