Start Small Big Challenge: Part Two

Article excerpt

We tapped entrepreneurial expert JJ Ramber to guide you through this year's Start Small Win Big Challenge! Here she pushes you to identify your most important business goal and helps you achieve it in months. Missed last month's segment with Steps 1 through 4? Find it at, where you'll see extra tips from SUCCESS editors and from Ramberg, and experience the fun and support of fellow SUCCESS readers. You'll win a shot at fame--the winner's story will appear in SUCCESS--while boosting your business results. It's go time!

We all do it.

From those of us who run sole-proprietor businesses to those of us who have hundreds of employees, we often get so involved in the day-to-day running of our companies that we forget to take time out to step back and think about how we want to move forward.

So let me congratulate everyone who has decided to take part in the Start Small Win Big Challenge. Carving out time to think about your company's strategy is well worth it in the end. Last month I challenged you to set a business goal and then spoke about how to craft your elevator pitches (plural), design your messaging, keep track of your metrics and get ahold of your finances. Today we continue this journey with five more steps to help you get where you need to be.


Talk to your customers

Let's face it. It's easy to get tunnel vision. It happens to the best of us. We sit around with our colleagues and talk about what we like and dislike about our product and discuss what to change. If this sounds familiar, you are doing yourself and your company a disservice. In order to really understand the value and potential value we bring to our customers, we need to talk to them. So your task here is to gather a group of customers and ask them what they like and dislike about your product or service, as well as how they feel you can better serve them in the future.

There are a few ways you can do this, including polls and surveys, but I suggest you do it in person. Call a few customers and ask if they're willing to grab coffee with you. You can do this in a group setting or individually. Chances are, you'll get a lot of people happy to help, and while you don't have to pay or offer them anything, I suggest that you present them with something as a thank-you once the meeting is over.

When you meet with these customers, here are a few things to think about. First, don't go to the meeting with preconceived ideas about what you expect to hear. If you do, you probably will inadvertently direct the conversation to fit your expectations. If need be, bring someone from your office whose views do not line up with your own so you can really keep the discussion unbiased. Second, keep your questions open-ended so they can't be answered with a simple yes or no. For example, you could ask, "What do you like and what do you dislike about (your product or service)?" Keep in mind, people may feel uncomfortable putting down your product in front of you, so make it clear that you are interested in both the positive and the negative.

Finally, do more listening than talking. You are there to learn, not sell.

At some point during this process, you should become your company's customer as well. For instance, if you have a spa, go get a few treatments. If you have an online retailer, buy something. You'll find that when you experience something as a customer instead of as an owner, you'll discover clear improvements you can make in places you had overlooked. Donna Perillo, owner of a nail spa in New York, says that as a customer she has noticed things such as the tea being too cold and the music playing too loud--things she didn't notice before.


Put systems into place to keep your staff focused.

As you go through this exercise of identifying and reaching for your goals, it's incredibly important that you communicate this to your staff and make sure everyone is on the same page. …