Starting a small business is a massive but rewarding undertaking. Part of starting a small business is doing things in a way that makes the most sense to you, but a little guidance can help as well.
Over years of running a small business, owners inevitably gather many lessons about how to grow and run a business more effectively. Thankfully, many of these owners are more than happy to share their insights.
1. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses
Every small business owner has certain skills, abilities, knowledge and experience that give them an edge when it comes time to build up a business and start operating it. However, no small business owner is so adept that they can be an expert in every single process related to developing a new company.
While you’ll have to wear a lot of different hats, especially during the business’s earliest stages, don’t place too much of a burden on yourself for too long or expect yourself to dive into a highly complicated task with no prior training. Develop a strong understanding of your skills and weaknesses so you know where to best focus your attention.
Don’t be afraid to learn how to handle new responsibilities and workloads it’s essentially a requirement for growing small businesses. You also shouldn’t shy away from working with business partners, family members, employees, independent contractors and others to address major needs and make sure important concerns are handled successfully.
2. Start with a simple Business Plan
One of the first things you should do as a small business owner is developing a business plan. It’s vital that you develop this essential document to steer future work and hold yourself accountable, but it’s also important to not go too in-depth during the early stages of developing your concept.
A shorter plan, about one page or 500-600 words, can give you direction without requiring you to answer questions that won’t have solutions presented until later on in the process. Johnson suggested focusing on your products or services, target market and customers, basic prices and costs and the work needed to turn the concept into a reality.
As work progresses and your idea moves closer to actual operations, you can expand your business plan. Over time, include more accurate estimates, actual costs, longer-reaching projections, mission statement, company summary and other elements commonly seen in fully developed documents.
3. Focus on Customer Service
According to a study 51% of customers will not repeat business with a company after a bad service experience. Other studies have shown that it takes several positive customer experiences to make up for one negative one.
Given that loyal customers make a much easier sell, make good customer service a priority. Examine your current customer service and make the changes that need to be made to ensure that your small business is providing service superior to that of your competitors. You may need to invest in staff training, revamp your return policy, or make basic improvements such as responding promptly to voicemails or emails from customers.
4. Build Word of Mouth for your Business
Whether you operate your business in a small community or in a large urban center, word of mouth is more important than ever. Most consumers turn to the net to search for reviews of businesses before deciding where to shop, so building a good reputation is vital to the success of your business.
How do you get positive word of mouth? By providing good, professional service, building and monitoring your local (and online) reputation, and gaining publicity by giving back to your community through your support and sponsorship of local organizations and charities.
5. Understand your Target Customers and Existing Market
It’s possible to develop an excellent business concept and deploy it in the wrong area. That’s why it’s important to understand the area in which you want to start your small business as well as your target customers. An idea that could work out very well in a large, densely populated area simply may not get the amount of foot traffic or number of customers it needs in an area with fewer residents.
Assessing the market for your products or services, seeking out the presence of potential competitors and conducting an assessment of how your business will hypothetically perform can all move your idea in the right direction.
You can also look to competitors and similar businesses for ideas and guidance, although indirectly. Visiting their stores, looking at their websites and marketing materials and other intelligence-gathering initiatives can help you fill in pieces of the puzzle.
6. Build Your Online Presence
Creating a professional-looking website can be quick and easy nowadays, and your small business needs to be in the online space. Research from the E-commerce Wiki indicates that 88% of consumers now research purchases online before purchasing in a store.
A simple website that describes who you are, what you do, and how to contact you will suffice for many small businesses.
7. Find and keep the Right Employees
Attracting and retaining the right employees is one of the most important things you can do with your business. While hiring and training employees every other week might be business as usual for a fast-food restaurant, most successful businesses rely on hiring quality staff and keeping them for the long term.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Even when a business is on the right track, unexpected issues and chances for growth and improvement can quickly pop up. Addressing these problems and opportunities is critical for long-term stability and prosperity. As a small business owner, you shouldn’t be afraid to seek out alternative business financing in the form of a small business loan from National Funding. Our fast and easy application process can give your business a quick decision and the funds you need in just days.
9. Update your Business Plan
You did make a business plan before starting your business, right? A business plan is vital for startup businesses for many reasons, including testing the viability of your business idea and securing debt or equity financing.
If you haven’t made one, it’s not too late. Successful, established businesses update their business plan annually to review accomplishments (or lack thereof) and decide on new goals or directions.
The financial health of your business is summarized by the income statement, the cash flow projection, and the balance sheet, which are contained in the financial section of the business plan. From there you can determine ways to make your business more profitable by increasing sales, reducing losses, or cutting expenses. If you want your business to be more successful, you need a plan for how to get there.