ways to collect contact info, set up a customer elationship management (or CRM) program if you don’t have one and start a monthly newsletter to stay in touch year-round. Planting the seeds of new growth. If you want your company to grow, now’s the time to take action. Identify your most profitable customers or product lines, then figure out a realistic strategy to increase those sales. Boost your marketing efforts. Mating season. You can’t grow if you try to do everything yourself. It’s time to find ways to leverage the capabilities and reach of others. Perhaps it’s by hiring employees or contractors or finding strategic partners who complement your skill set or who reach the same target customer base. Combine your marketing efforts with these partners or work together to offer prospects a wider range of services. Spring training. One way to grow is to increase your skills and knowledge and learn something new to help your business expand. Attend industry seminars or meetings to stay on top of new developments. Dive in and learn about social media or cloud-based business applications. Get in shape, and then play ball! C RHONDA ABRAMS:STRATEGIES
Rhonda Abrams is the
author of Successful
Business Plan: Secrets
and Strategies. Register
for her free business-tips newsletter at www.
and big gov
A NEW SURVEY of 740 small-business contractors, from
American Express OPEN, examines federal contracting trends
and how small businesses have
fared in the wake of government’s reduction in spending.
Notable findings from the
• Small businesses are
spending more. Over the past
year, the amount of money that
small-business contractors have
invested in seeking federal contracts has averaged $103,827, an
increase of 21 percent over the
• Small businesses are bidding less. Even as the average
investment made in seeking federal contracts has risen, bidding
activity has declined by half in
prime and subcontracting activity. The average success rates for
small-business contracts in both
prime and subcontracting have
also declined, pointing to a
more competitive and tighter
Latham calls treadmill verbs. “Discuss vendor
options” has no clear conclusion. By con-
trast, “Narrow vendor list to top three”
tells attendees exactly what must be
accomplished before the meeting’s end.
Phrasing agenda items as answerable
questions or measurable outcomes gen-
In the end, the best meetings may be the ones
you cancel. To request feedback or brainstorm
ideas, “post a question on Twitter and get inputs
from your customer base,” says Petz. The freshest
views often come from outside your company. C
Make the most of meetings
• Invite only the people you need
to accomplish your goals, says Jon Petz,
author of Boring Meetings Suck! Get More
Out of Meetings, or Get Out of More
Meetings ( www.jonpetz.com). “Leaders
over-invite because they don’t want to
hurt people’s feelings or because they get
an ego swell from a big audience,” says
Petz. Individuals without an active role
should skip the meeting and get to work.
• Fourth time is the
charm. Small-business contractors reported that they had to
submit an average of 4. 4 bids
before they won their first prime
federal contract. Once small-business contractors got their
first taste of procurement success, they wasted little time
before trying—and succeeding—again. Two-thirds of small-business contractors have
performed on more than one
federal contract, and, on average, it took them slightly less
than a year ( 11½ months) after
their first procurement victory
to win their second contract.
YOU’D HAVE TO look long and hard to find a busi-nessperson who loves going to meetings. Experts
say it doesn’t have to be that way. Done right,
meetings create energy instead of draining it.
Business writer Heidi Smith Luedtke has gathered
these tips from experts.
• Wasted time is a common complaint. If the
destination isn’t clear, meetings can drag on, inciting frustration and resentment. “If you don’t know
what will be different when you walk out of the
room, cancel the meeting,” says business consultant Ann Latham ( www.uncommonclarity.com).
• Trade your wall clock for a stopwatch. Petz
recommends a speed-meeting technique. Allow
two minutes for each person to mention his or her
top three priorities or an opinion on the proposal
at hand. Follow up with one minute for questions
• Change the scenery to shake things up. Stand
up or go outside for your next meeting, says Petz. It’s
easier to break old habits in a new environment.
Average success rates in prime
contracting— 38 percent overall—are significantly higher
among those with 10 or more
years under their belts ( 53 percent), compared with those
who have been seeking federal
contracts for three years or less
( 20 percent).
A full report of the survey
findings is available at www.
openforum.com. Search “small
businesses working harder.” C
Put spring in
SPRING IS THE season of new life and growth in
nature, and it should be in your business too. Use
this time to make the most of your company.
Spring cleaning. Get rid of expenses that are
dusty from lack of use, like subscriptions to online
services you don’t log in to, monthly journals you
don’t read, memberships in organizations whose
meetings you don’t attend. Go through your
monthly bills to find ways to lower fixed expenses.
Call vendors—especially telecom and cable
companies—to negotiate lower fees.
Things heating up. If your company is
dependent on warm weather and vacationers, your
high season is about to begin. Communicate with
past customers and prospects now so you’re part of
their summer planning. Announce “first of the
season” specials if clients book for May. Establish
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