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Find profits in hard economy

By Staff | Dec 1, 2008

DOUGHERTY MAULSBYFarm News staff writerDespite the negative news on Wall Street, a local, small business can always stay profitable if it has good people, a good plan and good processes, according to nationally known business trainer Bob Clements. “The economy is the biggest thing on people’s minds right now, and it is going to be tough in 2009,” said Clements, who spoke at the Carroll County Extension office recently. “You’ll have to find ways to be more competitive.” To help small business owners and entrepreneurs meet this challenge, Clements offered the following 10 tips: ? Plant your flag. If you’re going to be in business, make a conscious decision to become the dominating force in your industry. “You don’t have to start everywhere,” Clements said. “Begin working every day to become the leader in your business in your local area.” ? Start thinking like an owner, not an employee. You don’t need a four-page mission statement to help you and your employees align around a common purpose. Understand that you are in business to be a problem-solver for your clients and to make a healthy profit. Remind your employees that everyone in your company is responsible for the success of the organization, and empower them to take responsibility. ? Anticipate customers’ needs. At least once a year, conduct focus groups to find out what your customers like and dislike. “When you find out what your customers want and you give it to them, they’ll pay a premium for it,” Clements said.? Try something different. The last thing a business owner should do is look and act like the competition. Clients will pay for unique products and services if they meet their needs, Clements said. ? Understand how price impacts buying decisions. Studies have shown that approximately 15 percent of clients buy on the cheapest price, 25 percent trust their suppliers implicitly and will stick with them no matter what the price, and the remaining 60 percent are value buyers.“This last group is where you should spend your marketing dollars, because they will pay more if you can add more value by saving them time, eliminating a pain or making them more money,” Clements said. ? Stop spending money on ineffective marketing. People under age 41 tend to respond to peer pressure and follow the crowd, while people 41 and older typically become status buyers who want to stand out from the crowd. You can’t market to both groups the same way.“Look at how major corporations approach this,” said Clements, who noted that Nike clearly targets the 40-and-under group in its advertising. “Even if your customer base includes people in both groups, you still need to pick one group and market to them.” ? Be more like mom. Clients are looking for security, especially in today’s economy, Clements said. “What do mothers do? They listen to you and they anticipate your needs. Do the same for your clients.”? Improve your communication skills. Approximately one third of people are visual, meaning they need to see something to understand it. Another one third are auditory, meaning they need to hear about something to understand it. The final one third of people are kinesthetic, meaning they have to experience things and touch them to understand them.“We tend to communicate in our own style, but that won’t reach more than 60 percent of the people we’re trying to communicate with,” Clements said. ? Know when to be aggressive. If you make smart decisions, you can capture a lot of ground when the economy starts to slip and other companies start to pull back. “Now’s not a time to be timid,” Clements said. “Be driving forward, not retreating.”? Remember that attitude is the key to performance. Whether it’s good or bad, your attitude is infectious. “When you own a small business, you have to come to work every day excited about your company,” Clements said. “Also, always hire for attitude and train for skills.” Contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby at yettergirl@yahoo.com.

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