As an entrepreneur, you’re bound to run into challenges and obstacles at every stage of your venture. It’s survival of the fittest, even in seasoned businesses, let alone a fledgling startup. You’ve seen the statistics that ominously warn of the failure rate within the first year of business, and while the stats don’t necessarily tell the whole story, there’s no doubt that making it through your first year is no cake walk. But there are some steps you can take to improve your odds. To prevent you from sabotaging your business, here are a few pointers to practice:
Ten Good Habits of Successful Business Owners
1. Provide a product or service that’s viable
When you come up with the initial idea for your business ask yourself, “Is there a need for this? Who is my target customer? Why will they want to buy or need this?” Many businesses sound like they could be wildly successful, but maybe only at first glance. Researching market need and product or service viability is an absolute must if you hope to succeed.
2. Seek advice
See your idea and business with a different set of eyes. Seek advice from successful people in diverse businesses – experts who can comprise your team and be your focus group. Do your homework, and take heed of their advice and startup stories. In Small Business, BIG Vision, we explain how and why to set up an Advisory Board. This is one of the best ways to ensure your business is being guided well from the start.
3. Find a balance for change
Sticking to your business plan is admirable, but when the world is changing around you at light speed, you better power-up for some changes. Seek a balance between making so many changes that you’re no longer stable and just keeping the status quo. We talk a lot about flexibility in the book, and this is the one quality that can serve your business well at any stage – and in any economic climate or market shift.
4. Use your budget wisely
This one is a balancing act too. You need to use your money to make your business grow. Have some money to market yourself, and make people aware of what you have to offer and where they can find you. But be sure you don’t just spend and run out of cash before you even get up and running. Lack of capital is the number one reason for early stage business failure. Don’t let your company become part of that statistical group.
5. Hire the best, and fire the rest
Finding the best people to staff your new business can take time. Responsible, intelligent, creative, and passionate people are out there and want to have meaningful work, especially in this job market. No business owner has to keep non-team players who ruin morale and don’t contribute on a daily basis. Of course also remember that employees aren’t always the answer. As we detail in Small Business, BIG Vision, outsourced workers can be a very valuable tool for early stage startups.
6. Use the right resources and tools
All the home remodelers on TV make it look so easy. That’s because they have the right tools. They’re not using a hand saw to do what a miter saw will do in seconds. The right tools can make any work easier, faster, and more accurate. They don’t have to cost a fortune and can even be second-hand. Subscribing to trade periodicals, newsletters, and buying guides can also make it easier for you and your staff to work smarter.
7. Price Properly
Ask for advice with actual customers or a focus group, to find out what your product or service is really worth to them. If your product is perceived to be priced too high, you have sabotaged your success. If priced too low, you’re loosing profit margin. Perceived value for the price paid is what sells – not necessarily a rock-bottom price. Don’t make the mistake of competing solely on price early on, or you could be stuck under-pricing your offerings forever.
8. Focus on customer experience
When the service you provide your customers fails to meet their expectations, you lose them. It doesn’t matter who was “right.” The old saying about an unhappy customer telling everyone about their experience is true – and very damaging to your reputation. The bottom line is that there’s plenty of competition in every sector, and there’s always a competitor willing to sell what you offer for less. Differentiating through outstanding service is the best way to build loyalty and secure your business for the long term.
9. Mind your own store
Some entrepreneurs seem to be obsessed with their competition, the market, or other factors outside their business. Knowing what your competitors are doing is important, especially to startups; however paranoia about them or other outside factors shouldn’t keep you from managing your own business. Focus on what you’re doing to make your business a success, and customers will gladly tell you about your competition. From there, it’s just a matter of managing your time in a way that prioritizes nurturing your own business over worrying about everything else.
10. Find “me time”
Non-entrepreneurs often think that because you have your own business you can take off whenever you want. NOT! Sometimes you eat, breathe, sleep (or not-sleep) every day at your work. It’s a commitment that can wreak havoc with life-work balance. Having a day off, or even a few hours, will not kill your business, especially if you have the right team of people working for you and you trust them. Working hard on a new business is a given, but burnout is your body saying “Out of Business.”
If you’re not doing all that’s listed above right now, remember – it’s never too late to put a good habit into practice. The most important thing in business is that you keep your focus on your BIG Vision and never give up!