Do’s and Don’ts for Small-business Owners

Strategies in good times and bad

Despite its success, a profitable small business can expect times when sales slow down, level off or even decline. Instead of waiting for the inevitable, here are some “do’s” and “don’ts” to help.

DON’T think you have it made forever just because your business has been prospering.

All you should need for a warning is to pick up your Sunday newspaper and read yet another article about a corporate heavyweight taking it on the chin. There are simply no guarantees about the future success of your company. One of the worst enemies of a successful small-business owner is complacency.

DON’T take your customers or clients for granted.

For instance, you may assume that a certain sales territory is all wrapped up or a particular client will remain loyal forever. Then the other shoe drops when a large account unexpectedly switches to the competition. Even if you have provided quality services to someone in the past, you must show you will continue to do so tomorrow, the next day and the day after.

DO look to continue to expand your business.

It is rare to be in the enviable position of having “too much business.” More often than not, a business tends to get bogged down at a certain comfort level. When that happens, a competitor may be able to siphon off some of your profits. Also, you may come across to clients as arrogant if you make only a halfhearted attempt to generate new business. A successful business is a growing business.

DON’T assume that you know everything you need to know about your clients.

Gathering information should be an ongoing process. Periodically, you should ask customers or clients questions about any concerns they have and opportunities they are facing, the changes that are affecting them, and any special conditions that are causing problems. If you do not keep in touch and up-to-date, you may not be able to meet their needs in the future.

DO hope for the best and plan for the worst.

This is not to say that gloom and doom should pervade your thinking. Rather, it is meant to convey that it is better to be safe than sorry. A safer approach is to recognize the inherent uncertainty in business and to act accordingly.

DON’T put all your eggs in one basket.

It is risky to stake your livelihood on just one or two accounts. Similarly, if your sales are completely price-driven, your business can go down the drain quickly if a competitor undercuts you. Offer more to customers than just a low price. This gives the impression that you intend to stay in business for the long haul.

If you take these precautions before danger signs appear, you can keep your business growing. However, if you wait until tough times arrive, it may be too late for meaningful action.

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