RECLAIM YOUR BUSINESS
In March 2004, Randy L. Moore founded RLMÂ Communications Inc. to provide communications support to government agencies. Draining his personal savings and 401(k), he spent $50,000 to start the business. But by 2006 RLM lagged behind its competitors. It was generating $1.5 million in revenues but the company wasnâ€™t securing as many contracts as similar businesses.
â€śWe were not diversified enough with our customer base. Our strategic plan for growth wasnâ€™t focused or defined,â€ť recalls Moore, president and CEO. â€śEveryone was working hard and wearing multiple hats. But I needed to clearly lay out each individualâ€™s role and responsibility.â€ť Moore realized he needed to reinvent his business when the market share of competitors expanded. Using $250,000 in profits and lines of credit, he implemented immediate changes.
The reinvention: RLM held business development strategy sessions to identify short-, mid-, and long-term goals, and hired staff with needed expertise such as program management. â€śWe attended trade shows to gain a better understanding of the industry and to network so we could diversify our customer base. We also narrowed the companyâ€™s focus into specific sectors such as training and information assurance,â€ť says Moore. Business nearly tripled to $5.3 million in 2007, more than doubled to $11.7 million in 2008, and reached roughly $20 million in 2009.
If your profits are declining, you lack understanding of the latest trends in your industry, or youâ€™re more focused on the day-to-day operation of the business than catering to your customerâ€™s needs,Â our experts offer the following tips to help you get your business back on track.
1. Recognize the need for change. There are several indicators that can alert you. You might be relying on your capabilities to provide a certain service or product, as opposed to the productâ€™s relevance in the market. Or, youâ€™ve become complacent or, worse, stagnant. â€śYou donâ€™t have an innovative growth plan for the short- and long-term. Youâ€™re out of touch with the needs of your customers. Youâ€™re busy working a business instead of building a brand,â€ť says Melissa Dawn Johnson, president of Velvet Suite Marketing and Brand Me International.
2. Understand the trends in the market. Client preferences change over time.Â Learn how by doing targeted research. Figure out why your competitors are getting more business than you. â€śKnow the trends in your industry. Go to association meetings and conventions,â€ť says Andrew Morrison, president of Small Business Camp.
3. Realize that customer feedback is vital. Seeking the clientâ€™s opinion will help your business remain relevant. â€śCustomers are the most valuable asset any company can have. Itâ€™s important that every business decision is made in light of the impact it will have on customers,â€ť says Brent Leary, partner at CRM Essentials and co-author of Barack 2.0 (White Bullock Group Inc.; $39.95).
4. Incorporate a social media strategy. Utilize blogs, Webinars, podcasts, Websites, and various forms of social media to conduct research for a product or to advertise a service. â€śMany speak of the marketing potential, but a less discussed but just as relevant value is the opportunity to gauge unbiased opinions,â€ť says Johnson.
5. Seek a different perspective. Take time to listen to constructive criticism. Enlist a business coach or mentor. â€śBusiness owners have to be open to changes and ideas that come from outside sources such as customers, employees, partners, and industry influencers,â€ť says Leary.
–Leslie E. Royal