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Richard Chitman
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Richard Chitman   My Press Releases

5 Key Learnings From One Year Of Running A Small Business

Published on 8/1/2017
For additional information  Click Here

A little over a year ago, I made the leap, you know the one, where you decide the time has come to quit the monotony of the corporate grind and finally open a small business and become your own boss! Now I get to do things my way, be my own boss, make the rules and I know in my heart I will be one of the successful ones. Yep, I know the statistics, 25% of startups don't make it to month 12 and barely half make it to year 5. (Forbes) But I'm different, I got my marketing training from the big boys in Corporate America and this should give me a HUGE advantage over my small business colleagues…OR WILL IT?

Even before my wife and I opened the doors of our new small business, the challenges began to mount, this was her first job outside the house since our eldest was born, over 20 years ago, and we got some very bad guidance from our banker on financing, just to name a couple.

After our initial six months of owning the business, I posted a short blog on LinkedIn and Facebook about the lessons I had learned after spending so much time in the corporate world. I can honestly say that after another six months, one solid year now, the lessons keep coming. But, here are the 5 that I believe are the most important thus far.


1) No one cares about your corporate experience

As I wrote the business plan for this business, I planned on using my extensive corporate marketing experience and training as a differentiator among my peers in the category-WRONG! Most small business owners are sensitive about big business and very distrustful of it. They don't see the benefits of top tier training that I was provided and the ways I could help them. Many of them are just fine operating with enthusiasm and good will.

2) Small Business has its own language

The first Chamber of Commerce meeting I attended I felt like I was an Associate Product manager again. The acronyms and words were different from the ones you hear in the conference rooms at Pfizer. It took me a little while to learn about BNI and PNP etc. And when I spoke to my new colleagues with my corporate speak, I could have been speaking Polish. Same concept hold true for concepts as well.

A good example, is many of them do not distinguish the difference between "Marketing" and "Advertising". Most marketing conversations you hear are really about advertising. Just by learning the difference between the 2 disciplines could help at least a couple of them be more successful.

3) Many, if not most small businesses owners, DO NOT write a business plan

WHAT??!! This was, and still is, surprising to me. Most of the small business owners I have met operate their businesses through feel or a couple of points they picked up at a BNI meeting. I have come to discover, after asking questions about this phenomenon, that many don't know even know where to begin writing a business plan and a second major factor is that they just don't have the time. This one area alone is a HUGE opportunity for small business to increase their overall revenue, but this brings me to point 4.

4) Cash is King, well Prince at least

Most of the people I have met this year are VERY hard working, enthusiastic family oriented people. They are not "Cheap" but many of their businesses do not generate enough revenue to re- invest back into their company i.e. taking a course or hiring a consultant to help them grow revenue. Many don't know the trajectory off their sales YTD or even MTD, and a Profit and Loss Statement is an unknown document. Of course, this is a generality and there are quite a few savvy owners doing very well.

5) Small businesses spend little time on "Differentiation"

Yes, you read that correctly!! In today's world where almost every market has become commoditized and differentiation has become critical for long term success. The concept of "Differentiate or die" is not echoing through the dining room at Joey's Pizza. In fact many businesses use coupons discounts as a surrogate for differentiation. Federal and state governments would do well to develop a short business curricula that is mandatory for every small business owner to take.

If this were ever policy, it would increase the percentage of small businesses that become thriving revenue producers. Yet, I have not heard one politician talk about this as a platform to help the local economy. Differentiation is the basis of business survival, and greatly influences consumer buying behavior, yet in the world of small business it is not being talked about, much less put into action.

The good news is that I am still learning, I wasn't sure if I would be when I agreed to begin this endeavor with my wife, but most days bring something new. Plus, having to be resourceful due to lack of resources, forces you to learn on the fly. However, I almost forgot the Biggest Lesson of All after 12 months. LESSON NUMBER Six- Yes the I know the title says 5!!

6) It really is all about PEOPLE, genuinely about people

We in the corporate world hear this all the time. "Our people are the difference" "We could not have done this without our people" "We only hire great people" etc. etc. 
All of this only to have others talk behind our backs, perpetually self-promote themselves, talk over others in meetings, dismiss an idea because it wasn't theirs, talk down to another with a lower title etc.

TAKE NOTE: To have any chance at being successful as a small business owner, you have got to genuinely realize the value of each person. This is one environment where the phrase "people matter" is not a cliché. 
Of course, these businesses advertise, but:
Word of mouth over a job well done is worth more than 6 months of good search placement. (SEO) 
Sitting down with a customer who is frustrated by a problem to hear him/her out. Then trying to problem solve WITH that person is worth more than any direct mail piece.

Joining any number of community groups and getting to know the important local issues is more effective than any email

Making a customer feel as though they are the center of your business and you exist just to solve their problems, is worth more than any coupon or discount ever could.

You get the picture. Without people and the ability to empathize, respect and interact well with them, don't bother applying for that LLC. The game is over far before you pass GO.

In closing, the past year has brought me unique experiences and the opportunity to meet some amazing people. This country is only partly built on the back of giant corporations, the rest, and perhaps biggest part of America is built on the backs of the thousands of small businesses and local communities where the term "good people" is brought to life and not hanging on a conference room wall.

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