Small Business Survival

In today's economic climate, the first priority for the small business entrepreneur is survival. A glance at newspapers, business journals, or cable news channels reveals a succession of corporations striving to stay on top of their game, and often failing, to slow the growth of outsourcing or to show real growth within their market space. In such times, knowing how to achieve long-term success is more critical than ever.

The most important thing today's small businesses can do is expose their organizations to critical self-analysis. Small businesses survive not by competing head-on with global corporations, but by pursuing the market niches larger operators ignore. Such a strategy requires constant attention to detail, necessitating self-analysis well beyond the operational level; it is crucial that everything from the basic business model down to the operation of the mailroom is subject to rigorous study. This means determining what, precisely, the business is aiming to offer its customers, how this differentiates it from its competitors, and how well it is delivering on these core products and services.

Much of this analysis can be readily conducted by the business itself, but a substantial part of a company's success is down to perception ? how customers (existing or potential) view its products, services and overall performance. However, determining such perceptions is notoriously difficult for companies that typically lack personnel trained in the specifics of marketing, public relations and advertising.

The most obvious alternative, turning to outside experts ? dedicated market research companies, for example ? is often impossible when money is tight and budgets small, but this does not mean entrepreneurs can ignore the example set by the most successful corporations. What almost all business success stories have in common is a relentless commitment to factors that reinforce competitive advantage: product research and development; marketing, advertising and public relations activities; and customer relations.

What the most successful companies have recognized is that survival hinges on two separate, yet intertwined factors ? being the best, and being recognized as being the best.

Being the best requires a commitment to excellence in all areas. That means small business leaders cannot shy away from hard decisions, where employment is concerned for example. Staff that consistently fail to perform must be replaced with those that will. The smaller the company, the more difficult such actions may be to take, but they are essential. Similarly, leaders need to ensure they have staff who are prepared to do what it takes to deliver results, no matter if that means asking for a commitment from staff far greater than business rivals demand of their employees. Being the best also requires a company to recognize when it is lacking in excellence in key areas, and to identify whether that excellence can be delivered through hiring new employees, retraining existing staff, or seeking outside counsel. Money invested in improving core business competencies is never better spent than in tough times like today, because it directly impacts productivity, sales, and perceptions.

Making sure a company is recognized as being the best is often seen by small business entrepreneurs as secondary in importance to "real" issues such as production, distribution and sales. The common viewpoint is that if the product is "right" the customers will buy it. Yet it is precisely this attitude that dooms many businesses, regardless of the quality of their products or services. Small businesses need to give as much attention to their public relations, marketing and advertising strategies as large corporations.

Many entrepreneurs cry that this is simply beyond their means ? they cannot contemplate spending tens of thousands of dollars on "fancy" market analyses from specialized researchers. The argument is valid, but consider this: if marketing, advertising and public relations dollars are in short supply, how critical is it that those dollars are well spent? A small business can far less afford just one marketing effort to miss its target than can a huge international corporation.

What small businesses must do is learn the core skills marketing experts take for granted. They need to take every opportunity to speak to customers, potential customers and vendors to uncover how well the company is perceived. Likewise, a simple analysis of publicly available materials (such as census data) can help a small business better identify key target markets, reducing the waste of valuable resources inherent in blindly blanketing an area with its advertising. Such an analysis might lack the sophistication of a professional market analysis, but it can make the difference between success and failure ? and there is nothing to stop the company utilizing a more professional analysis in the future when it is growing strongly.

It comes back to the issue of self-analysis. If a company has a clear vision of where it wants to go, the task of identifying its market, and the optimal ways to attack that target, is much easier. This allows for a concentration of limited resources where they can best help deliver success. Such a focus of effort lies at the heart of corporate survival, no matter if the company is large or small.

Laura Aldridge is CEO of Aldridge Corporation, a minority, woman-owned strategic marketing communication & public relations firm. Big deal. That title sounds powerful, but don't be fooled. She readily admits you might catch her in the line of a local Los Angeles area store, playing with her husband and kids at the lake, coaching her daughter's cheerleading squad, watching youth football practices, or art show.

And on occasion she finds time to write articles on various topics, writing training material for technology based applications, speak at a conference or two, designing just about anything for almost anybody, making calls and trying to get her client's all the press and exposure they can handle, and serve on the board of directors for some great organizations. She's worked for a couple of great companies that saw the value of her ideas and style; she has won an award or two. But don't let the "powerful" title trick you; she's just "Laura" to most people.

Perception: What Are Your Patients REALLY Hearing?

Never underestimate the power of perception! Perception plays a major part in what is actually... Read More

Perfecting Your Pitch

Why should you describe your business to others in 5 to 10 seconds?How long do... Read More

Aircraft Washing Service Operations Manual

Anyone who is serious about washing aircraft as a full time profession should be prepared... Read More

Franchise Buyers from Hell

I ran a franchise company for many years, a car wash franchise, and we use... Read More

Are You Making the Most of Your Intern?

KEEPING INTEREST HIGH: Supervision is key to the success of the program. Interns like direction,... Read More

Small Business Owners - Form a Relationship with Your Bank Manager

It's just like a marriageTo expect a bank manager or officer to play such close... Read More

Starting A Concrete Cleaning Pressure Washer Business

Concrete cleaning can be a lucrative business to start. Here are some tips which will... Read More

Overcoming Your Biggest Competitor

Before you read any further in this article, I'd like you to take a moment... Read More

Business Debt Collection Letter Writing Secrets

Debt collection letters--an overview"Debt collection letter" in the singular may be an oxymoron, since unfortunately,... Read More

Site Selection - Slice of Life, A Car Wash and Detail Center DownTown

There is a continual trend we are seeing which I can remember participating in over... Read More

Avoiding the Small Business Cash Flow Roller Coaster

A solopreneur I know disappears from my radar screen for weeks on end when she's... Read More

Three Big Barriers To Small Business Marketing Success

When you feel like you're always busy working on your business, but not getting where... Read More

Its Spring - Time For A Compensation Program Tune Up

Now that winter has passed, the annual ritual of spring cleaning is in full swing.... Read More

North County San Diego Small Business

North County San Diego has had some significant growth, and it appears to be a... Read More

Mobile Detailing Expansion Considerations

Expanding your business requires you to take a good hard look at your business (checking... Read More

How To Write A Business Plan

Writing a business plan is a fundamental step to ensuring your business has every chance... Read More

Pressure Washing Graders and Tractor Motors

When pressure washing heavy equipment each piece of equipment has a slightly different procedure to... Read More

Youll See It When You Believe It - Growing Your Business from the Inside Out

What unspoken message are you sending your clients and customers? Is your personal energy field... Read More

Small Business and Over Regulation

Over regulation of small business is so intense it is getting hard to make a... Read More

Bogus Investor and Consumer Complaints and Consumer Misrepresentation

Like most regulatory bodies in the United States, the Federal Trade Commission gets investor and... Read More

Private Franchising is not Real a Real Franchise

One major issue not being addressed right now in the regulatory definitions which guide consumers... Read More

How To Accept Credit Cards

If you plan to do business online, then your website will need to accept credit... Read More

Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Joining a Professional Association

I'll be the first to admit that I went a little nuts when I moved... Read More

Small Business Survival

In today's economic climate, the first priority for the small business entrepreneur is survival. A... Read More

Why The Carwash Industry is Stagnant; What You Can Do to Change Your Field

Many years ago, I had warned the carwash industry of problems brewing in customer dissatisfaction... Read More

Arent Small Businesses Lucky?

Why? Because they have access to world class public relations no matter how small they... Read More

Routine Maintenance of High Pressure Hot Water Motors

If you run a pressure washer business you need complete uptime on your equipment, break... Read More

Bringing Home the Bacon

In general, all of us know how to accomplish the task and get the work... Read More

How to Curb Antique Shop Theft Inexpensively

If you have ever had your antique shop or mall ripped off, you understand that... Read More

Secrets of Cleaning Truck Trailers in Your Fleet from a Veteran Truck Washer

Cleaning the trailers towed by big trucks is not easy, those big forty-foot to fifty-three... Read More

Serious About Writing A Business Plan... Start A Business Plan Library

Tap these treasures of ideas. The best money you can spend is money invested in... Read More

A Look at Small Business Incorporating in Florida

The choice to incorporate a small business in Florida has several advantages. Corporations are separate... Read More

432 Page Franchise Report by the FTC

The Federal Trade Commission is upgrading the franchise law and they have made a report.... Read More

Taking Stock

Back when I owned an inventory-based business, one of my better customers had a clever... Read More

Presentations and Sales Automotive Detailers

Many auto detailers fall short in their sales presentations. I have often shopped the competition... Read More

Business Failure, The 8 Traps Causing Failure And The One Attribute Which Ensures Business Survival

It is estimated that 78% of all small business start-ups fail within the first twelve... Read More

The End -- Fireworks or Fizzle?

Seems as though there are a lot of business closings going around lately. Everywhere I... Read More

Where Can I Get Clients From?

The following tips have come from a wide variety of sources; some from other successful... Read More

How to Avoid the Most Common Reasons for Small Business Failure

The life cycle of the typical small business is short and painful. It starts out... Read More

Franchise Sales and Use of Online Franchise Directories

Franchising Directory Sites-Paid Advertising, Lead Generation for FranchisingFranchising Directory Sites are not doing the Industry... Read More

11 Things Small Business Owners Can Learn From The Supreme Court

1. Have A Strong Constitution ? Justices deliver decisions by interpreting the U.S. Constitution. Never... Read More

Employee Induction - Are you Inducting your People - A Practical How To

In today's fast paced marketplace it is easy to neglect the small important things!Recently we... Read More

How to Integrate Yourself in Someone Elses Business

When do you need to get more involved with the day to day activities of... Read More

Shortcuts Will Kill Your Business

Think of your business as a living, breathing, organism. It requires you to give it... Read More

Are You Running Your Business or Is Your Business Running You?

Being a small or home-based business owner can be loads of fun and very rewarding.You... Read More

Find Your Niche & Follow It - Part 1

In this series of articles I'm going to show you how to find out if... Read More

Advertising - For Small Businesses (Part 1)

Is it right for you?If you decide to advertise your product or service then you... Read More

Choosing A Business Thats Right For You

Q: I really want to start my own business, but I have no idea what... Read More

How Your Habits Control Your Small Business Success

Habit: A consistent behavior you perform so frequently that it is automatic. For example, if... Read More

Marketing - The Way To Make What Youre Really Worth

You only have so much time in a day right?So wouldn't it make sense to... Read More