By Darrell Freeman, founder, chairman and CEO, Zycron Inc.
Today’s global marketplace has intensely amplified the meaning of words such as competitive, fast-paced and quickly evolving. With the explosion of the information sector, consultants as far away as Bangalore, India, viably contend for stateside business opportunities with the mere click of a mouse.
In a world where any business around the globe has the potential to be a competitor, how do business owners stay ahead of the game – let alone survive to see a four-year anniversary, an event that eludes more than half of all U.S. employer firms?
In establishing multiple companies and managing a lucrative information technology services firm for 16 years, I’ve learned several principles that can help small businesses succeed in a marketplace that grows more aggressive and complex by the day.
Here are eight simple concepts that, once implemented, tremendously advanced my entrepreneurial efforts.
Develop strategic partnerships
Is your firm equipped to bid on large contracts in the public and private sectors? Do you have the expertise to manage offshore projects? The answer to these questions can always be “yes” if you create joint ventures and partnerships to compensate for any inexperience within your company. Take advantage of opportunities to begin new relationships and get your foot in the door with new customers.
Maintain multiple banking relationships
Research has shown that a major factor in a new business’ survivability is having access to an ample supply of capital. Commercial banks and other depository institutions are the largest lenders of debt capital to small businesses. Therefore, banking relationships are essential to financing your business. Maintaining multiple banking relationships ensures that if your primary contacts at one bank leaves the organization, you will already have access to establish contacts at other institutions.
Practice fiscal responsibility
Plan your business with sufficient reserves, and do your best to minimize long-term debt. Only borrow for the short term. Aside from access to capital, other important aspects of financing your business include managing your equity, practicing accurate accounting and, very importantly, capitalizing on the financial strength of the owner.
Constantly pursue new clients
“Grow or die” is a business principle that never becomes obsolete. If you’re not constantly seeking opportunities for growth, you will inevitably lose ground with your competitors. Seek new clients that can support the growth that you envision for your company. Pursue prospective clients if they meet your criteria.
Know your competitors
It is not wise to be overly focused on what industry competitors are doing, but you should at least be aware of the methods that are being used to reach current or potential customers. Observe market trends and don’t be “too smart” to steal someone else’s good idea.
Use your resources
Individual mentors, social networks, trade associations, business advisors, chambers of commerce and even the Internet can be excellent support systems for entrepreneurs. Local business development centers are also highly beneficial during the infancy stage of a company; they minimize expenses and increase the probability of success. Locate online communities, subscribe to publications for small business owners and tap into government programs, such as the Office of Small Business Development Centers (www.sba.gov). They can provide financial resources, online training, counseling, assistance and more.
Obtain a mentor
According to American Express, 52 percent of small business owners receive advise from individual mentors. Admitting that you “don’t know everything” is not a sign of weakness. Find a mentor who you can trust, who is in tune with your field and who has time to develop a relationship with you.
Seek constant improvement
Be a continual learner. Routinely evaluate your performance and honestly address your weaknesses. Invite client feedback; continue positive activities; and immediately make adjustments for negative issues. Constantly seek ways to re-invent yourself.
Next time, we’ll discuss ways to sustain consistent growth by employing soft skills and relationship-building tactics, such as surrounding yourself with good people, maintaining your integrity and being flexible enough to adapt with your environment.
Darrell Freeman is the founder, chairman and CEO of Zycron Inc., an international information technology services and solutions firm headquartered in Nashville, TN