Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Susan Solovic @susansolovic. Susan Solovic is an award-winning serial entrepreneur, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Amazon.com top 100 and USA Today bestselling author, media personality, sought-after keynote speaker, and attorney.
SmallBizLady: WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR SMALL BUSINESS GROWTH IN 2017?
Susan Solovic: I’m positive about what the future holds for small business growth. We’ve seen that number of start-ups decrease over the past several years and that’s not good for the economy. Now that small business optimism and consumer confidence is up, I am confident we’ll see a surge in entrepreneurship. Additionally, many jobs are being replaced with technology so more and more people are going to need to rely on their own abilities to make a living. This is the beginning of the age of the entrepreneur in my opinion.
SmallBizLady: YOU HAVE A NEW BOOK BEING A PUBLISHED SOON. TELL US ABOUT IT?
Susan Solovic: It’s called “The One Percent Edge Small Changes that Guarantee Relevance and Build Sustainable Success.” I’ve studied small businesses for decades and I’ve started and built successful companies myself. In the past, we’ve talked about the steps it takes to build success, but today that’s not enough. You can be successful today and out of business tomorrow because the market is changing so fast. So I’ve developed a process which helps businesses of all sizes build innovation into their DNA.
What works today won’t work tomorrow. You need to be agile, flexible and able to manage your business in real time. Businesses that employ this process will be able to create a competitive edge and enhance their ability to remain relevant to the market.
SmallBizLady: CAN YOU SHARE SOME EXAMPLES OF BUSINESSES WHO HAVE MISSED THAT MARK BECAUSE THEY FAILED TO BE INNOVATIVE?
Susan Solovic: There are many. That’s why only 71 of the original Fortune 500 companies exist today. Think about some of the brands you’ve known in recent years that have virtually disappeared: Linens and Things, Circuit City and Radio Shack. Business leaders marry their products and business operations. As a result, they fail to recognize market shifts. When they wake up, it’s frequently too late. Fewer than 10% of businesses are able to turn the tide once they recognize they have missed the boat so to speak.
SmallBizLady: THAT’S VERY INTERESTING. I SEE WHY IT’S IMPORTANT FOR BUSINESSES TO BE CONSTANTLY INNOVATING, BUT HOW DO YOU INCORPORATE THAT IN YOUR BUSINESS WHEN YOU’RE BUSY RUNNING DAY-TO-DAY OPERATIONS?
Susan Solovic: That’s why I developed this THE One Percent Edge Process. Businesses don’t need to make radical, disruptive changes. They need a process by which they are continually making small enhancements in every aspect of their business; their product/service; and their people, process, technology, finances and marketing.
SmallBizLady: WE ALWAYS TALK ABOUT HOW IMPORTANT PEOPLE ARE WITHIN AN ORGANIZATION. IS THAT TRUE FOR A COMPANY THAT IS TRYING TO CREATE A SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE EDGE?
Susan Solovic: Absolutely. You can have the most innovative product/service offering in the market, but if you don’t have the right people to execute your plan, then you will have difficulty building your success. Furthermore, without the right people who are innovative and creative, you will wind up with the same old strategies.
SmallBizLady: HOW DO YOU ATTRACT THE RIGHT PEOPLE FOR YOUR TEAM?
Susan Solovic: Your existing employees are your best recruiters. You need to create an employment brand as a place where people want to work. Employees feel respected and empowered. Reward them for their contributions and give them an opportunity to be part of the vision. No micromanaging. And real-time feedback is important. Your team wants to know how they are doing. The annual performance review is a thing of the past.
SmallBizLady: HOW DOES MARKETING FACTOR INTO A COMPANY’S ABILITY TO BUILD AN EDGE IN THE MARKET?
Susan Solovic: Communicating your value proposition is critical to create a competitive edge. However, it’s equally important to be able to engage your market in an authentic conversation. In today’s market you can’t “sell” anything, but you can be a partner and a problem-solver.
SmallBizLady: HOW DOES HAVING DIFFERENT GENERATIONAL CUSTOMERS AND CLIENTS HELP BUSINESSES DEVELOP A COMPETITIVE EDGE?
Susan Solovic: It’s an on-going saga – Baby Boomers vs. Millennials. The two groups seem to be very diverse and unable to work together. A business with the edge, however, understands that each of these groups brings something important to the table. Just as it’s important to have gender, race and ethnic diversity, generational diversity is important, too.
SmallBizLady: HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO ENHANCE YOUR PRODUCT OFFERING?
Susan Solovic: The reason businesses struggle and risk becoming irrelevant is because they do the same thing everyone else does. A business with the one percent edge has a product offering with just a noticeable difference. As Jerry Garcia once said, “It’s not enough to be the best at what you do. You must be perceived as the only one who does what you do.”
SmallBizLady: DO YOU NEED TO APPLY THIS TYPE OF ANALYSIS TO EVERYTHING YOU DO IN YOUR BUSINESS?
Susan Solovic: Every aspect of your business is dependent on the other areas. You know your company is only as strong as the weakest link, so it’s important to build a culture of innovation that resonates throughout your organization.
SmallBizLady: DOES YOUR PROCESS APPLY TO BUSINESSES OF ALL SIZES OR DOES IT WORK BETTER FOR ONE TYPE OF BUSINESS VS. ANOTHER?
Susan Solovic: Any size business can employ this strategy but the larger the company, the more difficult it is to implement. Smaller businesses are more agile and can pivot more quickly so they do have an advantage. No doubt about it.
SmallBizLady: WHERE CAN PEOPLE GO TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOU AND LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR NEW BOOK?
Susan Solovic: My website: SusanSolovic.com. Or join me on Facebook or Twitter.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
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