It isn’t easy running your own business. It involves a lot of hard work, but many people who have started their own businesses have never looked back. There’s no single secret to building a successful business, but here are a few tips from some of the many small business owners we’ve spoken to:
1. Have a purpose
Your business needs to offer something different than every other firm operating in the sector. That can be a new product, or just friendlier service or a quicker turnaround time than your rivals. Before starting out you need to understand your market and what your competitors are doing right – and wrong. But apart from having an idea, your business needs a purpose: some core values or principles that define your company. They will help you to plot your company’s future path and bind your team together.
2. Choose good business partners
It’s always a good idea to find some co-founders, whose skills – and temperaments – complement your own (you don’t necessarily want to agree on everything!). You can spark ideas off each other and pick each other up when your enthusiasm drops. There will be dark days when you want to walk away, but with partners you know that you’re not alone.
When you start hiring staff, take your time to select the best candidates, who possess the perfect combination of skills, experience and personality to do the job well. Employing the wrong people can really hurt a small business.
3. Get the right structure
You don’t have to do everything yourself from the start. Suppliers can provide you with much of what you need to get up and running – from your products to IT and accounting systems – for a fraction of the price it could cost you to do it for yourself. If you get the basics right you can run a lean operation and then scale your business up as it becomes successful.
Also, make sure that, right from the start, you have good systems in place to control the key areas of your business – finance, sales, etc. – because they will give you all the information you need to run the business as it grows.
4. Listen to your customers
It’s important for you to hear their views, so you know how to improve and grow. Once you have a customer you want to ensure they keep coming back. Ask them how they think you’re doing and what you could do better. You also need to let them know that you’ve acted on what they’ve told you, so be sure to keep them updated on new products, special offers or new ideas you have in the pipeline. A recommendation from one of your customers is the most valuable marketing your business can have.
5. Learn to be resilient
Most start-up founders are over-optimistic about how long it will be before their business takes off. It will take time for you to become established and there will be plenty of disappointments along the way, but there’s nothing better than when you know your business has a future. But you’ll need to learn to roll with the punches along the way. Very few businesses are instant hits. The key is to learn from your failures so you can understand what will make you successful.