VALDOSTA -- Every day, small businesses across the country end the day with permanently closed doors. While owners may have had a great business idea and physical and intellectual skill, they are not prepared for the complicated task of acquiring customers and continually pleasing them.

Had these small business owners only known the secrets behind developing a business, they would have had a better chance at success.

Some of these secrets were shared by David Scobey, BellSouth's president of Small Business Services, at the Rotary Club's weekly meeting Wednesday, June 22. This Nashville, Tenn. native believes in small businesses' potential and what they add to the economy.

During his program he shared eight of the 53 secrets detailed in Michael Schell's book, "The Customer Approved Small Business." He considered these major highlights essential to establishing a successful business.

They related to the business plan, reason statement and customer and employee satisfaction.

After discussing these points, he left Rotarians with a final thought originally stated by Mary Ann Allison, recognized author, lecturer and chairman of The Allison Group: "Hire the best. Pay them fairly. Communicate frequently. Provide meaningful challenges and rewards. Believe in them. Trust them. Get out of the way -- they'll knock your socks off."

Scobey's program was timely to individuals and groups planning to enter the Guardian Bank Business Competition. After speaking at the Rotary meeting, he was available at the Chamber of Commerce for participants and other local entrepreneurs to discuss these and other secrets for establishing successful small businesses.

The business plan competition is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce in partnership with The Valdosta Daily Times, Guardian Bank, Valdosta State University and Valdosta Technical College.

In addition to a series of seminars at both colleges, participants will benefit from the secrets revealed by Scobey and detailed in "The Customer Approved Small Business."

The Secrets

l No. 11 -- Design a primary reason statement. Be able to describe to others what your company is all about in a short number of words.

l No. 7 -- Write a proper business plan, Be able to translate a financial business plan to strategies employees will understand.

l No. 32 -- Keep your customers happy. It is vital to understand customers' needs.

l No. 40 -- As a team, plan the work and work the plan. Meet together and discuss answers to the four great questions. 1) Why are you here? 2) Where have you been? 3) Where are you going? 4) What difference will you make? (questions by Hal Simon)

l No. 34 -- Under-promise and over-deliver. Be sure to never promise something you cannot deliver or risk losing a customer's trust.

l No. 41 -- Have fun and be authentic.

l No. 3 and No. 4 -- Find and keep the right people on your team. Finding the right people is absolutely critical to business, and to keep them owners must be aware of employee needs and do their best to provide them.

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