Successful Businesses Need an Edge

It’s no secret that the economy goes through cycles. Each time it takes a downturn, unfortunately, salespeople, business owners and professional service providers feel the fallout.

Data released by various sources, including the SBA and American Entrepreneurs Association, reveal that more than 50 percent of all businesses close their doors within their first seven years. During a recession, the rate of business failure rises more dramatically. Not included in the statistic cited above are the departments, plants or whole divisions closed by large corporations when times are tough. In today’s ever-changing business environment, if you want to be successful, you need to have an edge over your competition.

Most businesses rely on advertising in one or more ways to try to get an edge. However, if you offer the same products or services through the same means to the same targets as your competitors, it’s difficult to achieve an edge. This means you need to be very creative in order to be competitive in today’s marketplace. Creativity in marketing your business has become a basic tenet for today’s successful company or professional practice. Here’s a great story of how one business exemplified creativity at its finest in order to gain an edge:

Three store owners shared adjacent storefronts in the same building.  Times were tough. In hopes of picking up sales, the store owner at one end of the building put a sign over his front entrance that said, “YEAR-END CLEARANCE!!!”  At the other end of the building, a second owner responded with his own sign: “ANNUAL CLOSE-OUT.”

The store owner in the middle knew that he had to act fast or he’d lose a lot of business. After careful consideration, he hung a larger sign over his front door that read, “MAIN ENTRANCE.”

The moral of this story: You can’t control the economy. You can’t control your competition. But you can control your response to the economy. And you can control your response to your competition.

If you have a great example of how you’ve used creativity to get an edge over your competition, I invite you to share it in the comment section. Your story could be just the encouragement other business owners need to get their imaginations in gear!


Networking Minus Follow-Through Equals a Waste of Time

Smart, enterprising businesspeople know the importance of networking and how it is a huge opportunity to increase word-of-mouth and gain business referrals. However, one of the biggest mistakes people can make is failing to follow through.

One of my employees recently told me a story that should serve as an important lesson to all of us on how networking without follow-through is nothing more than a waste of time.

Note: The names in this story have been changed to protect the innocent . . . and the guilty.

My employee, whom we’ll call Winnifred (since she’d like to remain anonymous and it’s the most unfitting name for her that I can think of . . . well, aside from maybe Gertrude ;-)), was in need of a graphic designer to assist her with the creation of a website for her father’s business. She attended a local networking mixer where she met a graphic designer, “Blake,” who seemed excited about the project and claimed he could accomplish exactly what she needed at a very reasonable price.

They exchanged contact information and connected the next week by phone to discuss the project in further detail. Winnifred was pleased with Blake’s ideas and liked the examples she’d seen of his work. She told him he seemed like the perfect person to help her with the project and that she’d like him to send her a price quote as soon as possible.

A week went by and Winnifred heard nothing from Blake.  When she called him, he said he was working on a quote and gave some lame excuse about being busy. Another week went by and, again, nothing from Blake. Frustrated, but willing to give Blake another chance because she really did like his work, she sent him an e-mail and left him a voicemail saying that she would love to give him her business and was really anxious to hear back from him.

After two weeks went by without hearing back from him, Winnifred found another graphic designer. To this day, Blake has never responded.

Here is what blows my mind . . . I know for a fact that this guy, “Blake,” is still frequenting local networking mixers (which cost money to attend, by the way) trying to drum up more business. Yet when he had money practically sitting on the table in front of him, he failed to follow through. No matter what his reason was for not getting back to Winnifred–being too busy, too lazy or whatever else–he shouldn’t be out there networking if he can’t follow through on what he claims to be able to deliver. He’s wasting his time (and money) and, more important, he’s wasting other people’s time–which is earning him nothing more than a bad name.

The moral of this story: If you aren’t prepared to follow through, networking is no more than a big waste of time.

If you have a “Blake the Flake” story of your own, I’d love to hear about your experience. Please feel free to share your story in the comments section.

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