Building a small business from the ground up is no easy task. Here are 10 tips for starting a small business that lead to success. Remember- it’s a marathon, not a sprint!
Starting a business is not going to be a 9-5 gig. Hard work and long hours are the name of the game. Everyone knows it will be a lot of work, but not everyone understands exactly how much. About half of all businesses close within the first five years, but not because they fail. Often times it’s because of how much time it takes to run a business. This isn’t meant to scare you out of pursuing your dream of becoming a business owner, but make sure you are realistic about the time commitment.
When you are first starting out, remember: Every. Penny. Counts. Save money where you can. Look for deals and discounts. Negotiate. Whatever you need to do to save those precious dollars. Things always cost more than you think they will, and the first few years of business will likely have higher expenses and lower income than you’d like.
If it’s possible for you to work on your business while you still have a full time job- do it! Yes, it means long hours and exhaustion. But it will be worth it when you already have a customer base, even if it’s a small one, when you go all in.
You will need to build your customer base, but don’t forget how valuable your current customers are. It is far more costly to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Loyal customers lead to free word-of-mouth advertising and provide valuable feedback. And remember: repeat customers that make repeat purchases = repeat profit.
The one thing you can plan on is that nothing will go the way you planned. Things usually cost more and take longer than you think they will, and you will be much better off if you can learn to roll with it. Have a plan, and also have a back-up plan, a contingency plan, and a sense of humor!
Recognize if it’s time to hire employees. While it’s true that not everyone wants to manage people, it’s also true that employees allow you to leverage your time and skills. There may be a topic that you know nothing about, or simply isn’t one of your strengths. Instead of wasting precious time and resources learning everything about said topic, ask yourself if it would be more beneficial to pay someone to take care of it. These people don’t need to be traditional employees either; you could find contractors or other businesses that are offering their services for a specific task. Think of an IT help desk, bookkeeper, or social media manager for example.
We’ve all heard it over and over: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” When you know people, it can definitely help you get ahead. Face-to-face interactions are invaluable to new and established businesses alike. Networking events will help you grow your business by meeting potential customers or someone that can become a future referral source. You could meet someone that has a product or service you need to make your business run more smoothly. If you’re in the marketing for an employee, you may be able to find someone through word-of-mouth. Meetup.com provides an easy way to find a networking event in your area. Don’t feel like networking is a waste of time, taking you away from your ‘real’ work. Keep at it, and it will pay off. People want to do business with people they know, so get out there!
Your customers are on social media- don’t miss the opportunity to connect with them. It provides a relatively inexpensive way to reach your audience, provide them with useful information, and keep your products and services in front of them. You can share sales and discounts, new products, and company news. Driving traffic back to your website also helps with your SEO. Managing social media is an easy thing to put on the back burner when you have other ‘real’ work to do. Make sure you either make time each week for it, or hire a company that can manage it for you.
Working for yourself is a lot of work. It can be rewarding, but it can be exhausting. Be sure to take time for yourself to recharge your batteries. Take breaks, take vacations, and be kind to yourself. You will face setbacks, but they will be much easier to handle if you aren’t completely frazzled.
Identify why you want to do this in the first place, and hold onto that belief. Write it down, post it next to your desk, whatever you need to do so you are constantly reminded. Remember your reason when things get tough, and celebrate the victories along the way. Keep a positive attitude and a success mindset- these are the things that will carry you through the challenges.