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Desiree Ashton

doing the legwork, so you don't have to

In the context of a shrinking economy, how do you find and explore new horizons?  This isn’t just a challenge facing smaller businesses, large organisations are wrestling with this, too.  However, for a small business, it is unlikely that there is a whole department of staff dedicated to identifying the next big opportunity for you.  In all likelihood, the one doing the exploring is you.

In my time as a VA I have worked with a number of businesses, each one operating to a slightly different model.  Sensing and being part of the next big thing has always been key to their longer term growth, yet it’s something they have not always had the time to do.   Playing catch up and being on the back-foot is never pleasant.  Aside from feeling out the loop, arriving once the party is in full swing can be damaging to your business.  You risk being left with the deals no one else wants.

Those I have worked with have often drafted me in to help them scope out their new horizons.  It’s not a complex task, but it can be time-consuming.  Getting me to do some of the background research and early legwork has certainly taken a weight off their desks, and their minds.  Being involved at this stage has been interesting and it has cemented in my mind the very special characteristics of small businesses which can actually make it easier to sense and ride the wave of the next big thing.

One of the benefits of being a small business is that you can quickly shape-change to respond to the market around you.    This is something I have seen many of my clients do very successfully.  Rather than being limited by their ‘petite’ size, they have used it to their advantage.  Without layers of management and a tangle of systems, they have swiftly and efficiently modified their offering to satisfy the demand they see emerging before them.

How have they known about this demand?  Quite simply, they have remained close to their customers.  This is something which small businesses can do very well.  By exploiting the personal touch, they can feel the pulse of their customer base and respond accordingly.  Large organisations throw a lot of money at this – some more successfully than others.  Small businesses, on the other hand, can do it just by being themselves – by making regular contact with their customers and networking with those who might be interested in what they have to offer.  Yes, it takes time, effort and commitment, but in today’s clamorous market-place, the personal touch never fails to make an impact in itself.

Another skill particular to the small businesses I have worked with has been their ability to think creatively and understand how to make the most out of what they already have.  Rather than being limited to purely what they can deliver themselves, they look to forge partnerships and relationships with other businesses which might complement and add value to their offer.  Larger organisations can do this, but they often look to push it as part of a one-size-fits-all package.  Smaller businesses can pick and choose from skills of their carefully selected associates to ensure that what they offer is a truly tailored solution.    There is a growing sense of admiration for the individuality and flexibility of the ‘small guy’.   Smaller businesses can trade on this and market what they offer as bespoke.

So, in my experience of working with small businesses, size is not everything.   Being small comes with its own set of perks.  Small businesses can and do catch the wave – it’s just a matter of believing they can.

Where do your new horizons lie?

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