There is something absolutely phenomenal that happens when you pile over 3000 passionate and ‘pumped up’ small business owners into an auditorium – and that is exactly what’s happening this week in Phoenix, AZ at ICON14 – the annual Infusionsoft small business conference. We are half way through day two of this three day event and already there has been more valuable information shared with attendees to justify the cost of the event times five. With a line up that includes Simon Sinek, Leadership expert and author of ‘Start with Why’, Peter Shankman, CEO, angel investor and networking expert, Seth Godin, best-selling author and entrepreneur and JJ Ramberg, MSNBC Anchor of ‘Your Business’, there is no shortage of valuable business advice. Here are three valuable business lessons we’ve learned so far that will help your small business to thrive, not just survive, in today’s small business landscape.
Last year, small businesses in the U.S. generated over 10 Billion dollars in revenue. But as many of us small business owners and entrepreneurs know, running a small business is not for the faint of heart. As Clate Mask, Co-Founder and CEO of Infusionsoft, has pointed out many times here at #ICON14, there is a dark side to small business; a dark side that if you are not smart, committed and passionate will devour you until there is just nothing left. This may explain why 8 out of 10 businesses fail within the first 18 months. But, if you are a smart entrepreneur and small business owner and understand the ever-changing landscape and how to zig, when all others zag, you will find the light at the end of the tunnel and leave that dark side behind.
Have A Vision Statement
Whether you are one or one-hundred, you have to have a vision statement, and I’m not talking about one that says, “To Rule the World”. You need to make sure it is specific and that it can been seen. As Simon Sinek told us yesterday, “Humans are very visual animals and if you can’t see what you are trying to achieve then you simply won’t achieve it”. Infusionsoft understands this concept and throughout their corporate office you will see their company purpose, values and quarterly priorities hanging on (or painted on) the walls so that everyone can see them. While I cannot directly attribute their 100% growth from 2012 to 2013 to this, I’m quite sure that it played a significant part.
Be A Helper, Not A Seller
“The difference between selling and helping is two letters”, said Jay Baer during his breakout session on ‘Why Smart Companies Sell More by Selling Less’. In 2011 the average American consumer needed 10.4 sources of information before making a purchasing decision. Your job as a small business is to ensure that you are the one that provides the most information to them, but not just in the form of sales pages and advertisement. By providing educational and informative information about your area of expertise, you will set yourself apart as an expert and the ‘go-to’ in that field, which will translate into more people coming to your site and eventually more sales. Simply put, if you teach better you will sell more.
Be One Level Above ‘Crap’
Sadly, as Peter Shankman pointed out in his keynote address, we are a society that has come to expect horrible customer service. While this is certainly a travesty, it does create a wonderful opportunity for those small businesses that are willing to go the extra mile to provide an exceptional customer experience. Some of Peter’s suggestions on how to go above and beyond include remembering your customers names and sending them hand written notes. The goal, as Peter put it is to “bring random amazement into normal situations”. By treating the customers you have wonderfully, they will bring you the customers you want and need.
While these three business lessons may seem simple, they are often forgotten by small business owners as they get caught in the hustle and bustle of running the business. But if you simply step back and take a few moments to develop these tips and then focus on making them a part of your business, you will have a better chance of being in the 20% of small businesses that succeed.