The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) has provided cost-saving and productivity-increasing measures for small businesses that can impact companies' bottom lines. "For many small business owners, there is never a right time to invest in their companies," says Kevin Carr, MEP's director, "but doing so doesn't have to be expensive and can lead to gains that can have a substantial impact on a company's bottom line all year long and for years to come."

MEP's business solutions for small manufacturers include:

Re-examine your marketing approach. A marketing assessment of your company's product and your current markets can help determine opportunities for growth in areas not previously considered.

Profile your best customers. Make a list of your customers and focus on the ones that provide the best work at the best margin. Look for patterns and similarities to determine a profile of your ideal customer, which can be compared to marketing databases to find prospective customers suited to your company's products and services.

Invest in sales training and technology. Use existing technology to support your sales force. Send the sales force to a sales training course.

Refresh your business approach. Seek an objective, outside view of your company to obtain new ideas.

Streamline your business strategies. Lean business strategies help companies identify and eliminate waste. Using lean business strategies can lead to quality improvement, better space utilization, enhanced teamwork and effective communication.

Upgrade your security network. Take steps to ensure the security of your business data and computer network.

Review your disaster plans. A disruption of any kind can be better managed using a well-articulated disaster plan.

Invest in employee training. Promote people from within by providing them with skills that prepare them for their next jobs. Research the skills or technologies your customers need next.

Take stock of what you measure and why. Measurements should be aligned with business strategies.

Engage your employees. Ask employees, either formally or informally, about ways to improve the company, and listen to their answers.