When it comes to business, there are plenty of stats on business failures and why this happens. Knowing the potential obstacles certainly provides you with information that can help you avoid the pitfalls. But since our brain works better with positive reinforcement, we’ll focus on what you can and should do to create a successful business.
When we consider business success there are two fundamentals that are obvious, so I have not included them in the list. First, the business must have working capital so it doesn’t run out of cash and, second, it must have products or services that others want to buy at a price that produces a profit for the business.
With that said, there are certain things that stand out among successful businesses. Based on my experience with hundreds of small business owners, here is my list of things to consider – to help you create a successful small business.
Have an Actionable Plan. Writing down WHAT you want to achieve (goals) and HOW you will get there (actions or tactics) is a must. As a small business owner, you wear a lot of hats and have a lot to do. Without a roadmap, everything looks like a priority and the important stuff ends up on the back burner. It doesn’t need to be long and fancy. It simply needs to be clear and actionable. Successful businesses have written goals with associated actions to get there. My Ultimate Guide to Planning may help.
Think Long-Term Value. It’s natural to look for ways to save money. While it should be a priority in both good and bad times, you need to look at the big picture. Are you creating short-term profit at the expense of long-term value?
Here’s an example to demonstrate this point. When business got tough, a business owner laid off staff. As the business recovered, he made a decision to fill some of his staffing needs with temporary help to save money. Over the next year, service levels began to decline, customers left and his reputation took a hit. He saved money short-term but it had long-term implications. Think long-term value when making critical decisions for your business.
Focus on Results. As a business, you invest a lot of resources in activities – from marketing and sales to service and team building. But do you track or monitor the results to see what works and make adjustments based on what you learn? Activities that don’t produce the desired outcome, like more sales, efficiency or profit, cost you time and money. So whether you are trying a new marketing tactic, hiring a new employee or changing up your service delivery procedures, be clear on your desired outcome and monitor the actual results. Your findings will determine if you keep doing it, make some tweaks or stop doing it.
Be a Lifetime Learner. Entrepreneurs by nature tend to be self-confident. Would you start a business if you didn’t believe in yourself and your abilities? But none of us are experts at everything and sometimes we just don’t know what we don’t know. Successful owners understand this. They recognize their strengths and are willing to teach others what they know. But they are equally willing to learn from others – employees, customers, business associates and mentors. They are open to new ideas, willing to try new things and gladly give credit to others along the way.
Speak the Language of Business. You don’t need to be an accountant or a math guru — but you do need to understand the numbers that drive your business. Whether you do it yourself or hire a bookkeeper, Quick Books makes it easy for any small business to KNOW what is going on with your sales, profit, and cash flow at any time. Have an accountant to help with tax preparation and strategic planning, but take ownership of learning and understanding your financials. In doing so, you will uncover opportunities and make better business decisions.
Leverage Your Business. You didn’t start a business to become a slave to it – yet many small business owners end up working lots of hours with little reward. It’s important to simplify and get more done with a lot less effort. The key here, of course, is systems! Documenting procedures and systematizing routine and critical tasks makes it easy to do or delegate what you do consistently, effectively and efficiently – so you get more done and make more money. Systems also make life easier for you, the business owner, your team and your customers! They may not be glitzy, but they sure contribute a lot to the bottom line! My Ultimate Systems Guide may help.
Niche: Think Small to Grow Big. Intuitively, most owners know that trying to reach and serve everyone is a costly mistake. Today customers are more cautious about spending and often have more choices. To be effective, your marketing must be compelling to potential buyers. How do your products or services address their goals, desires, and problems? This is difficult to answer when you are trying to ‘talk’ to everyone. But when you employ a niche marketing strategy – think small to grow big – it’s easier, more effective and ultimately more profitable!
Here’s where to start: (a) pick a product or service – most businesses have more than one (b) identify the niche or ideal customer for your product or service; (c) identify the problems experienced by those customers and (d) communicate the solutions your products or services offer for the problems they experience. If you are not sure what the problems are, ask.
Create Profitable Growth. New business is a priority for most companies. But revenue growth will not guarantee you put more money in your wallet or bank account. Products and customers are not created equal. If new sales are coming from low margin or unprofitable customers or products, profit can erode despite the top line growth. If you can’t make a customer or product profitable, be willing to let them go!
Give Your Products a Facelift. When was the last time you actually took a look at your products and services – beyond price? The needs of customers change over time, technology and market conditions change too. Are your products or services keeping pace? Do you have opportunities to expand your offerings or reach new segments with minor adjustments? Are value-adds still valuable to the customers you serve or are you simply adding cost without a return? Which products or services are most profitable; which are unprofitable? Successful businesses routinely make adjustments – they add, delete or modify to reach new customers and keep current ones coming back.
Create Raving Fans. Getting new customers is important, but repeat business is the key to sustainable growth and profit. Go beyond satisfying customers. Make it your mission to create raving fans, who buy and spend more and tell others how wonderful you are.
It starts with their initial contact, so make the experience one they remember. Follow up and do what you promise. This alone will make you stand out. Make continuous improvement a priority. Always look for ways to better serve and wow your customers. Stay connected, keep them informed and make them feel special. Do you have a plan or formal method to do so or do you simply take action when you have time or sales fall off? It’s a lot cheaper to keep customers than it is to ‘buy’ new ones and raving fans are the best advertisement for your business.
There it is. Not rocket science huh? In fact, I believe most small businesses have the potential to be better and stronger than they are today. Define what success looks like for your business then apply some of these strategies into what you do. The results may surprise you.
Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?
Would working with a business coach help you take your business to a whole new level? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.
To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com