7 Small Business Strategy Shifts That Produced Big Impacts

Author: Stephanie Taylor Christensen | May 10, 2016

There’s no need to overhaul your operations to make improvements to efficiency, employee engagement, revenue, brand identity, and growth potential. As these seven business owners demonstrate, you may be one small shift away from a better business strategy.

Small Business Strategy #1: “I abandoned the traditional two-week payroll.”

Rewriting the “norms” of corporate America can empower you to build a startup culture with a unique brand identity, and improve your ability to attract and retain top talent. When AJ Saleem, owner of Suprex Learning, moved from a traditional biweekly payroll to one that compensated salaried employees weekly and hourly employees daily, his team (many are younger millennials) became more positive, motivated and productive. By compensating them quickly, his staff were better equipped to pay their own bills, and feel less stressed. “In addition, employees are more likely to work extra hours; they know they will have the money in their bank accounts the next day,” says Saleem.

Small Business Strategy #2: I raised my rates.”

Your business needs revenue, but it’s also important to attract the customers who allow you to command a profit margin that allows you to produce quality work. Dan Nainan, a professional comedian who has performed for President Obama and various TED conferences, was inspired by that realization when he decided to raise his rates well beyond the standard for his profession. “To be sure, I lost work when I walked away from lower-paying gigs, but I also realized those clients were also the most difficult to deal with and wasted a lot of my time. By raising my rates, I’ve more than made up for any lost shows,” says Naianan. Since commanding his worth, he has branded himself as a performer worth the cost and even earned a testimonial from President Obama.

Small Business Strategy #3: “I created a distraction-free environment.” 

Multi-tasking may seem unavoidable when you’re a time-pressed small business owner, but it puts you in a constant state of reactivity and inefficiency. About a year ago, Bill Corbett, Jr. of Corbett Public Relations set out to conquer this problem by scheduling blocks of time each day to work in a distraction-free environment. He wears noise-cancelling headphones and eliminates all points of distraction, including emails, social media, phone calls, text messages, and meetings. “These focused periods have allowed me to get significant amounts of work done. I plan more effectively and my staff learns how to rely on me less often. My business has grown since I started this system,” says Corbett, Jr.

Small Business Strategy #4: We established an objective system to measure and reward success.”

Hiring and retaining employees can be a challenge for small business owners. Employees may wear many proverbial hats, making it difficult to gauge whether their compensation is reflective of their performance or whether their outputs are aligned with what they earn. Michael O’Donnell says his business Cave Tools transformed when he implemented grading system that objectively measures each employee’s contribution to a specific and critical business goal and rewards a bonus to those who achieve it. By using a key performance indicator (KPI) each week, he says each employee knows the milestone they need to achieve to receive a 15% bonus. “This performance-driven system puts the onus of responsibility on the employees, and I don’t care if they work 30 hours a week or 50 hours a week. It’s up to them to achieve their KPIs; it’s my job to provide enough managerial support so they can get their bonus,” says O’Donnell.

Small Business Strategy #5: “I started hosting product giveaways on my blogs.”

Lisa Chu of kids apparel shop Black N Bianco says that while bloggers have always been a vital component to her marketing strategy, hosting product giveaways on blogs proved to be a game-changer. “That small change from product review to giveaway brought in triple the amount of web traffic; user engagement increased by fifty percent.” She adds that because customers who won the items wrote detailed and genuine product reviews, this small strategy shift also helped boost brand credibility.

Small Business Strategy #7: I stopped automated marketing and focused on making personal connections.”

Automating marketing campaigns allows you to consistently stay in touch with your target audience, but you may need to work harder to convince prospects that you’re a business they can trust. This proved to be the case for small business marketing coach Tim Rich, who made the strategic decision to move away from automated marketing to focus on building trust through free education and advice. “It took the pressure away from selling. Almost all of these personal encounters converted to a paying client,” says Rich. “Automated marketing is fine if you have a huge volume of prospective customers, but when your footfall is low, you have to treat each face as a friend and a partner.”

Small Business Strategy #7: “I was working too much in my business and not enough on my business.”

CEO isn’t supposed to mean “Chief Everything Officer,” but Molly MacDonald was in that role with her startup The Mobile Locker Co. “I knew our revenue couldn’t support additional full-time salaries, but handling everything from marketing to accounting to sales to onsite operations was running me down,” says MacDonald. She outsourced a couple of hours of administrative work each week to a virtual assistant, and contracted a booking specialist for four hours a week to focus on sales. “Suddenly, the company was running a lot smoother and we started to make big steps toward securing solid business. I’m now able to invest more of my time into planning for growth, which is essential to our success,” says MacDonald.

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