In October 2004, Inc. magazine held a
conference—ThInc Out Loud—in San Diego that was
attended by chief executive officers (CEOs) and marketing
professionals from various companies. During the conference,
speakers recommended various best practices to help grow a company.
Following are their top 10 recommendations:
- Delight customers, and treat the best ones the best.
Every businessperson will agree customer retention is crucial, but
keeping quality customers is the most important. One tip James
Taylor, author of The Visionary's Handbook, gives is to
offer only your best customers rebates and/or discounts, making
them feel more valued.
- Talk to employees. Too often, management and support
staff rarely get to spend time together discussing a company's
goals. Speakers at Inc.'s conference suggest a company's
management team meet with employees once a month in small groups,
such as during lunch, to share opinions and thoughts.
- Read. The CEOs who attended the Inc. conference
believe reading 50 magazines, newspapers and/or Web sites a month
will enable you to see trends that may affect your business.
- Specify your company's benefits. If you advertise, list
the specific benefits a customer will receive if he or she chooses
your company. Doug Hall, author of Jump Start Your Business
Brain, says: "Customers love news and hope. All the money is in
- Form alliances. Partnering with another company can lead
to new competencies and new markets. For example, consider forming
an alliance with a house painting company if you do residential
- Plan. Company executives should spend more time
long-range planning and less time "working," according to
Inc.'s conference participants. They recommend company
leaders spend 30 minutes to 60 minutes a week talking about future
plans with staff members.
- Use information. Analyzing your customers and their
purchasing decisions can provide you with valuable information to
note trends and gain new business.
- Hire smart. Hiring the right people is necessary to a
company's success. Define the qualities you want employees to have,
and only hire those who fit your criteria. For example, Southwest
Airlines tests job applicants' knowledge of the company and looks
for individuals who are compassionate and have a sense of
- Market creatively. Marketing doesn't have to be
expensive—it just has to stand out. Devise inexpensive ways
to get your company's message out, such as sponsoring a local
- Increase prices. If sales fall, double or triple your
prices and figure out how you can provide more value to
Ambika Puniani Bailey is editor of Professional Roofing
magazine and NRCA's director of communications.