Remember the days when businesses were just past on and business was taken for granted? If you do chances are that you are thinking about business in the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's and maybe even the nineties. It certainly isn't true in the 21st century.
Business used to think that all they had to do was run a nice clean predictable business and their loyal customers would keep coming. Work a little harder, maybe get a new item or run a sale and you made a little more money. Look at brands like Zenith, Sony, Woolworths, Kodak, Bell, Corel Draw, Palm, Microsoft and Google. The ones that have remained successful haven't rested on their laurels. They continue to invest in training, new products, new research and development and have paid close attention to trends in technology and customer preferences. The ones that did nothing but open their shops are either gone or in big trouble.
So far it sounds interesting but you're saying you don't run a huge corporation and don't have an Research and Development Department. These practices apply to every business profession. I own a medium sized printing and promotional product company, solutions Ink in Montreal, Canada whose sales have more than doubled each of the last three years. During this time my competitors businesses have diminished. Usually I find my competition trying to sell the same products and waiting for the phone to ring for an order. Here they are in a profession that deals with promotion and marketing on a daily basis and these people seem clueless. I made it a point to join industry associations and frequent trade shows on a regular basis in places outside of my own city.
Sure it costs money to join these associations and sure it costs money to attend the shows, never mind the lost hours while your gone but not doing it will cost you a lot more. These associations are at the front of the industry, researching new trends, new technologies and new ways of doing business. At the start of the dot com age I met a company that was a pioneer in the online ordering systems for printing. I was the first one in Canada to offer this service. I did it because it made sense for larger customers to order this way. They could save time and hidden procurement costs for their companies. It was an easy sell to my customers and being an early adopter gave me reason to solicit potential new customers with great success. Once these customers became users these customers became very loyal. The same is true for the promotional product side of the business. Having an online store, www.solutionsink4u.com with over 600,000 items on it gave me an advantage over the traditional sales person who came in with the same 4 catalogues. If customers were willing to invest in a promotion of their company chances were that they wanted to stand out and not have the same product as every one else.
Going to larger trade shows outside of my home town gave me opportunity to see new products and learn how other people sold them. At most trade shows they have educational seminars. Many people pass on them, but the smart, successful people are usually there. You are never to old to learn something new and from a business perspective, those that are unwilling to change usually perish. Successful businesses continue to evolve. A by product of these trade shows has been meeting many new suppliers. You might not need them right now, but one day this connection will pay great dividends. My main lines today are very different from my main lines 5 years ago. My sales have increased dramatically together with better profit margins. Don't be in the “me too" business, try to find your niche early and become an expert in it. Once this becomes comfortable search out the next new line or product.
In summary an eduction from school is great and I have a masters degree. The true education that will be beneficial to your successful business comes many years removed from your college days and many miles from your former campuses. If you ned any help or suggestions on what to do for your business drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to help.
Steven Schneidman has a B. A.in Psychology and an MBA, was a professor in finance at a Montreal University, worked for the secong largest bank in Canada and has and does own 2 printing and promotional product companies. He does work with many Fortune 500 companies as well as a slew of smaller companies all over Canada and the United States.