The Business of Doing Business

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By Daniel Jones

Daniel JonesEvery industry has felt a change in the last few years and doing business certainly isn’t what it used to be. Many still talk about the good old days when business was done in person and you could trust a handshake deal. But unlike years ago, today you are expected to be available 24/7, immediately know the answer to everything, and have a fabulous Facebook page. Have you been able to keep up with the changes?

According to the Small Business Administration, roughly 80% of businesses make it into their second year, half make it to five years, but only 30% make it to the 10-year mark. It’s not always poor management that causes failure; one of the most common reasons a business closes its doors is because it was based on a trend and consumer demand changed. If you think about it, every industry deals with trends; some trends just move faster than others and businesses drown as the tidal wave of progress passes over them. Have you considered if your business can float when your trend ends?

Here are a few ideas to stay afloat based on things we have learned from insuring business for nearly 40 years:

1. Get your business online.
People enjoy working with someone that is available and local. Large chains even see the importance of a local presence, but the trick is getting people to find you in the weeds of search engine results. We live in a small town but with big town opportunities. Our family business is on its third generation and is lucky to have been around a long time; we benefit from referrals and an extensive list of prior customers, but new businesses can create an online presence that makes it at least LOOK like they’ve been around a day or two and know what they are doing. There is nothing wrong with that, assuming you do actually know what they are doing, but that can be a tough road. It may be worth enlisting help in creating your website and improving your web presence.

2. Play to your strengths.
With few exceptions, your business doesn’t have the luxury of being the “only one in town” anymore. What keeps people coming to you other than your product? Products change, but wisdom and experience can’t be bought or bypassed. So, if you have them, emphasize it! Price remains king and it is certainly annoying when someone will choose another company to do business with over a few dollars. But it might surprise you how many people care about quality and are willing to pay extra for it. Focusing on your strengths ensures a good quality product, helping you build a distinct reputation. Over the years, our business has shifted as insurance products changed, focusing on things we know we do well and referring to others the things we can’t.

3. Don’t give up.
Quality businesses have a way of sticking around. Cutting corners might save time and money, but a stool with a gimpy leg will eventually fail or no longer be worth the pain it causes. You might not feel like your investment in skilled labor or insurance is paying off, but I can promise that, in the long run, it will have been worth it. Insurance is designed to keep you in business when the Big One comes.

Stability is difficult to achieve in a turbulent business environment. Staying successful is more about being willing to change when the time is right rather than change for the sake of change. Competition will come and go, tastes will change, and innovations will certainly alter the way we do business in the future. Insurance should be part of your long-term stability planning and as you keep adapting, you might soon be the one on the cutting edge that others are scrambling to emulate.