There are countless resources out there with information to help you build, operate, maintain, and grow a successful business. The wealth of material available on such topics can be daunting to sift through, so we’ve compiled a basic list of practical rules that every entrepreneur should follow. These rules apply to small businesses in any industry, so consider each one carefully as you begin your journey as an entrepreneur.
- Expect positive results, but prepare to overcome failure. Expecting positive outcomes has everything to do with putting yourself in an optimistic frame of mind. If you are too consumed with fear of failure then you are inadvertently setting yourself up to do just that. Make sure the tone of your self-talk is positive, find effective motivators, and remind yourself frequently that you are more than capable of achieving your dreams. At the same time, recognize that a positive mindset alone is not enough to succeed. Prepare yourself for setbacks both financially and emotionally. Obstacles are bound to appear, but with adequate preparation and a confident outlook, you can overcome them and move on, all the better for it.
- Strengthen your skills. Never stop learning. Invest the time, and money if possible, to sharpen even your strongest skills, and improve your weakest ones. There will always be someone or something you can learn from. Don’t get too caught up in the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities and neglect to improve your own skill set. Professional development and continuing your education can increase the longevity of your success.
- Plan for the long run. This means everything from putting money aside for a rainy day to staying on top of your responsibilities so as not to fall behind in case of something unexpected like an illness or family obligation. Also take into account the big picture. For example, while hunting for retail space, an aspiring business owner finds an affordable location with lots of foot traffic anchored by a large department store. The problem is that this anchor store will be closing its doors within the next year. Although this may not seem significant, it’s a very real possibility that the closing of the department store will cause the majority of shoppers to go elsewhere, having a negative effect on the foot traffic in the area. So even though it may be an ideal space right now, planning for the long run means taking into account that it might be a poor choice in the future.
- Identify your competition and learn about them. There’s an old saying about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. Although your competition shouldn’t be your enemy, you should know as much as you can about what they offer their customers and how they conduct their business. Staying in the loop allows you to keep pace with industry trends and to stay on par with what your customers want and need from you. The same goes for identifying what it is about the competition that you don’t want to do. Perhaps your main competitor has a good reputation for offering frequent incentives and promotions, but also has a bad reputation for its poor customer service. Take the weakness of your competitor and make it your strength. Your customers will notice and spread the word.
- Don’t waste money. The best way to avoid this common mistake is to create a conservative budget and stick to it. A good idea is to track each and every expense, and evaluate them all at the end of a given time period (pay cycle, month, quarter, etc.). By putting your budget and expenses in writing, you will easily be able to analyze the financial health of your business and adjust accordingly.
- Seek opportunities. There will no doubt be opportunities available to you that will allow you to grow your business. However, they won’t exactly come with an engraved invitation; you must be proactive and seek them out. If you want to increase your following within the community, find local events in which to participate and promote your business like school fundraisers, sidewalk sales, and holiday festivities. Define your goals and priorities, and develop an action plan to find your opportunities.
- Minimize risks. There is a certain amount of risk-taking necessary in running a successful small business, but you can minimize these risks by doing your research and making the necessary preparations. The owner of a clothing boutique has been operating successfully for over ten years, so she decides to expand her business by opening up another retail location. Of course this is a big risk, but she knows how to minimize it by taking all the same precautions she did when she opened up her first location a decade ago: research locations, look at a variety of spaces, analyze potential customer base, have a financial fallback plan, etc. Whatever the risk you decide to take, be smart about your preparation in order to minimize the possibility of a negative outcome.
Talk to any successful small business owner, and he or she will tell you how these rules have applied to his or her situation. Have you followed these rules? How have they helped you? Is there anything else you would add to our list? Please share your comments below!