What business owners can learn from politicians

Expect a colourful fall, and I’m not referring to the leaves changing colours. It’s election season, so expect to see campaign signs scattered throughout neighborhoods and local businesses. While you may not follow every debate or new political announcement, it’s important to at least have a basic understanding of the various platforms and campaigns. Not only will being informed help you decide what you believe is the right party to lead our country, it could also help you run your business.

As we approach the 2015 elections, small businesses can take a page out of the politicians’ playbook, and put those tactics to work for their business. With the 2015 election clocking in at 78 days (the longest since 1872), there will be plenty of chances to learn a few tactics from the pros.

Here are a few practical ideas lifted right from the Canadian campaign trail that may benefit your small business:

Understand your brand, and separate yourself from the competitors

You know your business best, but there are other brands that could know your industry better. It’s imperative to understand what makes you different from the competition. Ask yourself: what’s my sales pitch? Who are my “opponents” and what do they offer that I don’t? Remember, your objectives will always change – whether it be to double your customer base or build strong brand loyalty on social media channels – you should never stray from your ultimate goal, while always keeping in mind your distinctiveness. The strength of your unique small business story sets you apart from the competition. Own it.

Align your brand with a targeted audience

While a politician would love to earn the vote of every Canadian, it’s not realistic. It’s also not realistic to see every Canadian as a potential customer. Be specific and ask yourself: who do I want to reach? Rather than focus on connecting with different demographics, hone in on your existing clientele to learn what they already love about your brand. Just as a politician connects with their voter base, you should always connect with your audience, too. This will help guide your success, and encourage your customers to return.

Remember there’s no “I” in Team

Every company starts with a great idea, but executing the idea is the challenge, particularly without a diverse and dedicated team. Diversity is the key takeaway – there are many components to a business, similar to a campaign, and seeking specific skills from different employees will help you excel across all levels of the business. Once you build your “Dream Team,” your task is to then excel as a leader. A great leader attracts great people, and knows how to keep them.

Track your progress

During campaigns, the real action happens on the campaign trail. Similar to your business, you should monitor your performance, gain insight into customer reactions, and measure your results.

Celebrate Victories

Successful campaigns or businesses don’t happen without a lot of hard work. Take a moment to celebrate. You deserve it. Running a small business can no doubt be rigorous – for every win that you notch, there could be a couple of defeats you may also face. But don’t let it stop you. Don’t be afraid to celebrate your big wins, and more importantly, discuss your losses. Employees respond well to praise and appreciate being involved when it’s time to address weaknesses in the company.

Politicians don’t announce their entire platform on the first day. Instead, they strategically release their platform ideas throughout the course of the campaign. If an idea isn’t gaining traction as anticipated, this provides an opportunity to change your course and pursue another path. Your business can follow suit – listen to your audience, be patient and adapt to change. Slow and steady wins the race.

Nancy Harris is executive vice president and managing director of accounting software company Sage. She’s passionate about championing the causes of small and medium sized businesses.



By: Nancy Harris