It’s true that many factors contribute to an organization’s success, but in the end it all comes down to how your self-storage business is better or different than what’s already available in the market. Do you provide a better service than anyone else? Do you offer something that improves your customer’s business or life and makes or saves him money? The answer to one—preferably both—of these questions should always be a resounding “Yes!”
Below are some common sense tips that will help you become or remain the leader in your market. Though the knowledge may be “common,” its successful application in today’s business world is often rare.
Promote your business. The first priority is to clearly identify your audience. Who are your prime targets? Once you’ve determined who they are, prioritize them in order of importance. Your marketing budget should be spent in accordance with these priorities, rather than choosing advertising and publicity avenues based on price.
Consider every marketing resource. Then evaluate which will give you best value. Seek out promotions that enable you to measure response. It’s important to know if your marketing expenditure is producing results. One way to measure response is by using coupon offers. Another is to use unique URLs to measure website traffic from a particular ad.
Service is the most important part of your business. Today, everybody wants to be treated as a “special person.” If you treat your customers well, your reputation will grow. This is the cheapest and most effective form of advertising.
Relationships with repeat customers are important. Every effort should be made to make personal contact with your “base” whenever possible. Be honest, polite and attentive. Don’t rely on e-mails or social media to do this work for you. There’s nothing better than doing business face to face.
Your staff will follow your example. If you portray professionalism and attentiveness, your staff will see this as the way you want your business to be run. If, however, you have a poor attitude, are a bad timekeeper, take extended breaks during the day, go home early or dress poorly, then your staff will assume this is how you want your business to be run. Never ask your staff to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.
Think before selling your product at lower prices than competitors. Many new business people think this is the “secret” to business. But undercutting your competitors is only successful if it gives you a sensible return and a significant net profit. I call this “vanity vs. sanity.” Vanity is being concerned with your sales figure; sanity is being concerned with your net profit.
The following is a guest post by Victor Green, author of How to Succeed in Business By Really Trying!)
It’s true that many factors contribute to an organization’s success, but in the end it all comes down to this: how will your business be better, or different, than what is already available? Will you provide a better service than anyone else? Will you offer something that will improve your customers business and make them more money? The answers to one – preferably both – of these questions should always be a resounding, “Yes!”
This article assumes you have done the research and built the product. You have found a gap in the market that you can fill. Now, you’re tasked with building or managing an organization that already exists. You may find the tips below are obvious or “common” sense. I would argue that these days, “common” sense is often “rare.”
Promoting your business: To me, the first priority is to clearly identify your audience. Who are your prime targets? Once you have determined who they are, then prioritize them in order of importance. Your marketing budget should be spent in accordance with these priorities, rather than choosing advertising and publicity avenues based on price.
Consider every marketing resource and evaluate which will give you best value. Seek out promotions that enable you to measure response. It is important to know if your marketing expenditure is producing results. One way to measure response is by using coupon offers. Another is to unique URLs to measure website traffic from a particular ad.
Service is the most important part of your business. Today, everybody wants to be treated as a “special person.” If you treat your customers well, your reputation will grow. This is the cheapest – and most effective – form of advertising.
Relationships with repeat customers are very important. Every effort should be made to make personal contact with your “base,” whenever possible. Be honest, polite, and attentive. Don’t rely on e-mails or social media to do this work for you. There is nothing better than doing business face-to-face.
Your staff will follow your example. If you portray professionalism and attentiveness, your staff will see this as the way you want your business to be run. If, however, you have a poor attitude, are a bad timekeeper, take extended breaks during the day, go home early, dress badly, then your staff will assume that this is how you want your business to be run. Never ask your staff to do something that you would not do yourself.
Selling your product at lower prices than competitors – many new businesspeople think this is the “secret” to business. But undercutting your competitors is only successful if it gives you a sensible return and a significant net profit. I call this “vanity versus sanity.” Vanity is being concerned with your sales figure; sanity is being concerned with your net profit.
Build a relationship with all customers. You’ve caught me. This is a repeat of the advice above. However, it bears repeating. You must develop a loyal customer base to maintain reoccurring sales revenue. Then, and only then, can you start to branch out secondary audiences and those farther out. If you do not build a strong relationship that produces repeat business, you will effectively have to start your business over and over again every time you sell.
To manage a business successfully it is essential you have accurate up-to-date financial information. Each month you should produce a profit and loss statement, or a “P&L.” When I mentor people, I always make this a strict requirement. If you don’t have a P&L, you are effectively running your business in the dark.
Analyzing financial income versus expenditure is crucial. Your new P&L will reveal all sorts of things. You can obtain sales trends by tracking periods of higher and lower sales, which will help you direct your advertising and publicity expenditure at these particular times. You can also study your overhead costs to see if they can be reduced. Every dollar of overhead that you reduce goes to the bottom line.
It is easy to deal with success, but how do you deal with failure? Thousands of businesses fail for a variety of reasons. Most fail due to in adequate research, not clearly identifying a gap in the marketplace or determining their potential customers before starting out.
Every successful entrepreneur has had business failures. I have had several business failures. When I realized a company would not succeed, I accepted that the first cut is the cheapest and moved on. I had no problem in closing down businesses that were not going to succeed. Too many people let ego and pride get in the way and continue to run a business that is not profitable. Be ready and willing to cut the cord, and you will set yourself up to succeed.
A new study shows that entrepreneurs who make decisions based on “practical intelligence,” or experimentation, are more likely to succeed.
If your idea of launching a business is to dive in and start trying stuff, then huzzah! A new study finds that one of an entrepreneur’s most important traits is having “practical intelligence,” or reliable common sense. That translates into learning by doing, being willing to experiment, and being able to think on your feet. When starting a business, common sense trumps book learning.
“Entrepreneurs who prefer concrete experiments and who continually look for customer contact and feedback that can’t be absorbed through reading typically are more successful,” says Barbara J. Bird, associate professor of management at American University’s Kogod School of Business. She and J. Robert Baum, associate professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, released the results of their survey early this year.
According to Bird, ultimately a business must harness all three kinds of thinking that make up “successful intelligence”: creative, analytical and practical. You need cogent analysis and creative ideas to craft goals that will result in specific outcomes and growth. And you need to step back and analyze factors, markets and personalities when it’s time to make big decisions about the future. But when you’re in the throes of a startup’s chaotic climb, it’s street-smart practical intelligence that moves the needle.
Who, what, why and winners
Launched in 2002, the long-running study compared startup founders with established CEOs (all male) in the printing and graphics industry. Bird and Baum chose that industry because it was competitive, changing rapidly, experiencing fast growth, and attracting a rash of new ventures. Fieldwork ran through early 2008, which allowed the team to track responses before and after the recession.
The most successful owners, says Bird, “were consistent through the economic downturn by tweaking things, moving quickly and adjusting. It added up to the same result. They were more successful when they experimented and tried things.” Not surprisingly, the researchers also found that “habitual entrepreneurs,” defined as those who have launched two or more businesses, were more likely to learn by doing than others.
“Combining practical intelligence with the knowledge of how to do things comes with experience,” says Bird. “That’s what we call ‘intuition.’
How to put practical intelligence into practice
Continuous testing of ideas and products and swift adjustments to marketplace shifts and customer feedback were key factors, according to Bird. “Entrepreneurs who are most successful believe there is no such thing as a mistake. There are only experiments.”
If you’re not a hands-on type and your learning style tends toward the analytic — say, a word person who likes to learn by reading and observing — Bird suggests ways to boost your practical intelligence:
- Stay close to the action, wherever that may be for your startup. For instance, initiate frequent customer exchanges and interactions.
- Gain experience at a job or in situations that force you to make frequent decisions without a lot of thought. Bird points to elementary schoolteachers as a good example.
- Work with a partner or consultant who has experience in your industry. That lets you shadow high-level practical intelligence in action.
Entrepreneurs who’ve been there and done it — then done it again — say the study’s findings jibe with their own experience. For instance, serial entrepreneur Paul Harkins believes common sense “is absolutely the key to success as the driver of business.”
Currently CEO of NeighborOil, an Andover, Massachusetts-based company that helps homeowners buy more affordable home heating oil, Harkins has led several consumer service and incentive firms.
He’s learned the hard way that entrepreneurs who don’t test the market to find out whether or not people will pay for a product before release “invariably end up failing.”
“The biggest example of common sense,” says Harkins, “is knowing how the market will use a product very early on, before directing a company toward what you perceive is the market.” As a senior member of a startup team some time back, Harkins learned this lesson firsthand when his team made the mistake of releasing a product without checking the market first. “Never again!” he says.
That’s one “mistake” that was truly a valuable “experiment.”