12 key success factors for SME’s

Small businesses make up the vast majority of business numbers, make a huge contribution to economic activity and health, but most do not last 5 years.

Over  20 years of observing small businesses as a contractor and consultant, I have seen a modest number of factors that the successful businesses, those that last the distance and deliver good financial returns over an extended period,  set out to manage in a very deliberate way.

  1. Your time is the most valuable resource you have, and is non renewable, so outsource as much as you can to free up your time. It does not matter if you outsource to an employee, or to someone in the eastern bloc, it gives you back your time.  Always ensure you retain control of the things that are at the core of your value proposition to customers, that is where your valuable time should be spent.
  2. Make yourself redundant. When the business runs without you, it is successful, You can then do what you want, but have the income stream coming in to allow you do what your want. The old cliché of working on your business rather than in your business is a cliché for a reason.
  3. Deliver value to customers first. Most business owners earn the most from their business the day they sell it, so do not become too emotionally involved with the idea of owning the business, be in love with what it can do for you by delivering value to customers.
  4. Find a niche and own it.
  5. Leverage the talents of others, there is always someone who can do something better than you, find them, and leverage those talents. On the flip side, do not allow low performers to persist, as it not only enables under performance in their role, but it sets a low bar for the others who can see that non performance is acceptable.
  6. Automate the day to day stuff as much as possible, and it is possible to automate almost everything these days. This requires time and effort up front to ensure there are robust and repeatable processes, but pays off in  spades in very quick time.
  7. Always be curious, about what your customers are doing, and why, what your competitors are doing, why and how, and what is happening in domains outside yours that may  be applicable to your domain in some way.
  8. Be generous. It pays off. Generosity engenders a feeling of obligation, and in this day of commodities and transparency, having someone feel they owe you a favour is very valuable.
  9. Have a plan, so at the very least, you know  the point from which you have departed.
  10. Interrogate your business model routinely, as the pace of change is such that the optimum way of extracting value may not be the way your are doing it currently. The Business Model canvas is a great tool, and it is not so silly to keep drawn up on an A3 pinned to your wall to take post it notes with thought s as they occur to you, and others.
  11. Measure progress to wards objectives. Too many measures are as bad a too few, the challenge is to get the right measures, measuring the things that really measure progress, not just that something is done.
  12. Watch and manage the cash.

None of this is easy, or comfortable, but as I look around at successful SME’s, they are all employing at least 5 or 6 of these strategies.  I would recommend that you do a relatively simple assessment of each parameter, measure yourself, and use that measure to identify areas to target for improvement. Simple spider graphs are very useful as a visual tool for recording progress.

Happy to have a yarn with you about how an outside resource may be able to assist the process.

About strategyaudit

StrategyAudit is a boutique strategy and marketing consultancy concentrating on the challenges of the medium sized manufacturing businesses that make up the backbone of our economy. The particular focus is on their strategic and marketing development. as well as the business and operational efficiency improvements necessary for day to day commercial survival. We not only give advice, we go down "into the weeds" to ensure and enable implementation.
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