The vast majority of Australia's top small businesses have a clear vision and comprehensive long-term business strategy, according to new research from the New South Wales Business Chamber.
The Chamber analysed nearly 700 of Australia's best small businesses from the 2012 Telstra Australia Business Awards entrants and found 90% of the businesses had a five to 10-year business strategy.
Most businesses also ranked referral marketing as their most successful marketing strategy in the past year.
Entrants were assessed across five categories: sales and marketing, customers, employees, planning, and performance and financials.
Nearly 90% of the businesses had reviewed supplier performance in the past year, leading to a variety of benefits ranging from better customer service and reduced costs to increased reliability and better quality products.
As many as 76% of the small businesses have all of their business processes documented and a further 21% have some of their processes documented.
As well as the majority of businesses having a long-term business plan, 57% of the best entrants also had a plan detailing the next 12 months.
Other findings of the analysis included most businesses accounting for online contingencies by having secure passwords, antivirus software and offsite back-up data.
NSW Business Chamber executive team member Paula Martin told SmartCompany small businesses need to focus on "getting the basics right".
"Business owners will have a vision, but they won't get basics like customer service, financial management structure and sales and marketing structure right.
"New business owners should consider speaking to someone who has the experience to help them with their business. For example, a trusted advisor, accountant, colleague or a trusted association," she says.
Martin says constructing a long-term business plan can help SMEs avoid common mistakes.
"We see a lot of businesses which don't maximise their marketing channels and don't have a plan in place for when the founder leaves. Small businesses need to continually assess how their business will stay sustainable," she says.
Telstra asked the NSW Business Chamber to conduct the research using their business vitality check to help create the Telstra Business Health Check for entrants into the awards.
The NSW Business Chamber was last week selected as a finalist for the International Chamber of Commerce's Best Small Business Project Award for their vitality check diagnostic tool.
This story first appeared on SmartCompany.