Taking the leap into entrepreneurship can be a scary proposition. That's especially true if you're betting all your chips (and dollars, for that matter) on the success of this one great business venture.
And it's not just small businesses that have reason to be afraid. In our story, "The 10 Scariest Business Blunders of the Year ," we look at some of this year's missteps and misfortunes of some of the country's biggest businesses. For companies both big and small, there's never been a more nerve-racking time to be in business. The good news is that small businesses stand a better chance of surviving even in this frightening age of economic uncertainty, unrelenting social media scrutiny and a constantly changing competitive landscape.
Here are a few things small businesses can do to leverage their strengths and avoid making the mistakes that have sent many a big business to the corporate graveyard.
Customer service – There's no doubt small business can offer better customer service than the big guys. That's probably the reason why your customers come to you. Be sure you take care to keep your customer service chops polished, and you'll beat your big competitors every time.
Social media – Social media marketing is truly the great equalizer. It allows you to develop a local, national or international following without spending even a dime. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and websites like Yelp help small businesses create a big presence. Don't miss one single opportunity to use them.
Giving back – Customers want to buy from someone who understands where they come from. When you get involved with your local community, you become one of your customers and they'd always rather buy from one of their own. Find a charity , a cause or a group to support and get involved.
Changing on a dime – Consumer tastes and preferences can change overnight. For big companies, with large infrastructures and long lead times, changing to meet those demands can be challenging. Small businesses, on the other hand, can change overnight. Be sure you're listening to your customers and are ready to give what they want, when they want it.
Flexibility – When's the last time a giant company worked with a customer to reduce the price on a bill or find a creative solution to a problem? It rarely happens. You, on the other hand, can make the big decisions that allow you to give a customer a break or offer a special service to meet a customer's unique need. Take advantage of it.
Teamwork – Small companies have the ability to handpick a specialized team of employees, all of whom bring a different set of skills and focus to your business. Big companies, on the other hand, don't have that kind of control over how their teams develop. No matter how hard they try, there will eventually be slackers, malcontents and troublemakers. Use your small stature to make sure you create a team that treats each customer individually and that can carry on your vision for running a great business, even in your absence.
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