Q: My sales are flat. How do I know if my small business needs a full-scale makeover to get things going? Or are some simple tweaks enough to spur activity?
A: A good place to start is by taking a fresh look at your business plan - something every entrepreneur should do in good times and bad. Regular reviews and updates keep your original startup research in step with internal and external changes. After doing some research you may find that some key assumptions about your customers or demographic trends have changed.
You also may see the need to address aspects of your marketing strategy. The core messages to customers may still be valid, but perhaps it's time to adjust the wording or freshen your logo. Your advertising and promotional strategy may need to be realigned to channels that show more promise.
If you have employees, splurge on dinner or some other fun activity and give everyone a chance to unwind. This is a good time to discuss ideas to help the business, but also encourage your colleagues to think about things and submit their thoughts and ideas to you directly.
Also, consult with trusted advisers, friends, colleagues. Most important, talk with your customers. Ask them what you could be doing better and what changes to products or services they might like.
Don't focus just on your business. Ask about the issues your customers are dealing with, and things that have become important in serving their customers. That may give you ideas for augmenting your product or service line. Some customers may even agree to let you test-market your makeover ideas.
A great resource for dealing with the challenges and opportunities of existing businesses is SCORE Advisors, a service of SCORE Houston, a nonprofit association. These volunteers have experienced these kind of challenges and can advise you. Mentors will be selected with the experience and skills needed to serve your needs. Learn more at www.scorehouston.org.