Small business success in 2021 starts with one thing: a problem

Last Updated on Thursday, 4 February, 2021 at 4:08 pm by Andre Camilleri

Jo Caruana is a messaging specialist and the founder & CEO of WriteMeAnything and the Finesse Group – She is also Malta’s only StoryBrand Certified Guide

Many small business owners in Malta feel at a loss right now. Regardless of your sector, it’s likely your bottom line has been hit hard by the pandemic. A year into the crisis, you may be wondering whether staying in business is worth it, or whether you should give up, pack up and find alternative employment.    

The latter may seem tempting for a variety of reasons, not least the draw of a stable income (something most small business owners know is uncertain at the best of times!) And yet, anyone with entrepreneurial spirit won’t want to give up too easily on their dream of being self-employed and commercially successful.  

The good news? Even in a crisis opportunity abounds. There is a lot you could be doing right now to not only set your business up for triumphs in the future but kick-start a new phase right now.

At Finesse, we’ve helped lots of businesses in crisis over the past few months and it’s been a period of intense learning for our own team. As specialists in the customer-facing space, we help our clients to finesse their own customer journey by rethinking and reworking everything from their PR and communications to their business etiquette, cross-cultural communication and after-sales service. One of our predominant findings? Small business owners don’t have the time or resources to look at their company with an outside eye and, as a result, innovation stalls, reengineering is limited and crises can feel more like death knells than opportunities.

But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that disruption can be extremely valuable to business owners ready to take on the challenge. The 2008 financial crisis, for instance, was the catalyst for the birth of some of today’s household-name businesses, including Slack, Uber and Instagram. It was the downturn that gave their innovators the inspiration for the problem they wanted to solve and the impetus to bring a solution to market.

In our own work, we also encourage our clients to embrace this period of change by getting critically clear on the problem they solve for their own customers. Because that really is the crux of everything. If you can get clear on the problem that you solve for people, then they will want you to solve it.

But believe it or not, many business owners still aren’t clear on that very basic fact.

Be honest: have you ever actually thought about the problem that you solve? Or do you know more about the products that you sell and the services that you provide? Being in that latter category doesn’t mean you can’t be successful, but it does mean you’re missing a trick and an automatic tick on the checklist of businesses that will thrive in this crisis.

After all, the truth of that matter is that – especially in times of crisis – your client doesn’t care about you and everything you can do. They simply care about how you’re going to solve the problem that’s worrying them – whether that’s getting groceries into their homes safely, home-schooling, sorting their finances or fixing their broken heel.

Our advice, therefore, is to: 1) think about the single greatest problem that you solve for your customer; 2) focus on becoming the best you can be at solving that problem; 3) ensure all of your marketing messaging clearly outlines how you solve that problem, and 4) consistently deliver on your promise of – you guessed it – solving that problem. Yes, you can veer from that by getting cute, clever and creative but, at the end of the day, all your clients want to do is understand whether you can do what they need you to do, and for you to do it.    

It really is as simple as that. In fact, without fail, we have found that a solutions mindset and a clear communications plan is the key to not only staying in business right now but to achieving significant growth. We have experienced it for ourselves and achieved it for our customers, and – when implemented effectively – the results have been extraordinary.

So if you’re a small business owner, my advice is simple: make everything you do about the problem that you solve and ensuring your client’s understanding of it. That approach may well turn out to be your ticket to long-term commercial success and the pathway you need to thrive in business.

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