“Starting a small business,” explains BrightGauge co-founder Eric Dosal, “is a lot like riding an intense roller coaster. There are tons of twists, turns, loops, ups, and downs.” He’s not wrong. Running a small business is one of the most intense – yet most intensely rewarding – experiences you’ll likely ever go through.
That said, it’s also one of the most difficult. One slip-up, and everything could come crashing down. So how can you keep yourself from falling off the proverbial roller coaster? Here are a few essential tips to help you get your small business off the ground – and keep it afloat. Ignore them at your own peril.
Stick To What You Know – And Make Sure There’s Money In It
One of the most basic pieces of advice anyone will give you about starting your own business is that you should stick with what you know. Do you have a ton of experience in the food business? Start a restaurant, but don’t try running your own hotel.
Not exactly. See, even if you’re doing what you know, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a market for it. There has to actually be a need for the products or services your business will provide. If there’s no need, then there’s no market – and if there’s no market, then you’re in for an unpleasant surprise when you get your business running.
Know What You Want To Do Right From The Start
“Know your mission,” writes Virgin Group founder Richard Branson on Entrepreneur.com, “and make sure you get the basic structure right. Know what you are going to do.”
What Branson means by this is that in order to succeed, your small business needs a solid business plan right from the start. What’s more, you need to start going around to suppliers, potential business partners, and prospective customers well before you actually launch. Get people on board right from the start, and your life will be far easier for it.
Another piece of advice offered by Branson is that you need to instill in your business a “strong purpose and a sense of ethics.” Basically, you need to know exactly what you want out of your business – right down to how you want it to operate.
Make Sure Your Finances Check Out
Ideally, you want to be profitable from day one – and if you can’t be, you want to make sure you’ve got enough in the bank to cover your expenses until you become profitable. That said, you also need to do everything in your power to maintain financial separation between yourself and your business. Don’t mix your personal funds in with your organizational budget – it’s a headache you don’t want to deal with.
Your Customers Are Everything – Listen To Them
You’ve heard the old mantra by now – the customer is always right. While that may not always hold true, your customers are your most valuable resource- both for bringing in more business and for improving your brand. Listen to what they’re saying about you – tap into positive testimonials to market your organization, and examine negative feedback to see if there’s anything you can improve. The happier you can make your customers, the more loyal they’ll be.
And the more loyal they get, the likelier they’ll be to give you their money.
Market Anywhere And Everywhere
Last but certainly not least…marketing. Have several killer elevator pitches at the ready for anyone who has any questions about your business, and advertise wherever you can – newspapers, social networks, local newsletters…you get the idea. If you think you’re marketing too much, that means you’re probably marketing just enough.
“Starting a small business is like riding an intense roller coaster,” says Eric Dorsal. “There are tons of twists, turns, loops, ups, and downs.The key is to stay focused and enjoy the thrill of the ride.”
I won’t pretend that these 6 tips are going to guarantee the success of your business. What I will say is that most businesses that fail have come up short in at least one of these areas. If you master these basics, you will be far ahead of the competition.
Image credit: Oisin Prendiville