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Build Your Small Business By Thinking Big

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Teri A. Coutu, Business & Marketing Consultant

Over the years I have worked with numerous small businesses, solopreneurs, and non-profit organizations and pretty consistently I find they all have the same stumbling block that limits their growth and success – they think small.

Thinking small isn’t necessarily about the goals they set for themselves, although, that can be a part of it. More often, it’s the simple fact that they feel their business is too small to warrant the strategic planning that “big” businesses engage in to get and keep themselves on track.

Read any serious business book and it will tell you that one of the first steps in creating a successful business is identifying what your company is about. This may mean creating Vision and Mission Statements, figuring out your Core Values and Core Focus, or some other defined process that, when you’re done, describes the “What” and “Why” of your company. Unfortunately, many small business owners, such as the guy who owns the local ice cream stand, the life coach, and the new real estate team, usually tell me “My business is small so I don’t need to think about it and write it down. I got it.” But, eventually, whether they know it or not, they’ll wish they hadn’t blown off this task.

Last year, I was working with the owner of a plumbing company who wanted to increase their online marketing. He started our first meeting by asking how much I charged per click. When I told him I don’t charge per click and asked what his mission is he looked at me quizzically. “We do plumbing. Residential and commercial. That’s our mission.”

“Ok, I said. Who is your target market?”

“Anyone who needs plumbing services” was his answer.

Now, I realize all this may seem like a logical conversation, but let’s dig deeper. A good Mission Statement is a declaration of purpose – it tells people WHAT the business is dedicated to doing. Some of my favorite Mission Statements include:

  • Life is Good: To spread the power of optimism
  • TED: Spread ideas
  • Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy

When you know and can easily express your purpose, you have instantaneously set a clear direction for your company that you, your team, and your target market can relate to. You wouldn’t jump in the car with a goal of having a wonderful vacation without defining what “wonderful vacation” means to you, would you?  Defining your purpose is one important step in achieving your goals. It’s also the standard by which you measure every business activity you engage in. For the plumber, after bringing his leadership team together for a half-day strategy session, they determined their mission is to “Provide quality plumbing services with kindness and fair prices.” So, when they were reviewing finances and someone suggested they raise their emergency and holiday rates like other plumbers in the area, a quick look at the mission statement and their commitment to “fair prices”  helped determine options that aligned with their mission.

You don’t need to be a big business in order to benefit traditional activities like strategic planning. Honestly, for a long time, I, too, was thinking small. But, when I sat down and walked myself through the foundation-building process it gave me the clarity I needed to start achieving my professional goals. It also helped me with my personal goals, but that’s another story…!