There are tips on articles all over the internet on how to make your business successful, and rightfully so. What an important and complex topic this is. Any amount of good advice may be the difference on the fine line of your small business being incredibly successful and properly managed, or making a few overzealous investments that could lead to bankruptcy. We will try to gather as many tips as we can here to make this the most comprehensive small business tips list possible.
The Main Opponents to your Small Business
1. Your own ego
If you want your small business to be successful, the most important thing to avoid is biting off more than you can chew. Once you make an investment in either advertising or in hiring employees or into further production that was made with improper planning, it may be difficult to take a decision like that back. Never assume that things will simply work out.
As a beginning real estate agent, I assumed I would be successful, and the first thing I needed to spend on was advertising to get my business working as quickly as possible. I blew close to $1500 on advertisement shortly after getting my license thinking that a single deal made from that advertisement at a church I remained heavily involved in would more than pay for that advertisement fee. To me, it seemed like a smart long-term investment. A year went by, and not a single person called me from that advertisement. I was blown away. How could an add I paid so much money for result in not getting a single phone call or email?
Sometimes, these businesses can feel a bit pay-to-win to use a despised gaming term. And for many realtors and other similar professionals, that can be true. But investing early on in things like this makes little sense for many reasons, and the first reason is that you should never spend money that your business has not made you. Do not assume that your hard work and the strength of your product will pay off. If you overinvest when you are not ready to, it could cripple your business.
2. Crowded markets
It is absolutely fine to enter a crowded market if you are confident you have something significant that separates your business apart from your competitors. However, that will rarely be the case in crowded markets. Perhaps, you are creative enough to come up with an idea no one else has. Sometimes, someone else has had the idea though and has decided it does not have a strong enough chance of success. You may be able to take a risk, but starting your business with the intent of a big risk like that is not what most gamblers would call a smart bet.
The problem with a crowded market is that customers tend to be creatures of routine. They go with what has worked well in the past, and will simply ignore any other potentially better option until they can be proved to that the option is better. How do you do that? Advertisement? Word of mouth with maybe some free samples? There are many options to get that started, but it is a tough track. It requires patience and incredibly thorough planning, and even then, it may take a long time before you start to see success in such a crowded market.
Knowing your competitors is essential. This may be literal in the notion that having a personal relationship with business competitors in a small business arena may be beneficial to both of you. However, more often the truth is that if you do not know your opponents’ advantages and weaknesses in the field, you cannot find a place where your business can fill those holes. Rare are the opportunities available for you as the newer small business to come in and put a more established small business out of shop. More likely, both similar small businesses will find a niche the other does not quite hit that different customers will be more attracted to. Think of two local pizza restaurants, one focusing more on traditional pizza archetypes with very simple flavors, while the other focuses on a bit stranger and more exotic flavors. These are small businesses that can coexist very easily in a close proximity, and while they may have the same main product, customers may prefer one or the other or even regularly attend both.
4. Micromanaging and Non-involvement
The last thing to really beware of as a small business owner is the fine line between micromanaging and involvement. Of course, if you are not present and involved in your business, the business will die with barely a whimper. Your employees need to see that you care if they are ever going to care themselves. You have the authority to make the big decisions, and if they are made quickly, things get done quickly. Everything is dependent on you, but only to a point.
If you begin to micromanage, you waste time in two different, costly ways. First, you waste your own time doing, or at least watching and perfecting, the duties of employees you already hired specifically to do those tasks. Secondly, you waste the time of your employees who you hired to do these tasks. Your micromanaging of them is costing them time and making them less efficient when you are only bringing them in because you expected them to be able to do these tasks. Training and being involved as a supervisor is vital of course, but micromanaging is not just annoying, it is terrible for business.
How to Best Use what your Small Business has going for It
1. Product popularity
Regardless of what you are marketing in your small business, what matters more than anything, more than customer service, more than atmosphere, more than involvement or advertising, is the product. Your business will always live and die on how good your stuff is at the end of the day.
How do you push this? The secret is to create a sort of fanfare over it. With a small business, you may be looking for a bit of a cult following of really dedicated consumers who swear they have found the next best thing. You can almost make your customers feel like they deserve the credit for finding this product more than you for creating it! Suddenly, you will have a few fans who spread the word to their friends and around social media, and you take off into the land of success.
2. Technology and databases
Use the tools you have offered to you. Having internet and databases and all the other amazing technology available to modern small businesses is useless if you and your employees do not take the time to properly utilize it. Being consistent with a filing system is essential to keeping your small business efficient, and the same is true for all of your online and electronic databases.
The simple fact is that if other local businesses are taking advantage of these tech tools, and you are not, then you are going to fall a bit behind. They will have some tools for efficiency, speed, social networking, and planning that you just are not accessing.
This does not mean that you need to use every new tech that shows up on the block, nor does it mean you should be shelling out money for everything that shines and says “new.” What it means is that you need to use databases consistently and wisely to know what is going on with your customers and your employees, and you need to use social media to connect with your customers and stay in their line of sight. Since most of them see nothing but their Facebook home page, be there.
3. Delegating duties to employees and freelancers
How do you know when it is time to hire employees and freelancers to cut down on your own work? First of all, you need to have the income in your small business, not just the projected income, to pay for them. After that, if running your business is getting in the way of running your business, it may be time. Perhaps, all you need is someone to really ramp up the social media engine. If that is the case, just outsource that for a small fee to someone who can do it from home. If you need more complicated jobs done by employees who need to be there, well this is where having solidly calculated and well-kept databases comes in handy. If your spreadsheets are up to date, you will know how much you can afford to spend on employees, and you will have a better idea of how much value they will generate your small business by taking some work away from you or creating new work you would never have had the time or ability for.
4. Planning for the Future and Improvising as Needed
Planning for the future of your small business is not simple guesswork and prayer if you have well-calculated data projecting what your business is doing now onto what it could be reasonably expected to do in the future with different market trends. Having multiple plans for different potential futures is excellent so that you can plan for both good outcomes and outcomes that will be excellent chances to practice patience (or bad outcomes if you really want to be negative about them.) You never plan for the absolute worst outcomes because those involve alien invasions and meteor apocalypses, and there just is not a lot you can do about those.
Jokes aside, planning for the worst possible outcome is what a lot of businesses claim to do. It is not always reasonable though because their worst possible outcome is just a worst reasonable outcome most of the time. There are some events you simply cannot adjust for, such as significant market crashes, and while you can prepare for the worst, you may still be looking for a new income should those events show up.
That said, the reason you need to have plans for multiple futures is because when you are prepared to improvise for new situations, it makes everything smooth. You should have many plans for the future of your small business, but they need to be flexible for different markets, different trends, and different casts of employees even. All can change, but if you are ready to roll with the punches, your business should remain.
How to Make your Small Business Successful in a Home Office
1. Cut down on unnecessary business expenses
Why did you or are you starting a business from a home office? Usually it comes down to the chance to cut down on expenses. So maximize that mindset, and truly avoid spending money on luxuries that you do not need.
Does your small business really need a website right now? Will social media pages not do just fine? Do you need to spend money on social media or print advertising now? How many freelancer employees do you truly need to hire?
This is not a question of can you turn the A/C down to cut on electricity costs. This is a conversation of cutting down on luxury business expenditures. Only get what is necessary.
2. Invest in your business to invest in your own well-being
Your business means nothing if you are not healthy enough to run it. If you are working 18 hour days on a regular basis, driving from location to location for meetings and clients, barely able to rest or take care of your family, then what is the point? You cannot keep up that sort of lifestyle, and it will drain on your personal life until it breaks you.
If you need the help from an extra employee or freelancer, take it. It is okay to take a day off on your business, be with your family, and maybe just send in a few texts to make sure your employees and freelancers are doing what you need them to do for the day.
3. Prioritize your Home Life and Be Productive
If you are working from home, be productive. Use your databases and technology to get stuff done even on your easy days. This is not usually the advice that those working from home in their small businesses need to hear. The advice they more often need to hear is that their business means nothing if their home is in disorder. If you do not spend time with your family, you will slowly find yourself more and more disconnected from them whether your business does well or not. More than likely, the emotional disconnect from your family will lead to a lack of business performance anyways and slowly erode your business as well. Running a small business and working hard is excellent and admirable, and of course your family needs the assurance of the financial support that said business hopefully creates. However, your family and personal health are always more important. Take time for doctor’s appointments, dates, and daring new adventures to keep the home life fresh and exciting, not just the business.