Owning a small business is an ongoing challenge and requires continuous attention on how to effectively conduct business. As an owner of an athletic performance center, it was painfully obvious right from the start that expertise in the field is not enough to translate into a thriving and growing business. There are many components that are integral to a successful business.

There are two options: having a license to operate OR having a license to lead your industry. Prior to the economic decline in 2008, consumers were looking for a good deal or value for their money when choosing where to conduct business and how to spend their money.

Since that time, consumer preference has changed. Consumers now want transparency with any business they deal with. What sets apart a business owner from a leader in the industry is transparency. We see it all the time here on elitefts.com.

Dave makes a point of being transparent in all things he does that might present an unclear or muddled perception of how he conducts business. That practice equates into consumer loyalty, support, and dollars. It makes sense, it is fair to say that most people are tired of dealing with shady people, businesses, or organizations. We want to know where we stand at all times and with those we choose to associate ourselves with.

Here are some tips I picked up at a small business forum I attended today:

Anyone can have a license to operate a business with the right paperwork, licenses, and fees filed with the local city and/or county. Choosing to operate as a leader in the industry is a different way to conduct business and requires more effort and responsibility.

1. Get rid of the fine print.

Get rid of the need for the fine print. If you're acting in a manner of honesty and transparency, you do not need fine print that can create an impression of being misleading, looking for a loop-hole or any other negative perception from the consumer.

2. Operate with clarity.

The litmus test here is can a ten-year-old grasp the message, marketing, or information from your business? If not, you need to work harder to create clarity so people are not mislead or misunderstand.

3. Be direct with people, don't beat around the bush.

Say what you mean and mean what you say in messages you send to your customers, via spoken word, messages, marketing, etc.

This information applies directly to every member we bring in the door. Prior to meeting with a potential new client, we pre-screen the client via phone. Included in this process is making sure before the client comes in they understand what the monthly rates are and different membership options available. So when he/she does come in, the rates and terms are understood with full disclosure. NOT pre-screening clients is a waste of theirs and our time if the rates are beyond their budget or the services are not exactly what they were looking for.

Once the clients are pre-screened, an initial meeting/assessment is scheduled with part of that meeting being to sign up for a short-term or annual membership. At this point we have the client already understanding the rates and are still coming in the door ready to move forward with an informal agreement to the information provided. Otherwise they would not come to the meeting. From a dollar side that is excellent and precisely what our goal is.

However, we also provide an introductory rate for one month. It is our practice to encourage pre-screened clients to try that introductory rate so they are not locked into a commitment that might not be for them. This is comparable to a second tier of pre-screening the client. So after the phone pre-screening and the one-month trial membership, clients fully understand the services being offered, the rates, and how our training philosophy applies to their