We want to share what we call "ideas to steal." They are all real-life ideas from successful businesses -- action steps you can pick up and run with right away, without having to research, tests or otherwise delay implementing. And, you don't need to spend money to do them.

Pick three that you can sink your teeth into, and get going.

  • Bill faster. Your receivables can count for 40 per cent to 50 per cent of your actual assets. Don't batch invoice: bill as soon as you can. (See The 10 Most Dangerous Accounts Receivable Pitfalls at: www.sterlingservices.ca).
  • Simplify your business. Weed out the unprofitable and the hard-to-sell customers.
  • Simplify your marketing message. Read Made To Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. ()
  • Get your business and your website listed in relevant directories. To find directories, Google the name of your town plus "directories url" (example: "cobourg directories url").
  • Learn to delegate. Figure out what you do that turns dollars. Then delegate the rest.
  • Encourage employees to explore more efficient approaches to their tasks instead of relying on their standard way of doing things.
  • Don't forget suppliers. They might not be on your payroll, but they are more apt to do a few things for you at no charge because you really take care of them.
  • Work faster. If you can condense three four-month jobs into three three-month jobs, you can do one more job in the year.
  • Reward your team for meeting budgets and time lines. A five-per-cent bonus is cheaper than a 20-per-cent increase in costs.
  • Cut overhead by automating most of the non-producing items like accounting, customer care, voice mail, sales reporting, ordering and record keeping.
  • Make sure you've clearly outlined project scope, and don't be afraid to charge your customer for changes.
  • Offer to be a spokesperson on your specialty when your local media need an expert opinion. Send them a relevant press release every month.
  • Give something valuable away on your website; at your front counter; when you send out your invoices; when you deliver goods. This should be free to you, but valuable to the recipient, for example, coupons or a "How To".
  • Highlight offers, features, promotions and news in your e-mail footers, invoices and letter signatures.
  • Start accounts with Twitter.com, Facebook.com and LinkedIn.com and post articles. (Get a good overview: here)
  • Go where your audience is on the Web. If your potential audience hangs out on forums, then post to those forums. Become a trusted adviser.
  • Get your supporters to refer you.