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11 Small Business Practices That Work

I have lasted three decades as a business owner. Like most people doing this I go about my business without thinking much about any great philosophy or magic I possess because I don’t. But I do see things that work, so I will share them here.

1. I am an expert at something. In my case, it's office equipment sales and service businesses. I got there initially by working at IBM for 5 years. Having experience before I jumped in was pivotal.

2. I delegate. I am the great delegator. I would rather show somebody how to do it than do it. That is how you build a business. Sixty-hour work weeks is nothing to brag about. It means you are doing it wrong.

3. I stay humble and check ego at the door. Hopefully. People are not drawn to egotistical people. They are hard to communicate with. Humble people draw others in. Ego types push them out. Admit if you messed up.

4. I know my numbers. You are a businessperson! This means you know business besides having an expertise or idea. Neither gets you there unless you are Steve Jobs or Zuckerberg. Probably you aren’t. Understand financial statements, pricing, profit margins, cash flow and percentages. The language of business is percentages and simple arithmetic you learned by 8th grade. Review this data monthly for changes in it.

5. I can sell. I don’t see how any small business will make it without strong sales ability which starts with you. A business owner with less than 15 employees should spend half his time selling. You may become seduced by today’s social media, the power of your idea or try to find some other excuse for not selling, but it will not bring you the business you need. You have to talk to real prospects—a lot. If your competitor possesses good sales ability, he will beat you.

6. I sell products that throw off service, supply or support revenue. It will not do just to sell hardware (or soft goods). These markets are fickle, cyclical, locational, and can disappear quickly. Service contracts provide regular steady cash flow. They are what you build a business on.

7. I get it under contract. Whatever you sell, try for a year’s contract. It is just good business. It helps both sides. It prevents future arguments. It prevents you from having to re-sell the customer time and again. Take the time to do it. Even a 90-day contract is better than none.

8. I raise prices yearly. These are small 5-10% increases. You have to do that to keep up with inflation and prices being raised on you. It is not likely to drive customers away. My brother is a maintenance diver and has a decent following. He mentioned he never raised his prices in five years. Of course I came unglued. He gave it a try. Said he did not lose one customer and brought in $1,000 more a month. Hugely important money.

9. Beware new language and business terms. Accounting has not changed. Making a sale has not changed. Making a profit has not changed. Needing positive cash flow has not changed. Being a good leader has not and on and on. These are all still vital business basics that decide if you live or die—not some adherence to new words or strategies that really aren’t anything new.

10. I ask for the money! Small business owners get taken advantage of when it comes to collecting their AR. Ask for it and ask right now! You have already delivered your goods and services and have every right. Most small businesses have abandoned net 30 and try for net 10 days. I like Net Now. It helps them fight small business’s biggest problem, which is positive cash flow. If you run over $100,000 monthly in monthly AR you need a full time AR person!

11. I focus on the main thing, which is revenue generation. Minimize focus on the other stuff until you have the luxury of doing otherwise.

I believe most experienced owners would echo these things. They would tell you there are no “secrets” to success. The ingredients are all well known and even basic. They are just hard to do. Certainly use new technology to help execute them, but success is still about YOU, how you lead and what knowledge you possess to lead with.

Tom Pease is a small business owner of an office equipment dealership called e/Doc Systems, Inc. He has also owned a full-line Kawasaki dealership as well as a document shop. He used 30+ years of experience in owning a business to author two books, including: "Going Out of Business by Design: Why 70% of Small Businesses Fail" and "Small Business Survival 101." He also has published 85 columns in The Memphis Daily News as the Small Business Advisor.

Posted: 9/21/2016 3:05:12 PM | with 0 comments
Filed under: Best, Big, Business, Ideas, Owner, Pease, Practices, sales, SBC, Small, strategies, Tom

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Your business may be small, but that doesn't mean that your impact can't be huge! The Greater Memphis Chamber's Small Business Council serves to encourage, support, recognize and be a resource to small- and medium-sized businesses in the Memphis area. Here, our talented panel of contributors will present big ideas that could make a huge difference to your small business. And don't be afraid to ask questions ... no matter how small.

Sales & Small Business Ownership
Voss W. Graham is CEO and Senior Business Advisor for InnerActive Consulting Group Inc. He is known by his clients as "a knowledgeable partner who helps our team achieve business growth." He provides practical experience as a small business owner for over 29 years, yet is often engaged with Fortune 500 companies in the development of their people and business strategies.

Public Relations
Several professionals and strategists from the local Obsidian Public Relations firm provide excellent advice on everything from research to media relations to event planning. They believe that all companies, no matter how big or small the company or its budget, should have a public relations plan driving how they manage their relationships with key stakeholders. Public relations is an integral part of doing business the right way.

Human Resources
Joel Myers is a career Human Resources professional, with over 40 years in the field including 26 years in consulting.

Small Business Advice
Tom Pease is a small business owner of an office equipment dealership called e/Doc Systems, Inc. He has also owned a full-line Kawasaki dealership as well as a document shop. He used 30+ years of experience in owning a business to author two books, including: Going Out of Business by Design: Why 70% of Small Businesses Fail and Small Business Survival 101. He also has published 85 columns in The Memphis Daily News as the Small Business Advisor.

Marketing & Public Relations
Lori Turner-Wilson is CEO and Founder of RedRover Company, a sales development, marketing and PR consulting firm. Lori works with companies large and small, from start-ups to mature organizations, to help them improve the productivity of their sales force and the return on their marketing investment. Lori writes a weekly syndicated column for the Daily News, Memphis News, Nashville Ledger, and Desoto Times, among others, titled “Guerrilla Sales & Marketing,” for which she won a 2011 Summit International Award and 2012 International Communicator Award.

Design and Digital Strategy
Founded in 1999, inferno provides brand development, advertising, public relations, design and digital marketing services to clients across a broad spectrum of industries. Headquartered in Memphis with a satellite office in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the award-winning firm produces results-driven work by passionately combining strategic thinking, creativity and culture to ensure the success of its clients. For more information, visit

Labor & Employment Law
Fisher Phillips attorneys are ready to help you take a stand: in court, with employees and unions, or with competitors. Fisher Phillips has the experience and resolve to back you up. That's why some of the savviest employers come to the firm to handle their toughest labor and employment cases. The firm has 350 attorneys in 32 offices, including Memphis. For more information, visit

Since its founding in 2005, Paragon Bank has maintained a solid focus on the community and customer service. For more than 10 years, Paragon has delivered innovative products and financial expertise, convenience, and a deep understanding of what both businesses and individuals need from a ban, in order to provide solutions that make a difference. In the areas of business or personal banking, lending options or wealth management, Paragon delivers cutting edge technology, an experienced team and the most service-oriented staff of any community bank.