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SCORE offers advice to help businesses in difficult times

July 11, 2010

Q: Does SCORE have any advice for small-business owners who would help us "keep up our spirits" during these difficult times? We have about run out of "the positive attitude" stuff.

A: I wish we had a magic potion to help you. In order to have a successful small business, you still have to think and act like a successful business. Sounds simple, perhaps, but many small-business owners and startup entrepreneurs forget this basic concept. In the face of adversity, they adopt a "can't do" attitude.

The most successful entrepreneurs find ways to make successful thinking contagious. One way they do that is by emphasizing long-term potential over short-term thinking. They learn to innovate rather than hesitate, shunning the status quo as they seek to spark new interest and enthusiasm inside the business.

Sure, working productively will help build your business, But generating creativity and passion for what your business does, no matter how seemingly mundane, is a hallmark of a high-performance business. But these don't have to be grandiose concepts. Simply going out of your way to help a customer in an unusual fashion qualifies.

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Also, emphasize the collective success of your business as a whole, not of any individual person, project or product. Then, you can accelerate success by identifying a few profitable activities and making them happen ever more flawlessly and quickly.

Open the lines of communication. Generally, those around you need more information, not less, in order to feel successful. Let your people know where you think the business needs to go, the problems it faces and what keeps you up at night. That makes it easier for you to involve them in finding solutions to your biggest challenges. Ask their advice about what you are doing right, what hurts and what needs fixing. That way, everyone has a bigger stake in your success.

Be open to new ideas, even if they sound silly or outlandish. Reward people for extra effort. Noncash incentives, such as time off or a company lunch, have gained popularity as a means of rewarding employees. And always deliver what you promise. That includes keeping promises to employees and suppliers as well as customers. Integrity still fuels the success engine, and its tough to recover if you blow it.

Finally, it might prove beneficial for you to talk with a SCORE counselor at the Hagerstown chapter location. Take advantage of a no-cost, confidential counseling session today. For more information or to register, call 301-766-2043. You also can register on our website at http://www.scorehagerstown.org.

Robert A. "Bob" Poor is a local small-business owner/operator. He is a small-business counselor and a regular contributor to the Ask SCORE column. Questions may be e-mailed to him at r.poor@myactv.net or sent by mail in care of The Herald-Mail, P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, MD 21741, ATTN: Ask SCORE column.

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