If you could go into business for yourself with a guarantee to be successful, you would do it, right? If you could try to expand your business knowing that each and every risk you take will pay off, you would gladly take them. If success were guaranteed, starting and operating a business would be easy. However, every business represents a risk, from the sole entrepreneurial startup to the mega-corporation; both types of businesses succeed and fail on a regular basis. The fact is no one can guarantee business success with absolute certainty; however, I can guarantee that if you adhere to the following 10 tips, you’ll stand a much greater chance of achieving success with your business.
Take the time to research your market, your target customers and your competitors. Determine how to best differentiate your company in the marketplace, and how to make it clear that you’re the best choice for your customers. Most importantly, you need to make sure you have plenty of buyers, and figure out how to reach them within your means (budget).
2. Set goals
Goal setting is a critical component of operating a successful business. Personally, I’m not a big fan of bulky and often inaccurate business plans. It’s more important for small businesses to set milestones for revenue and growth. Set daily, weekly, monthly, annual and five-year goals so you can keep your business on track. Adjust as needed.
3. Listen and learn
One of the biggest roadblocks many entrepreneurs have to contend with is ego. It’s good to have a big ego – in fact, it’s probably a prerequisite for entrepreneurship. However, never assume you know everything. Someone has already faced the problems you have, someone has developed successful solutions. Seek out blogs, business magazines, and other resources that detail what those problems and solutions are so you can learn from others’ mistakes. And don’t be afraid to make your own mistakes – you will make them, no doubt; the key is to analyze them and learn from them. Your mistakes will ultimately prove to be the best business education you ever receive, so long as you learn from them.
4. Ask for help
One of the single best pieces of advice I can offer is to recruit an advisory board to help you make business decisions. Your advisory board should consist of three to five people who have various backgrounds: successful business people, target customers, etc. You can bounce your ideas off your advisory board, which will help you make better business decisions. This isn’t to say you have to always take the advice of your board, but it is to say an advisory board will lend the perspective you need to make the best decisions, solve problems and recognize opportunities.
Resist the urge to be everything to everybody. Instead, focus on a specific niche in which your business can excel. Position your company as the best in that niche, and you’ll win a loyal customer base. In the same vein, focus your marketing efforts. If you try to market everywhere, you’ll wear yourself (and your budget) too thin to be effective.
6. Try new things
If you’ve achieved a certain modicum of business success, it can be easy to fall into a routine of stagnation: sure, you’re paying the bills, but are you really earning the revenues you want? Always be on the lookout for new opportunities. While I suggest you focus, I also believe trying a new marketing avenue every quarter, for example, can help you discover new ways to grow your business.
Continually track where your business is in terms of your goals. Are you earning the daily revenues you need to meet your annual goals? Have you gained 10 new clients this month, if that is your goal? Have you made a hire to ease the burden of day-to-day business operations? What was your response rate and return on investment from your last direct-mail postcard campaign? Track everything about your business in order to make intelligent, analyzed decisions to propel your business forward.
8. Grow low and slow
If you’re a small business, one of the best strategies for long-term success is to grow low and slow. Slow growth minimizes risk and allows you to solve issues before they get too big. Slow growth allows you to implement systems and streamline operation, which will in turn allow you to scale your business for even greater success. Business ownership is a life decision, and slow-but-steady growth will provide a lifetime of profits and, ultimately, the lifestyle you want.
9. Create systems
Develop systems for everything: marketing, customer fulfillment, bookkeeping, invoicing, production and every other aspect of your business. Systems will help you maintain streamlined business operations and give you a bird’s eye view of your business. You’ll be able to break down each individual component of your business for analysis. Systems will also allow you more easily scale your business up for greater revenue.
10. Outsource and delegate
Outsource or delegate everything that is non-essential to customer fulfillment. If you don’t have to have your hands in it, you shouldn’t be doing it. You might be the only person capable of providing the style of graphic design you offer, for example, but you’re not the only person who can balance your books, send invoices or even market your services. When you delegate, you free up time to produce high-quality work and focus on business growth. Act like a business owner, not an employee.