Every so often, when my business experiences a bump in the road, or I sense there are opportunities “out there” that I am not approaching in the best way possible, I like to convene a “business brainstorm”.
My company will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year, so you can imagine there have been more than a few of these sessions along the way.
This I how it works for me: I gather 3, 4, or at most 5 other women who have owned their businesses for some time (3 or 4 years as minimum), who are not competing with me or with each other, and who also have “issues” to deal with. This can be a cash flow decline, an employee who is not working out, the loss of a major client, or any other occurrence that is common in the small business world.
We get together for half a day, preferably outdoors (an off-the-beaten-path public park is great) and discuss each company’s prime issue and jointly come up with a solution.
We make sure we understand each other’s businesses thoroughly and think of ways in which we can encourage growth. Each participant is expected to “open her Rolodex”, i.e. connect the others with people she has in her network, who can be another participant’s prospective clients. We talk about our markets; if I help plant nurseries with their marketing plans, these clients may need my accounting colleague’s services also.
We test each other’s “elevator pitches”, to make sure they are sharp, concise and relevant to what a prospect needs to know about the products or services we offer. And our unique selling propositions (USP). What makes us unique in our industry? Why should a prospect buy from me instead of my competitor in the next block, three floors up or in the next state over?
This, the USP, is usually the most difficult part of the session. You cannot just say “people should hire me as a coach, because I am the best”, or “I really have no competition”, or “my product is superior to anyone else’s”.
Let me end with giving you a task for this week: sit down with yourself (or a few trusted advisers) and come up with your business’s USP. You will be amazed by how difficult this is and how rewarding when you’ve got it figured out. I am still working on mine . . .