Tuesday, October 30

Tips to help small businesses survive hard times

There are over 27 million small businesses operating around the country, so how do you grow your company? msnbc's J.J. Ramberg, author of "It's Your Business," shares tips to give you a leg up on the competition.

Unlike Humpty Dumpty who took a fall and couldn’t be put back together again, there are a lot of small business owners out there who seem to have a sixth sense about how to take a fall without breaking!

Either through good luck or good sense, some entrepreneurs seem to have a knack for making the right moves at the right time to keep their businesses solvent.

TV news reporter JJ Ramberg, and two of her producers, Lisa Everson and Frank Silverstein, have been keeping track of these so-called "naturals" ever since the economy went south more than four years ago. They’ve just published a book of practical advice and usable wisdom from these natural born survivors called: "It’s Your Business: 183 Essential Tips that Will Transform Your Business."

BOOK EXCERPT: ‘It's Your Business’: Getting your company off the ground

Here’s a few of the survival stories from those who’ve learned from the school of hard knocks.

The soft touch

Meet Paige Arnof-Fenn (Tip No.108), owner of the Boston-based marketing company Maven’s & Moguls. When the work dried up, Paige went on a "listening tour." Instead of pitching new business to people who couldn’t afford it, she offered to meet former clients to talk about their current problems and long-term plans, with no strings attached. Now that the economy is showing some small signs of life, Arnof-Fenn reports that many of those same people are now hiring her.

The sharp elbows

Mike Michalowicz (Tip No.104), founder of New Jersey-based Obsidian Launch, took a more aggressive stand. “When a competitor goes out of business, immediately call the phone company and ask to have their number redirected to yours.” He told us. “You’ll have to train your staff to politely explain that the company they intended to reach has gone out of business, and you can provide them with excellent service.” Same goes for URLs as well. You might have to call the business and persuade them to sell you the Web address, but it might well be worth it.

The fancy dance

Juliea Kushnir (Tip No.84), owner of New Jersey-based Tax Solutions, kept herself afloat not by offering profit-killing discounts and price reductions, but by increasing "value" instead. She says she offered packages of services with a few extra bells and whistles (that didn’t actually cost her much to add) but made her services stand out from the crowd while keeping her fees at the same level.

The modern David and Goliath

Tom Egelhoff (Tip No.142), owner of smalltownmarketing.com, says one of his clients didn’t throw in the towel when the big box stores came to town. Instead, he beat them at their own game. How? By charging less for popular products than the big guys did. Are you wondering how he still turned a profit? While a small company can’t compete with a big chain on price for every product every day, it can beat them on price for a few hours on a few products on a given day. “Once you’ve got them into your small town store,” Tom said “then you can get them to return by showing off your better customer service, your more convenient location and the other competitive advantages that make small-business shopping more enjoyable.”

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