Tips for Starting a Small Business and Making it Succeed
- Start on a small scale before going all out. Some people believe that entrepreneurs are risk-takers. But for the most part, successful entrepreneurs don’t like walking blindfolded on a limb. Instead, they take controlled risks. They test an idea on a small scale, then build on what works well, tweak what shows promise, and discard the disasters.
- Don’t fixate on mistakes or get demoralized by them. The difference between successful people and everyone else is that successful people learn from their mistakes and move on. They don’t dwell on failure, blame the economy, curse their bad luck, or blame other people for their fate. If the path to their goal is blocked, they look for an alternate path or sometimes choose a different, more attainable goal.
- Learn from others. Find mentors, join groups with like-minded people, learn everything you can about your industry and what it takes to get from where you are to where you want to be. Attend industry conferences. Take training courses when they are available. Buy courses offered by experts. You’ll save a tremendous amount of trial and error by learning from people who have been there before.
- Think of what you do AS a business. Keep track of income and expenses, keep business money separate from personal funds, find out what regulations your business needs to abide by.
- Understand the difference between working for yourself and building an ongoing business. If you want to build a business, you need to develop systems and methods that allow you to hire other people to DO the work of the business while you plan it. You limit the potential for growth if you don’t bring in other people to work for you.
- Get to know investors. If the business you are starting will need investors to grow, do what you can to find out what investors are looking for and where to find those who might invest in your kind of business. Local angel and venture capital groups are a good place to start – attend meetings they hold or meetings that investors are speaking at. Have an elevator pitch practiced so you can use it to interest investors if you get a chance.
- Put yourself out there. Ask for what you want (in a polite way.) I started my online business by participating online on GE’s GEnie online service. When I was ready to send them a proposal to run a small business area, I could not only talk about my credentials in general, but point to places I was already contributing to their service. I became one of the early content providers to America Online because I picked up the phone and made a cold call. I wound up with a new consulting client after I struck up a conversation with a woman sitting next to me on an airplane. Remember, people like to do business with people they know. Get the ball rolling, and keep it rolling by continually reaching out and introducing yourself to new people.
- Embrace Digital Marketing. Even if you’re running a local business, you need a comprehensive digital presence. At a minimum, you need a professional-looking website, an email list that lets you communicate with customers and prospects on a regular basis and presence on the social media channels that your customers frequent. While you may get many of your customers by word of mouth, referrals, or networking, you still need a strong digital presence. The reason: prospective customers are likely to look you up on the web before they decide whether or not to contact you. Coupons, special offers, and practical information sent to your email list can encourage customers and prospects to buy from you or make repeat purchases.
- Never stop learning and trying new things. What’s profitable now, won’t necessarily be profitable next year or 10 years from now. So, don’t let yourself fall into the “this is the way I’ve always done things” rut. Keep your eyes and ears open for new things. Are there newer or better ways to market your products and services? Are customers asking for something you’re not offering? Is there a different type of customer you should be targeting? Get answers by reading everything you can about your industry and listening to your customers.