How to Keep Your Small Business a Step Ahead

You’ve done everything right. You opened your business, got the word out, and gained customer loyalty. You have a constant flow of customers, and you’re even thinking about expanding. Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your hard work, right?

Wrong! Sitting still in a small business can mean falling behind, as your competitors are just as hungry, and the market can change in a minute. Success isn’t the end of the journey; it’s an opportunity to take the next step while you’re on top. There are several ways small businesses can stay a step ahead of their competition. 

Market Research

You can’t beat the competition unless you understand the market. Finding out what customers want and how they’re getting it is one of the best ways. Especially in today’s market, things are changing fast. When the pandemic hit, companies that saw the trend towards online options were prepared to weather the storm, and many are coming out of this past year stronger than ever. 

Market research can be as simple as asking your customers to fill out a short survey, but many businesses choose to hire a specialized market research firm for a more thorough breakdown. This can help you attract new customers and also identify weak spots in your business plan. The most successful businesses understand the market never stays the same for long. 

Get Insured

This is something you should take care of before you open your doors, but better late than never. If your business doesn’t have adequate insurance, you could be one bad day away from potentially losing all the gains you’ve built so far. Small business insurance costs may seem intimidating at first, but they’re worth every penny to know that a single lawsuit can’t undo your hard work. 

Your first priority should be obtaining workers’ compensation insurance before you open to ensure that your employees are covered for any on-the-job injuries. This is legally mandated in almost every state. Beyond that, if your company offers any consultations or services, you should have business liability insurance to ensure that you’re covered in the event of a malpractice or negligence claim. Your business may need other types of insurance depending on your operations.   

Prioritize Customers

A business that draws in a lot of first-time customers but few repeat customers is not sustainable. The key to long-term success is customer loyalty. The best way to establish this is to show customers you value their support by giving them reasons to return. 

There are many ways to create customer loyalty, such as giving out discount cards. It can be as simple as an ice cream parlor offering a card that allows customers to get a free cone for every 10 purchases. Finding out what customers want and what they can do without is essential. Offering a survey available for customers either in-person or online as a link in an emailed receipt can help you adapt to customers’ preferences. 

Ask for Advice

No business is an island, and you’re likely part of a complex ecosystem of businesses both in your field and in related areas. Competitors are often your best source of information on how to improve your business. They might run into the same problems you will at some point, and learning from their experiences can save you a lot of time and aggravation. 

Getting advice from competitors can be helpful, but it’s even better to find a mentor before you open. If you’re filling a niche in your market, the odds are someone filled it before. A retired business owner willing to share their wisdom can provide decades worth of anecdotes, one of which might be a million-dollar idea. Having someone to bounce ideas off of can save you a lot of time and money when brainstorming logistics or help you realize it’s time to hit eject on an idea that isn’t worth it. 

Seize the Opportunity and Get Ahead

The market won’t stay the same for long. The companies that survive are those who adapt smoothly. Find out what your customers want, research your market, and protect yourself from eventualities to allow your newfound success to continue for years to come. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.