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Five burning issues

 

Five emerging issues that small business owners are struggling with right now?

That’s what I asked ChatGPT.

The unsurprising result?

It came back with issues that are NOT in fact emerging. They’re not new. They are not of this time, specifically.

And that’s because not as much changes as we think. 

The fundamentals of running a business stay the same.

So, what were the five issues ChatGPT listed?

  1. Financial management - being able to manage cash flow and budget
  2. Future planning - being able to plan for tomorrow while managing today. Seeing the forest for the trees.
  3. Economic shifts and inflation - as a small business you are usually more vulnerable to changes in economic conditions and consumer spending
  4. Employee communication - maintaining open and constructive communication, and
  5. Staff retention - keeping your best people

Here’s what’s interesting about this list, though.

Managing each of those five issues is complex, frustrating, challenging, rewarding, confusing, exciting, exhausting and enriching.

What they are not is sexy. They are wallpaper. Vanilla.

Barely worth talking about, right?

Well, I think it’s time to shelve the myriad puff pieces on how to keep staff and set your goals and instead really get to the heart of why running a small business is difficult. 

Get to the heart of what underpins each of those five perennial issues.

It’s people.

I don’t mean ‘difficult’ people, I mean virtual and real-life interactions with humans to achieve your objectives.

It’s influencing your team to stay with you and perform. 

It’s influencing customers to find, buy and recommend you. 

It’s influencing your suppliers to do business with you and deliver. 

It’s influencing the bank to give you a line of credit. 

It’s influencing yourself to do the right things at the right time in the right way.

The beauty of seeing your business as a series of behavioural influence challenges is that these skills can apply to any issue you are grappling with, through any means. 

From a highly converting website, writing a compelling job ad, negotiating favourable supply terms and incentivising your team in the best way, to constructing a pitch, introducing price rises and getting yourself to do the books, it’s all about influence.

So where to start? 

Three questions to ask yourself to ensure you are able to favourably influence outcomes.
 

1. What’s my Behavioural Objective?

 Before drafting an email, picking up the phone, crafting a pitch or creating a new campaign, ask “what’s my behavioural objective?”

 In other words, what do I want them (your customer, team member, supplier, yourself) to do? For example, I want them to buy, click, or turn up on time.
 

2. What are they doing instead?

 By asking what they are doing instead of what you want them to do, you will shift from your perspective to theirs. For example, they are not buying or clicking, and they are currently late most days. 

By asking these two simple questions you will now have clarity on what you want the outcome to be (your objective) and what behaviour you need to change to get there (their current behaviour).

3. Effort vs Reward equation

Once you’ve identified the gap between current and desired behaviour, then it's a matter of devising ways to bridge the divide. 

While there’s more to it than we can cover here, the best place to start is what I call the “effort vs. reward equation”. 

In short, how can you reduce the effort they need to go to do what you want them to do (for example, reducing the number of fields on a form) while maximising the (real or perceived) reward for bothering (like saving money or time, jumping the queue, gaining status amongst peers).

If you’d like more specific help to manage these five burning issues, contact me to find out how I can help.

 

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