The economy took a nosedive in December 2007 as the Great Recession began its crippling effects on the U.S. economy. The rebound took a few years and began to show improvements in the latter half of 2009. Those initial steps toward recovery were on the backs of hardworking, committed small business owners who refused to give up. Over the last few years, we have seen these small businesses survive and beat the odds. This is the year that we will see small business leaders move past surviving and into thriving. Here are six strategies for small business owners to thrive.
Starting a business is tough, but maintaining and growing one is even more difficult. In the early days of Infusionsoft there was a time when I had maxed-out credit cards, a frustrated family and barely any food on the table. What got me through these hard times was my passion for what I was creating. If you’ve managed to survive the last few years, you might find yourself battered and bruised, but you’ve made it. Let this year be the year you reignite your passion. Take a moment to sit back and ask yourself why you went into business. Don’t ever lose grasp of your “why.” Life’s hardships and challenges prepare ordinary people for extraordinary things. Have periodic reality checks with family, friends and mentors. Be prepared to readjust, but don’t lose sight of the passion within yourself.
2. Invest time away from your business
In order to grow your company you must take the time this year to get out of your business to focus on your business. This time away, be it one hour a week, or two days a month, should be spent reading, meeting with a mentor, going to a conference or retreating to something that refreshes and enriches your mind. If you are always in the day-to-day responsibilities of your business, you will not have time to set the vision for the future, to plan, to strategize and to think about growth. This time away is critical. Schedule it on your calendar and commit to doing it.
3. Hire and fire guided by your purpose, values, and mission
Every year at Infusionsoft’s Elite Forum, I’m privileged to get together with high-growth business owners who are looking to go from $1 million to $10 million in sales. One of the core principles in our discussions is to hire and fire based on your company’s purpose, values and mission. If there’s an employee who does not share your purpose, values or mission—don’t hire them—no matter how smart they are. Every successful entrepreneur needs a motivated team that’s already bought-in, not sold-in, to the company’s vision.
4. Invest in your marketing
In the very early days of Infusionsoft, I was looking over our financial statements and noticed there was a line item payment to “Mark”. There were only three of us back then and none of us were named “Mark." I asked my two co-founders, Scott and Eric Martineau, about it and they told me, “Clate, that’s our line item for MARKETING. We always pay Mark and he gets paid first.” If we didn’t do this every month, Infusionsoft would not be here today. When budgets are tight and challenges arise one of the first things small business owners want to cut is marketing. This is a serious mistake. Before you eat, before you pay yourself, invest in marketing. Without it you have no customers. No customers means no sales. No sales means you do not have a business.
5. Boost your email marketing
Businesses that thrive in the coming year will be those who invest their efforts on smart email marketing. Every year, a few experts predict the death of email marketing and every year their predictions prove inaccurate. Sure, social media and other forms of digital marketing are on the rise. However, email marketing continues to be one of the most effective means of reaching new and existing customers.
6. Focus on current customers
Acquiring new customers is important, but you must invest a large portion of your resources on your existing customers. Continue to nurture and build upon the relationships that you have established. Customers who trust you will surely want to buy more from you. When you enable them to easily purchase additional products and services, you will find that it is much cheaper to sell to existing customers than it is to find a new customer.
Ready, set, thrive!
The world of business is created by entrepreneurs who are creating their own destinies and paving their own paths. The entrepreneurial spirit of small business is all about individuals and teams taking their passions and dreams and creating thriving enterprises. These enterprises sustain families and contribute to local, national and international economies. The excitement I had when we were a company of three is the same excitement I have today with hundreds of employees and thousands of customers. It is time for small businesses to THRIVE!