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(Score your answers as follows: Yes = 1; No = 0)
1. Can you clearly identify what distinguishes your business from its main competitor?
2. Have you surveyed team members and associates to help identify possible weaknesses in your business, service or products?
3. Do you know why customers choose a competitor's business over yours?
4. Do you speak directly to clients about ways to customize and improve the products or services you offer?
5. Have you evaluated your team for any underlying morale issues?
6. Have you commended and rewarded innovations pioneered by your team?
7. Is your business focused on several specialties, which can detract from your core identity, rather than just one?
8. Have you explored green energy alternatives that reduce operating cost?
9. Have you updated your Web presence to stay competitive online?
10. Have you signed up for Seeds of Success-which offers great business- and wealth-building tips delivered to your e-mail inbox every week?
8-10:Healthy as a Race Horse: Well done, you clearly know how to keep up with your competitors, and you have the ability to maintain a clear channel of communication with your clients. Stay focused, keep true to your vision, and you'll continue to reap the rewards.
4-7: Not Bad. You're Getting There: Not too shabby, but in today's market that means you could be out of business tomorrow. It's time to strengthen your approach to make sure your business not only stays afloat, but also continues to prosper. Tune in to what your competitors are doing, and explore ways to cut operating costs without sacrificing quality.
If you haven't yet, it's time to delve into what your business stands for and how it will stand among the competition. Explore online options, and speak with an e-commerce expert about capitalizing on your Web presence.
1-3: D.O.A: We're impressed you didn't lie to yourself just to bump up your score. Nevertheless, your honesty is commendable, but now it's time for real solutions. It's imperative you find out what your competition is up to, why they're successful and how their strategies could boost your bottom line.
Start communicating with your customers, especially those you haven't heard from in awhile, to find out what you could be doing better. Rev up your efforts and take a close look at how your business plan contrasts with your actual business practices. Do it now, or your competitors will leave you in their wake. The good news: You have nowhere to go but up.