Small business survival lessons from Jeff Foxworthy

Jim Blasingame
You've no doubt seen the classic Jeff Foxworthy act, the one where he says, for example, "If you have more than one car jacked up in your front yard, you might be a redneck." 
Just as Jeff got rich delivering this comedic routine, you can benefit from his cause-and-effect logic by applying it to your small business. Except unlike Foxworthy, it won't be funny if you resemble too many of these one-liners. In fact, your business might not make it. Or as comedians say, you'll bomb.
* If you're holed-up inside the four walls of your business instead of getting out into the marketplace where customers are acquiring new expectations, you might not make it. Don't presume you know what customers expect from you - get direct updates by asking them, every day.
* If your budget cuts include wiping out your marketing plan, you might bomb. Appropriate adjustments may be warranted - going dark isn't.
* If you don't have an online presence, you might not make it. Do you have a phone? Do you open your door in the morning? Do you like customers? Then you MUST be quickly and easily findable online, including a regular website, a mobile website, social media, local search optimization, etc. Remember, increasingly every day, prospects are searching for what you sell on their mobile devices - and they're not all young people.
* If you're still making cold calls on businesses, you will bomb. Business prospects expect you to become relevant to them before they buy, not just drop in on them. In the Age of the Customer, cold calling is a fool's errand.
* If you're spending more time worrying about what the competition is doing instead of asking customers what they want, you might not make it. Those who worry about the competition become extinct. Those who stay close to customers thrive.
* If you don't understand the relationship between revenue, gross profit, and expenses, you're gonna bomb. You can't price products and forecast sales if you don't know the minimum gross profit you need, which is the number at the bottom of the expense column. Would you drive down a one-way street, the wrong way, at night, in a thick fog, without headlights? Exactly.
* If you accomplish sales and gross profit goals but don't collect receivables fast enough to cover current obligations, like payroll, you might not make it. It's possible to operate without profit for a while, but negative cash can take you down in days - maybe only one day. And even the best collection strategy should include a Plan B for cash (see next item).
* If you don't have a close relationship with a locally-owned and operated financial institution, you might not make it. Every small business must have a primary, close, joined-at-the-hip relationship with an independent community bank. Your bank must be your business's BFF.
* If you aren't managing cash flow with a 12-month projection - preferably an Excel file - you will bomb. A cash flow projection will tell you - well in advance - when you'll be short on cash, so you can increase sales or talk with your banker. If you want to impress your banker, tell him/her you're going to need help in October - in April!
* It's okay to fall in love with what you do, but if you fall in love with how you do it, you might not make it. What you sell may never go out of style - shoestrings, shovels and sifters are still in-demand - but how customers want to buy, take delivery, and use them is changing all the time. Fall in love with what you do, not with how you do it.
Write this on a rock ... Jeff Foxworthy - useful for small business? Who knew?
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