Shop Talk

Three ways to become a leader

Small businesses have to compete intelligently to survive. The key is learning how to save along the way so you can turn into a leader in your market.

Most new companies have weak revenue. That was certainly true for us. As we grew, we put away nearly every dollar until we had enough to hire staff and upgrade our infrastructure. We used sweat equity to balance the cost of operating. I held off the urge to take money out of the business to create a system that would ensure longevity. After all, no one considers you a leader unless you invent something or you have a long track record of above average success. Understanding this truth is the first rule to leading your industry.

Beyond that, there are three areas where you should excel in to be viewed as a leader.

From the onset, create a budget that’s forward looking. We control operational expenses, pay modest dividends, and ensure there’s always at least six months working capital on hand. Divide net income into a variety of accounts aimed at growing and sustaining the company. These fiduciary practices held together allow us to pay staff well, stay ahead of technology changes, and create service offerings that very few companies can compete with.

The second thing is take care of your staff. Compensation is important. We pay about 35 percent more than market average rates. Above average staff members are efficient, which leads to lower total labor costs and customer savings.

Next, get to know your staff. Put employees in roles where they’ll excel. Let a generalist float between duties and give the specialist a specific job to do.

Now that you’re fiscally sound and have a superior team, position your company as such. Create solutions that make the competition quiver and tell the world about them. The budget will keep you from overspending. Buy market share through aggressive positioning and advertising. Just make sure to keep customers by providing excellence service.

You don’t have to settle for getting by if you’re willing to be disciplined and patient.

Jeremy Sisk is owner of small-business marketing firm Xperience4Higher. Reach him at