No sacred cows: The smart small business owner’s guide to staying on top of the game

Please don’t send us a fax.

At our office, we long ago disposed of our aged fax machine, but we hedged our bets by paying for an e-fax service. This week we ended our e-fax contract. Fax technology, once such a boon, is pretty much obsolete among our customers and vendors. We’re happy to give it another push along its path toward extinction.

Why do I mention this? The reason we flagged and flushed the small, recurring expense for the e-fax service is that we regularly review our assumptions, including our small, ordinary expenses. After all, add up all those small, ordinary expenses and you may have something rather more extraordinary: a risk to your business.

Omnipresent change and risk must inform the smart small business owner’s approach to surviving and thriving.


Banish sacred cows: Recognize and dismiss stale and lackadaisical thinking, including your own. “We’ve always done it this way” and “that’s the industry standard” no longer give you a pass.

Create new habits that encourage fresh approaches: At the start and end of each workday devote a few minutes to some combination of planning and “big thinking.” Consider starting out with “a first five minutes” in which you identify what you would like to get done that day. Jot it down. Check your list throughout the day. I recommend including some time to seek “creative thoughts” on a topic of your choosing, whether through research, conversation with others or meditating on your own. Last thing in the workday, review your progress and jot down some plans for tomorrow.

Learn from others, including people outside your industry or space: We thought we knew a lot about creating profitability, but then we read Six Steps to Creating Profit by Patricia Sigmon. Voila! We developed a new, repeatable process for expense review, involved the team in new ways to simultaneously enhance profits and customer satisfaction and began to think fresh thoughts about how we do business in this still-dawning millennium.

Recognize that facts are your friend: Avoidance doesn’t get you anywhere. Are you watching trends in your industry and your customers? Managing cash flow weekly? Keeping an eye on employee retention and productivity? Even unwelcome information is data you need to stay on top of trends.

Recognize the value in the phrase “work on your business, not just in your business:” Do your best to raise yourself mentally above the fray and to be the visionary who sees and anticipates trends, challenges and opportunities.

Albert Einstein said it well: “You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.”


Michelle van Schouwen is president of van Schouwen Associates, LLC, a B2B marketing company based in Longmeadow, MA. The company is known for vSALaunch, its proprietary, modular and scalable system for B2B marketing launches, as well as its expertise in integrated marketing for B2B. Michelle and the van Schouwen Associates team believe that virtually every business is undergoing the tug of change, and that marketing is one key to leveraging that. Contact Michelle at

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