Every small-business owner I know wants to “hit it big.” If you ask the owners what they mean by this, you hear something like, “You know, more customers.” If you drill a bit deeper, they will admit that more customers equals more money for them (and their employees, of course).
[See 22 ways to be a better boss.]
Drilling even deeper, some will even admit that they have a desire to have their company recognized: they would love to be talked about, seen on TV, and awarded every small business prize available.
Of course, they have no clue how this happens or even how to make it happen. It’s almost as if they imagine that the hand of Peter Drucker comes out of the heavens, taps them on the shoulder, and says “Bingo. I pick you to be business-famous.”
The only right answer, of course, is the answer that business owners actually know firsthand. It is simple, repeated adherence to the core elements of your business. It is not about learning how to Tweet, or how to make your website that gets 100 visitors a month become more SEO compliant. That is my favorite—the small business that does zero business on its website, thinking that some 23-year-old “SEO Expert” is going to snap his money-grubbing fingers and transform the website into Amazon.com. Ain’t going to happen, folks.
In sales, there is a common problem that occurs with the top sales people. I call it “getting out of alignment.” Basically, this means that the sales guy forgets how to sell, how to ask questions, how to discover the pain in the mind of the prospect, and jumps immediately to his feature-dumping solution. It is like the doctor who hears you are not feeling well, and immediately prescribes some meds because “Everyone is getting this bug this week.”
Businesses can get out of alignment too. They forget to do the basics. Recently, I heard from a small business owner who told me he gets most of his customers from referrals. That is what new customers tell him.
When I asked him what kind of communications he sends to current and past customers, he said, “None.” I bet when he was first starting out, he was all over those early customers, making sure they had had a good experience and asking for referrals.
It is easy to forget the basics when you are dreaming of the big leagues. Hitting singles in your own ballpark won’t get you famous, true, but it will pay the rent.
G. L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig, which operates LinkUp, one of the fastest-growing job-search engines.. His blog can be found at WhatWouldDadSay.com.