Many people are turning to starting a small business to make up for the lack of available full-time jobs, or after losing a long-time job, or getting out of school and finding there isn’t anything out there. It’s easy to see why: there are lots of success stories, lots of examples of people that started their own thing and did really well (or who later sold their business for millions of dollars). There are just as many, if not more, that didn’t make it to being a successful small business. What did they do wrong? We’d be able to write thousands of words on each particular case, but for now, let’s stick with ten simple points that will help you make your small business a success.
Make friends, influence people.
And by “make friends” I mean “network”. By “influence people”, I mean “provide valuable information”. When you have a network, you learn things. In return, you teach things, especially within your own industry, at Conferences, that sort of thing. Sometimes, you find that people you network with either have need of your services or know somebody that does. Benefits! Even chatting with the staff at a networking event can net you some valuable contacts, so never underestimate the power of such communication.
By the way? Keep your own business cards separate from the ones you’re handing out – it looks completely unprofessional to fumble through a bunch of cards to find your own, and it makes a much better impression if you can simply whip out your card and hand it over.
Get an attorney and accountant.
Unless you’re qualified to look after your own book-keeping or your own legal representation, hire someone. You’ll thank me later. The other part of this is that you don’t want to stretch yourself too thin. If you’re doing the book-keeping and the legal and running the floor, you’re inevitably going to crash and burn as you run out of energy.
Have some kind of small business capital set aside before you start.
All businesses need starting capital, and yours will be no different. You’ll need something to cover start-up costs, whether it’s a special savings fund that you’ve put together over the years or a merchant cash advance, or otherwise some sort of loan. You can’t go in with nothing and expect to just start making money – it doesn’t work that way. Always have some sort of capital and keep very careful track of where all that money goes.
Have a plan, any plan.
You’ve heard this time and time again, but it’s important to re-iterate: A business plan is a must. Even if it’s a very short document, you have to have something to turn to in order to help you figure out what you’re doing. It’s also important to be able to track your progress as you meet your goals, and better be able to predict the steps you need to take to get to where you want to be.
Your business won’t be making money as soon as you head out the starting gate. It’s going to take time, patience, and focus. If you manage to stay focused on your short-term goals, you’ll gradually make it to your long-term goal of success: just don’t lose sight of the things you have to accomplish to get there. As soon as you lose focus, it’s very difficult to recover from that
If you’re not an organized person, you’re going to have to learn to be. Start keeping detailed records, start filing things properly, start keeping track of what your tasks are for the day. There’s lots of software and many apps and other tools that can help you get organized, like Evernote, and there are plenty of resources to help you learn better organization. Successful businesses are organized businesses.
Good service and courteousness are so important to the long-term success of a business. When you’re good to your customers, they’ll be good to you. Word of mouth will bring more customers, which will help you grow your business. Bad service, on the other hand, does the exact opposite. Running a small business is a balancing act.
You really don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
If something good already exists that your business can use to succeed – software, a business model, or any other sort of operation – then make use of it instead of trying to create something new. There’s a reason that there are “industry standard” softwares and practices: because they’re tried, true, and trying to make something new is just a waste of your time. This will be slightly different if your line of work involves making new business solutions for other businesses, of course. For most people? Use what’s proven. You’ll be able to concentrate on working and not so much on ironing out difficulties.
Focus on your strengths.
If there are certain things that you bring to the business that you’re really good at, concentrate on providing those skills and don’t waste your time trying to be all things to all aspects of your business. You can, and should, hire people to do things you don’t know how to do (like book-keeping or the legal bits) while you work on the things you can.
Make time for you.
Burn-out is one of the biggest causes of failure for a business owner. You get so involved in the day-to-day operations that you wind up pulling all-nighters to make sure that everything’s perfect, and next thing you know, you’re on the floor wondering what happened. Avoid burning out by making time for you. People were not meant to work twenty-four-seven and you aren’t somehow different than anyone else, so take some time to relax and don’t push yourself to your limits. You’re already going to be working your tail off as it is! Don’t make it worse!