As entrepreneurs, we are always looking for that next big idea. What’s around the corner that will grow your business and take it to the next level? It can be daunting and overwhelming with all of the experts and consultants throwing different ideas at you. So how do you focus and find that special “thing” that will set your business apart from the competition?
I would propose there are three basic components to growing your business and keeping you on track:
- Have a plan. Two plans, actually: A business plan and a marketing plan that supports it.
- Stay the course. Once you’ve determined your unique strengths and developed a customized plan, follow through with it.
- Flexibility is key. Recognize that all plans need the flexibility to be “tweaked” based on market conditions, new competitors or any other unforeseen circumstances. A plan should be a living, breathing document with a dynamic component that allows you to shift gears pretty quickly.
Developing your plan requires that you take a look at your business with what is called a “SWOT” analysis — Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This method will allow you to take a more objective look at your business by identifying specific components that could affect your success. Once you have identified these components, you will be able to tailor your unique plan to maximize growth and potential success.
While the experts have lots of ideas of how to move forward with planning your business, you may need to alter them to fit your unique situation. Following are a couple of notable books that may help you in figuring out “where you next big idea is coming from.”
10 Ways to Stand Out from the Crowd
By Connie Podesta and Jean Gatz
This award-winning book is a quick read that’s full of insight. The authors get right to the point: “What do you bring to the table that is so memorable and outstanding that people will choose to do business with you?” They explain the top 10 business principles and set up the challenge for you — reinventing your future and the future of your company.
One principle discussed is “re-examining your leadership.” The authors suggest that “the role of a leader isn’t defined by a title. Leadership is reflected in the way you decide to live your life.”
Shakespeare had it right when he said, “All the world’s a stage” because EVERY PERSON, employee, customer, friend and family member you meet, know and communicate with, is your audience. Good leaders avoid taking the easy road filled with short-term answers and focus instead on making smart decisions based on positive, long-term results. They have a vision that surpasses day-to-day life. Be that leader in your business and it will flourish.
I Love you More than My Dog: Five Decisions that Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad
By Jeanne Bliss
This book discusses and provides real-world examples of what makes the difference between having customers who like you and customers who love you. As a service industry, our customers are the ONLY reason we are in business. There are no shortcuts, and the world’s biggest marketing budget can’t make customers love you, but Bliss says your company can make a positive customer impact — if you commit to five essential decisions about how to run your business.
There is a lot of information in this jam-packed book that will help you possibly re-think the value of your customers. Bliss poses the question, “Do you believe customers are an asset or a cost center?” Valuing customers makes it easy to make decisions about how to treat them. It enables your employees to do the right thing for the relationship. It enables the business to invest in customers rather than simply managing costs. Investing in your customers through well thought out marketing initiatives will drive growth.
Final thoughts. This issue of PCT features the “Top 100 companies” in our industry. These folks are always looking for the next big idea — but I can assure you they all have a plan. If you are a small company you may think “I can never get there.” A positive attitude and strong leadership will get you there! Many of these top companies started as small one- and two-person operations. Arrow Exterminators, my employer, started in 1964 with Starkey Thomas working out of the back of a beauty parlor in Atlanta. Rottler Pest and Lawn started with Mike and Gary Rottler’s dad working part time with a B&G. I could go down the list with success story after success story. What all of these companies have in common is leadership, commitment, a passion to succeed AND A PLAN.
With a plan, effective leadership and customer focus, you will find your next big idea and grow.
Author’s note: Readers can purchase “10 Ways to Stand Out from the Crowd” by Connie Podesta and Jean Gatz via Gatz’s website at www.jeangatz.com. “I Love you More than My Dog” by Jeanne Bliss can be purchased at www.amazon.com.
The author is chief marketing and strategy officer for Arrow Exterminators, Atlanta, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to win these books? Visit www.pctonline.com and click on “online extras” for a chance to win a copy of “10 Ways to Stand Out from the Crowd” and “I Love you More than My Dog.”