10 June 2007

The future of small business

Small businesses form the backbone of most economies. As populations grow worldwide, so do the number of small businesses staring up. Millions of people around the world continue to opt for running their own business instead of working for larger organisations. As a result, there is an incredible knowledge and skill base tied up in running these small businesses. There is an enormous amount of expertise and specialist knowledge that thrives in this economic sector, the value of which is often underestimated.

From my experience, small businesses generally offer far better levels of service than do their larger counterparts. This is due, in most instances, to the key personnel being involved at the front of the business. They deal with their customers face to face, and the business is small enough to ensure that communication is open and continual.

There is no doubt that there are many trials and tribulations when it comes to running your own business and, of course, there is the ever-present risk of financial failure. However, this doesn’t seem to deter people from choosing this alternative career path, and for that, I think they should be admired.

The problem facing most small businesses is the ever increasing competition from other small businesses. This dilemma is here to stay; in fact, it will only increase. With the advent of the Internet and other new technologies, the competition we all face now comes not only from the business up the road, but from businesses on the other side of the world.

Small businesses need to be smart. They need to be built on solid foundations and to be proactive. They need continually to strive to provide exceptional levels of customer service and value for money. Consumers are better informed and more discerning than ever before, and are well aware that they have a choice when it comes to deciding on where they will spend their hard earned money.

Business survival is about facing these ongoing challenges with a commitment to being the best at what you do. It is about treating consumers with the respect that they deserve, while standing out from the sea of other businesses that offer the same or similar services.

It’s all about attitude

From my experience, there are two very distinct types of businesses and business operators. There are those people who are really unhappy doing what they do. Everyone else is to blame for the problems they experience. The customers are an inconvenience, and are always causing problems. Advertising is just a waste of time and money. The accountants are no good, the staff are nothing but trouble, and the future always looks glum. These businesses struggle to survive.

The other type of business that I have observed is run by positive and enthusiastic people. They take what they do seriously, they believe in offering excellent customer service and value for money, and they are continually looking for ways to make their businesses better. They don’t act like victims. If they face a setback, as we all do from time to time, they pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get on with it. They dwell on the positive, rather than the negative, aspects of the situation. These businesses have a far better chance of surviving and flourishing than the first type, due, I believe, to the attitude of the business operator.

From my experience, there are more of the negative types of businesses than there are the positive ones. So, the first step top boosting your business is to ensure that you have the right attitude about running your business.

If you already own or operate a business…

People who have been running their own or someone else’s business for a long time are often set in their ways. They may have formed bad business habits and may regard ‘change’ as a dirty word. I doubt that this describes you, because if it did, it’s unlikely that you would have purchased this book.

The greatest personality trait that any business person can have is an open mind. We live in an age where there is an over-abundance of information, a lot of it conflicting. The fact is that the amount of information available is only going to increase, so we need to be able to use this wealth of information for our own benefit.

Successful business people have two striking characteristics: a very clear objective combined with an air of detachment about their business. I have run a number businesses that were unprofitable because, while I had the clear objective, I didn’t have the air of detachment. The clear objective gives you the passion and the enthusiasm to keep going, but the detachment stops the business from taking over your life. It enables you to be somewhat clinical about what you are doing: if it’s not working, let it go.

A business is just a business. There is life before, during and after. If you are not enjoying, or worse still you hate, what you are doing, maybe it’s time to cut your losses and make a break. Detachment lets you do this.

If I had learned to let go at an earlier age, I would have saved myself a lot of grief. Now I find it easy. If it’s not working and I know I have given it 100 per cent, I will simply cut my losses and move on. There will be other business opportunities that will come my way and, most importantly, I will have learned a few new lessons.

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