Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with author Barry Moltz @BarryMoltz. Barry gets business owners growing again by unlocking their long forgotten potential. With decades of entrepreneurial experience in his own business ventures as well as consulting countless other entrepreneurs, Barry has discovered the formula to get stuck business owners out of their funk and marching forward. Check out his latest book Small Town Rules.
SmallBizLady: Why do you think the nature of small businesses has changed?
Barry Moltz: No one has to tell the average business person that things are now different. Radical economic factors and technological changes have altered the very course of our society. As a result, business is now forced to play by a different set of rules.
SmallBizLady: What are the 7 Small Town Rules for small businesses?
Barry Moltz: The Change in the Economy
Rule 1. Plan for zero. There will be tough years ahead. Plan for not only a bad year but a year with nothing at all!
Rule 2. Spend creative brainpower before spending dollars. Too much money can make you stupid.
Rule 3. Multiply lines of income to diversify your risk, but build one opportunity at a time
The Change in Technology
Rule 4. Work anywhere, anyway through technology to gain customers and employees
Rule 5. Treat customers like community because they value earned media over advertising
The Change in Society
Rule 6. Be proud of being small. Go Small or Go Home! Customers value the human voice not big corporate campaigns!
Rule 7. Build your local connections. People would much rather buy locally than from at the end of a 10,000 mile long supply chain
SmallBizLady: What are your top 3 business ideas any business can use to expand innovate or change the game?
Barry Moltz: Businesses of any size can use these ideas for expansion, innovation or to change the game.
- Build a community from your customers. Get off the balcony and start talking. Customers no longer want to be told what to do. They want to explore what other customers have done and what they think.
- Build and protect your reputation. Just like in a small town, reputation is the most important asset you have. With search engines, it’s now forever!
- Every boom is followed by a bust. Be like the farmer where they know that every year, there will not be a bumper crop. Expect one out of five years will be a disaster.
SmallBizLady: Are there any technology tools you can suggest for implementing small town rules?
Barry Moltz: Appendix A lists an entire set of resources: Here are some to highlight:
Prepare for the worst: Every business needs to back up in the cloud through a tool like Carbonite or one that comes with every Microsoft or Apple computer.
Work anywhere: Utilize some type of chat software like Skype and Oovoo. Collaborations can easily be done through Google docs or Dropbox.
CRM tools: Track customers and projects in the cloud with tools like Sage One.
SmallBizLady: Why do you think every Small business should operate like they are in a small town?
Barry Moltz: Because just like in a small town, reputation is what matters and on the web, reputation is forever. There is so much to learn from small town entrepreneurs who have developed their resiliency over 200 years. With changes in technology and the economy, the rules that made them successful now apply to all businesses big and small.
SmallBizLady: Why is reputation more important than ever in a small business?
Barry Moltz: Postings on the internet are forever searchable! Customers believe what other customers say about your business more than your advertisements. Have you ever looked at Trip Advisor or Yelp before visiting a retail establishment? Do you ever read reviews before you buy at eBay or Amazon? That’s it!
SmallBizLady: What economic forces are shaping small business today?
Barry Moltz: There is still very little capital available to expand businesses. Companies need to be very frugal with their investments and ensure that as many costs are variable. High unemployment is also forcing many people to start their own business or work freelance for many different companies at one time.
SmallBizLady: Why do you think the human voice is valued over corporate mission statements?
Barry Moltz: Every consumer behaves like they live in a small town. We believed in earned media – reviews and references, more than advertising since we can talk to other consumers directly over the internet.
SmallBizLady: Why do you think too much money can make small business owners stupid?
Barry Moltz: It has been shown that during prosperous times that people throw money at a problem to solve it instead of thinking through the issues. Do you really need that Aileron chair or Weber grill right now? Not having the right resources means entrepreneurs have to think harder to find a less expensive solution. Many times this works better.
SmallBizLady: How can you treat your customers like community?
Barry Moltz: Listen to what people are saying about you. Offer help in a timely manner. Don’t always be selling your product, but instead establish your company as a helpful expert on the subject being discussed. Remember people buy from who they know, like and trust. You wouldn’t introduce yourself at a cocktail party and immediately ask the person if they wanted to buy from you. This is the same way it works with social media.
SmallBizLady: How is being local a competitive advantage?
Barry Moltz: People want to buy locally more than buying at the end of a supply chain. It makes them feel like they support where they live. Everyone can connect with a local community where people share common interests. It is the small business’ job to make that connection.
SmallBizLady: Why is the customer the most important thing in a small business today?
Barry Moltz: Through the Internet, every customer can now talk directly to each other. It’s similar to living in a small town where every customer knew every other and your company lived or died by what they said! People listen now more to what customers say about your company than your mass advertising. The human voice in business is valued over big corporate mission statements. People online are banding together in small communities with common interests. Given a choice, consumers would rather buy their products locally than abroad.
Every consumer now behaves like they live in a small town. As a result, companies now need to play be a new set of “small town rules.” These are the same rules that have made rural entrepreneurs successful for centuries. They apply to small businesses and big brands, no matter how big or how urban.
Many familiar companies started in small towns like Viking Range, L.L. Bean clothing, and Sonic Drive Ins. Wal-Mart may be the single most powerful brand to come from a small town and remake the world, affecting both small businesses and huge national brands.
Small town business people have tried everything to survive and thrive within the limits of their towns. The best ones have a reputation for knowing every customer personally and for catering to their customers. But, there are deeper strategies and tactics behind the scenes: managing multiple lines of income, thinking long term, being frugal, creating community and building local connections.
If all businesses would act more like small town entrepreneurs, they could be more profitable in the long term.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.