The economic context is not easy and the near future does not seem to bring good prospects. At least that's what all the economic forecasts suggest. Therefore, if we want to survive to this awful times, it becomes more necessary than ever to remember the old truism that says that behind every crisis lies an opportunity. There will come a time when the economic cycle will change and will appear many opportunities for those who are ready and have done their homework.
We know that when we are concerned about surviving in our day to day, it is difficult to think on the long-term, but if we want to make our business sustainable and profitable there is no choice to do so. In my opinion, this means doing some things like:
Redefine your strategy
Sometimes we want to do too much, shoot everything, and we blur. From time to time we should stop and think. It is not inventing anything new or to follow any new theory becomes fashionable in business schools. What I propose is to review the essence of business strategy and to bet on any of the models that have proven effective enough. It is essential that this model is consistent with the nature of business and the profile of clients and prospects. We must concentrate on being excellent in managing costs, total adaptation to the needs of the client or on constant innovation in products or services. You can not excel in everything and make money at the same time. We must choose our model and then apply it consistently over time.
It is not only about launching new products or to introduce the latest technology in our business. It is also about analyzing what other customers may be target for our product or exploring alternatives (for example, maybe with a little adaptation of your product you can reach out to other customer needs that were hidden before). And, of course, you can also consider a geographical expansión.
Choose the right partner
When you're little you need others to grow. Sometimes you need a partner to provide capital to meet new challenges. If so, choose it well and beyond the specific need you have, make sure you both are compatible and what kind of future you can have in common.
Being part of the distribution network of a large company may also be a great choice to enhance the supply and market position, and gain credibility with customers. In this case, it is also important to assess the compatibility between our business model and the company for which we distribute. If there is understanding, the possibilities for growth and development are quite often very important.
But it is not always necessary for someone to enter the capital or dip into a large company through a distribution agreement. There are other interesting options. For example, the alliance of equals (to complement the offer to cover other areas, to exploit synergies, etc.) or even the integration when the business case is favorable to it.
Professionalize your marketing
Perhaps one of the great weaknesses of the average SME (Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise) is the lack of professionalism of some essential business functions. It is quite common for the owner of a small business to be a great salesman for his product. However, it is not so common to have a marketing profile.
To grow your business you must build the brand, communicate effectively and reach new customers. It is very important that whoever makes the strategy of the company have a marketing visión as well. It is not about to have someone in charge of the website or brochures: it's about having someone who is able to make a comprehensive marketing plan. At this point we have three alternatives: the training of existing managers, hiring a professional specialist or contracting an agency. In all three cases you must invest money, but the return is worth it.
It is important also to take the great possibilities that social media give us as a way to gain notoriety or, of course, as an alternative channel to reach the market or to manage your customer service.
As in the previous case, we need to manage the talent in a professional way. What does this mean? Basically, be aware that the human factor is crucial when taking the business forward. Therefore, we must stop relying on luck and be very careful in selecting and developing people who work in our business. That necessarily involves using techniques that large organizations use for these processes (training, evaluation, career planning, management by objectives, compensation models, etc..), adapted to the budgets and characteristics of a small business, and sizing your resources according to your action plan.
I may suggest you to invest in your sales department (after all they are who bring the business) and make sure that every person in the organization become commercial ambassadors of your company (through training, incentives, etc..). This way you will achieve a team committed with the success of your company: they will understand that your success is what guarantees its present and future.
In short, if you do not have the right people, the business will not work. And if you have the right people but you don’t develop and motivate them properly, they will leave you or they won’t be committed enough with you (and obviously the business will not work).
And be patient ...
Unfortunately the results are not as fast as we would like. Persistence and patience are key ingredients for success in business. None of the keys listed above will result in immediate account results of your SME, but as we said at the beginning of this article, you have to think on the long-term to be prepared to take every opportunity that the future holds.
Versión en español, aquí