Is your small business stuck in a rut? Perhaps your customers no longer seem excited and your staff has stopped offering fresh new ideas. Or maybe the competition has been giving you fits.

Now could be a good time to give your business a makeover. It could be a major makeover or a minor makeover. What is most important is that you find a way to breathe new life into your profits and get the business back on the fast track. Small, agile businesses have a big advantage in this area over the big and slow ones. You can move quickly to spot changing conditions and put changes into operation.

More specifically, L-A SCORE counselor Bethel Shields advises, “Stand back and take a top-to-bottom look at your business. In order to identify where changes are most needed, you’ll have to dig for details about your products or services, your marketing and sales efforts, customer service, competition and more.”

Has your customer base changed since you first started? If so, could this be one area where you need to make changes. Is it broader or narrower? Older or younger? More upscale or less? You may need a new image, revved-up branding or perhaps just a rewrite of your marketing materials to address the needs of this changing customer base.

Take a hard look at whether your products or services are performing to customer expectations. Remember that your goal should be to exceed expectations, not simply to meet them. If customers are lukewarm, find out why. Perhaps competitors are doing a better job, or maybe they’ve created add-on products and services that you haven’t. Your own customers can help with your makeover if you ask them for feedback.

Shields recommends you re-evaluate your marketing message and devise a new one if needed. “Try revisiting your original business plan. You might be able to capture some of the insight and enthusiasm you originally had from that document. Think back to your most successful promotions, presentations or sales efforts. Rather than reinventing the wheel, you might be able to update and expand an approach that has already worked for your business.”

Some old-fashioned brainstorming sessions can help rekindle your managerial flame. Meet with your most trusted advisers, partners, employees, friends and outside consultants. Ask for their view on what your business can do to improve itself.

To learn more about starting or improving your small business, contact SCORE, a nonprofit organization of more than 12,000 volunteer business counselors who provide confidential counseling and training workshops. In the Lewiston-Auburn area, call L-A SCORE at 782-3708 for information and an appointment; in Rumford-Mexico call 364-3123; in Oxford Hills call 743-0499. Or contact SCORE at www.SCOREMaine.org.


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