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/AT&T Syn248) - For small businesses, it's a thin line between success and failure. Flexibility is key.
This ability to respond swiftly often gives small businesses a desirable advantage over their much-larger competitors because they can adapt to take advantage of growing opportunities and changes in their particular industries.
"The reality is, owners must constantly look to evolve," says Steven Rogers, professor of entrepreneurship at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. "The business they're in today may not be the business they're in tomorrow."
Looking ahead and adapting also includes costs and competition. So, how can small businesses stay nimble in the face of these challenges? Here are three can-do items to add to your small-business flexibility list:
1. Look for a niche. Small businesses often can spot and react more quickly to market trends. If you don't already have something in mind, the U.S. Small Business Administration suggests conducting a market survey with current and/or potential customers to uncover untapped needs. Look for areas that are being ignored by your competitors. Maybe it's a certain feature in a product or a tool aimed at a small but passionate audience.
2. Find technology that fits multiple needs. Larger businesses may have receptionists, IT departments and contractors, but for small businesses, implementing technology that has a big-business look and functionality without the cost is a must. For instance, changing the phone system
to an easy-to-use AT&T Syn248 Deskset and Gateway system (smbtelephones.att.com/syn248) can trim expenses because it's designed for start-ups and small-sized businesses. It involves a quick and simple set-up and is compatible with existing networks. The system is also convenient to manage and has all the functionality busy offices need, such as built-in voicemail, contact storage, do-not-disturb, paging, conferencing and call forwarding. Expandability is a cinch for growing small businesses -- just add phones as needed.
3. Cultivate communication within. You can often find the best strategies by asking around the office. Talk to your employees daily about their ideas for growth and hopes for the future. Keeping that channel of communication alive will help you identify inefficiencies and new opportunities. This way, you're not only finding ways to increase production and profitability, you're also making your employees feel more invested in your small business.