“What’s your secret?”
That’s one of the first questions successful small business owners are often asked when it comes to the sustainability of their business. Whether it’s a growing car wash chain, plumber, hair salon, florist, etc., when a business is successful, people want to know: what’s the secret?
People, especially those just starting out, or looking to start, their own small business, typically look to those businesses similar to them who have made the breakthrough, and do not look at the multi-billion dollar behemoths. Why? simple: it’s easier to relate to small or local businesses who are similar to yours. It’s also more feasible to follow, when relevant or possible, their blueprint for success, while at the same time learning from others’ mistakes.
The thing is, like a well-performed magic trick, once you learn the “secret,” you realize the truth is less glamorous and more practical:
Keeping your focus
It’s easy to lose focus as a small business owner; you get sidetracked by minor stuff, and that’s only natural. However, you have to be careful that those “sidetracking stuff doesn’t derail you from your objectives.
Remember, you’re not the only person out there offering the services that you do, and if you don’t distinguish yourself, your business will just blend in the crowd.
Narrow your focus. There are a lot of people out there doing what you do, and if you’re a generalist it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. The more tightly you focus, the more perfect a fit you become for your category. This can be based on your services or on the type of client. For example, if you’re a writer, maybe you only write new business proposals or LinkedIn bios or online dating profiles. Or maybe you offer a wider range of services, but only to restaurants or lawyers or ski resorts.”
Whether it’s financial goals or a quote glued to your office wall, you need to keep yourself motivated.
“Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated, but if you aren’t getting the work done, your business is not advancing. ‘Would I have paid me for the work I did today?’ That puts the onus on your performance.”
You’re not a Superhero
Leave your superhero suit in the closet; As a business owner, you can’t do everything on your own. Subdue the ego that says you must do it all. Ask for help, for ideas, for expertise. Successful businesses are built on the work of many. It took more than one smart engineer to build the pyramids, why should your business be any different?”
“It’s all part of the plan…”
“Stop using social media now for your business…unless you have a plan. Without a plan, your social media efforts will waste time and energy. Activities will not be effective and will not attract business. Create a plan with goals and limit your time exposure.”
Don’t get thrown overboard in the social media ocean
Social media is important for your small business. However, you need to be mindful that it can easily take a large chunk of your valuable work time away: Before you realize it, you’ll have spent half the day tweeting, responding, pinning, Instagraming, posting, etc., etc. And as far as actual work goes, you won’t accomplish much. Social procrastination is nothing but busywork. Defend your time and attention to get important work done.”
“Time is Money”
To avoid, as much as possible, scampering about like the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, muttering “I’m late, I’m late,” you’ll want to learn how to manage your time as efficiently as possible.
Remember the golden rule for small business owners, which is the 3000/500 rule: not more than 3,000 and 500 hours per year should be spent working and taking part in community and other business-related activities. If you exceed these hours, your family life and health can suffer. Unlike budgeting or marketing, time management is not something you can plan effectively on a monthly or weekly basis. You should:
– Set aside time in the morning each day for planning,
– Delegate time according to importance, from the most important tasks – to the least important.
– If you have employees, delegate tasks to them.
Contribute to the community
Remember the old joke about gravity, “it’s not just a good idea – it’s the law?” the same with community: although there’s no written rule or mandate for small businesses to help with local communities, there’s an “unwritten” rule that you should. It’s not simply good “for your soul,” as they say, but it’s also good for the community and certainly good PR for your small business. Only remember, you have to also know when and how to say no (such as, if someone asks you for a $50,000 donation)!
Prioritize your small business goals
A business without goals is like buying tons of ingredients and pouring it all into a giant bowl without knowing beforehand what you want the outcome to be.
For example: do you want to increase sales by a certain percentage in the coming year? get X amount of new clients? Y amount of calls/visits to your business? Setting and prioritizing your small business goals
Remember: goals that are written down are achieved faster than those that are not.
– Specific and timed: for example, increase sales by 20 percent in the next year.
– Measurable: comparing this year’s sales to last year’s sales is a good measuring tool.
– Attainable: “The ability to see the results of your goals while working to achieve them (Mariotti).
– Rewarding: if the goal is not rewarding to the owners or employees, then there is no incentive to reach it.
– Written down: goals that are written down are achieved nine times faster than those that are not.
Setting goals that meet these criteria is a helpful means of prioritization: it helps to distinguish the importance of the $10,000 goal versus the $10 goal.
Be fearless of failure
Remember: those who are the most successful also failed the most. If you’ve hit a brick wall, go around it, over it, under it. It won’t always be smooth sailing, but nothing ultimately successful rarely is.
In today’s society, it is the small business owners job to “sell their service and give away their product.” This philosophy can be accomplished with honesty and by “going the extra mile.” Honesty is good customer service. It is the commitment to tell the truth about the products sold and services available and to deal fairly with the public (Mariotti). Being up front about the products’ drawbacks and benefits is good business. Another key to good business is “going the extra mile” making a genuine effort to meet customer needs. Meeting customers’ needs starts with understanding the cultures and groups of the local community. If their values, wants, and beliefs are understood, it is possible to better satisfy their needs. Some tips to remember when investing in customer service are:
– Most small business owners indicated that word-of-mouth advertising was the most important means of expanding the business.
– A small business owner must invest 15 percent of his/her net earnings and time into new products and services to stay on the cutting edge.
– In agricultural and rural communities, 70 percent of all marketing is “neighbors selling neighbors.”
Small business owners suggest that networking with other owners and having a “professional team” are essential to the continuing success of a business. Having and utilizing fellow business people as contacts helps a manager to stay abreast of industry happenings and changes. A professional team composed of the banker, lawyer, insurance agent, and accountant is crucial to the continued profitability of the business. Some advice from fellow entrepreneurs on viable networking is as follows:
Choose a lender with the following criteria:
– Knowledge of the industry,
– Willingness to work with you during good and bad times,
– Visible and available.
Hiring the right people for your business
Even if you run the business yourself, if you want to achieve success, you won’t be able to go at it by yourself alone, without the risk of losing your sanity, among other things. Hiring the right professionals who can take over when needed, whatever the task – is crucial to your business.
Have a life outside work
Don’t wait for overwork stress to catch up with you. It’s crucial that you not only leave yourself enough time, but also time for a hobby or two such as meditation or crafts. It’s good for yourself, your life, and your business.
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