small business

Small Business by C. Norman Beckert: Makeover can freshen a stale business

C. Norman Beckert is Idaho district director for SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired ExecutivesJune 4, 2013 

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C. Norman Beckert

  • SCORE CAN HELP

    SCORE offers no-cost counseling for people considering starting a business or seeking mentoring for an existing one. Reach Bev Bean at 334-1696, or tvscore240@ yahoo.com.

Are your competitors gaining ground? Are your customers complaining about your service, the quality of your products and the lack of diversity of your product lines? Are your employees doing little more than going through the motions? Have there been few, if any, new ideas for your business?

If so, it's time to consider a makeover for your business. Makeovers are the rage today. It could be just the thing to re-energize your business. It need not be a major overhaul; some minor tweaks may be enough. What's important is that you recognize the need for action, and learn all you can to make informed decisions.

In order to identify where changes are most needed, you'll have to dig for details about various aspects of your business. Remember to focus not just on the individual elements, but also how they all fit together.

Start with a checklist:

Customer Base

Has your customer base changed during the past five years or since you first started? Is it broader or narrower? Older or younger? More upscale or less? You may need a new image, revved-up branding or perhaps just a rewrite of your marketing materials to address the needs of this changing customer base.

Competitors

Do you research your competitors? Candidly assess their products, services and pricing. Check out their website. Your suppliers are often a great source of information.

Products & Services

Take a hard look at whether your products or services are performing to customer expectations. Remember that your goal should be to exceed expectations, not simply meet them. Perhaps competitors are doing a better job, or maybe they've created add-on products and services that you haven't. Your own customers can help with your makeover if you ask them for feedback.

Marketing Message

If your marketing message has never changed, perhaps it's time to re-evaluate and devise a new one. Try revisiting your original business plan and your latest. You might be able to recapture some of the insight and enthusiasm you originally had. Think back to your most successful promotions, presentations or sales efforts. Rather than reinventing the wheel, you might be able to update and expand an approach that has already worked for your business. Make sure to use e-mail and social media sites to reach the younger, more technically savvy customer.

Employee Involvement

Do you share the financial status of your business with your employees? Do you involve them by asking for and encouraging their suggestions? Do you recognize and reward them for their contributions? A brainstorming session could be a step forward.

Don't be afraid to seek out other perspectives. After all, you may be "too close" to the issues to understand the sources and solutions. Meet and brainstorm with your trusted advisers, mentors, friends, family and outside consultants. Ask customers to give you a frank assessment of what you're doing, how you're doing it, and what you can do to better serve their needs. The more ideas you receive, the more options you'll have for getting your business back on the fast-track.

Whether it is a makeover or a tune-up, moving beyond the status quo will help energize yourself, your employees and your business.

tvscore@yahoo.com

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