Many successful small business owners have at least one thing in common — the ability to see the big picture and envision what their success will look like tomorrow, dreaming big. Here are some of the activities successful small business owners complete to place their focus on the future and keep moving forward.
1. Evaluate yourself.
Let’s start with the most basic question: Why do you want to start a business? Use this question to guide what kind of business you want to start. If you want extra money, maybe you should start a side hustle. If you want more freedom, maybe it’s time to leave your 9-to-5 job and start something new.
Once you have the reason, start asking yourself even more questions to help you figure out the type of business you should start, and if you have what it takes.
- What skills do you have?
- Where does your passion lie?
- Where is your area of expertise?
- How much can you afford to spend, knowing that most businesses fail?
- How much capital do you need?
- What sort of lifestyle do you want to live in?
- Are you even ready to be an entrepreneur?
2. Use Goal-Setting to Push Boundaries
Goal setting can be a great way to clarify your focus, measure progress and track achievements. And for the most successful among us, goals also present an opportunity to push the lines of your comfort zone and take calculated risks.
The more you are willing to stretch and challenge yourself, the more you have to gain over the long term. Creating a plan for this growth in the form of long- and short-term goals, a business plan or even single targeted tasks can help your business reach new levels of success.
3. Put the Focus on Customer Service
Being able to retain desirable clients plays a significant role in the continued success of a small business. Not only does having regular customers mean regular income, but happy clients can also provide powerful word-of-mouth marketing.
Along with providing your clients with an exceptional product or service, you can encourage repeat business by being customer service-focused. This means asking for and acting on feedback, addressing issues and complaints quickly and thoroughly, and being consistently accessible and accountable.
4. Commit to Continuous Learning
You should understand that no matter how much you achieve, there will always be more to be learned and applied for even greater success.
Even if you don’t have the time or the desire to learn in a traditional classroom setting, there are a number of ways you can advance your knowledge and continue to learn so your business can continue to thrive. Continuous learning can take the form of online training, self-paced programs, and collaborative opportunities, mentoring, and even reading.
5.Learn How to Delegate
Whether you have employees, subcontractors or family pitching in, learning how to delegate effectively can be the difference between reaching new heights and burning out.
Many small business owners are accustomed to doing a variety of things themselves instead of enlisting the help of others, so it can be challenging to identify the tasks you don’t need to do yourself and assign the work to someone else. Once you overcome the challenge, though, you will have more time to dedicate to what you do best — growing your business.
6. Increase Your Productivity
Some of what you do as a small business owner will be routine; there are a variety of daily tasks that will need to be accomplished to keep your business running smoothly.
The more effective you are when it comes to completing the day-to-day business management tasks (the ones that you don’t delegate, that is), the more potential your small business has for greater success. You can boost your productivity by developing systems to streamline these processes.
7. Stay Current with Technology
Technology plays a role in every business, so all small business owners can benefit from not only having an understanding of the technology that impacts them directly but also keeping track of how it changes.
Keeping up with new and changing technology can help small business owners make better decisions; and it can help save money, time and other resources.
8. Change up Your Marketing Activities
Many small business owners understand how online marketing can add a new dynamic to promoting their goods and services. The most successful small businesses are willing to explore new outlets of online marketing — in combination with their offline marketing activities — to see what produces the most interest.
Consistently changing, testing and mixing your marketing activities can be a valuable way to see what works, what doesn’t and what type of result it produces.
While you do not need to do all of these activities at once, most successful small business owners find a way to work them in overtime. To gain momentum, start with one or two that are already aligned with the way you run your business, and then start to make changes to incorporate the others gradually.
9. Get feedback.
Let people interact with your product or service and see what their take is on it. A fresh set of eyes can help point out a problem you might have missed. Plus, these people will become your first brand advocates, especially if you listen to their input and them like the product.
One of the easiest ways to utilize feedback is to focus on “The Lean Startup” approach but it involves three basic pillars: prototyping, experimenting and pivoting. By pushing out a product, getting feedback and then adapting before you push out the next product, you can constantly improve and make sure you stay relevant.
Just realize that some of that advice, solicited or not, will be good. Some of it won’t be. That’s why you should have a plan on how to receive feedback.
10. Finance your business.
There are a ton of different ways to get the resources you need to start your business. Angel investor whose business Startup Professionals provides services and products for startups and small businesses, recommends 10 of the most reliable ways to fund your business. Take a look and consider your own resources, circumstances and life state to figure out which one works best for you.
- Fund your startup yourself. Bootstrapping your business might take longer, but the good part is that you control your own destiny (and equity).
- Pitch your needs to friends and family. It can be hard to separate business from personal relationships, but if you’re considering asking for a loan, here’s a resource you can use to make it as straightforward as possible.
- Request a small-business grant. Start by checking out our guide to small-business grants. Then, head over to Grants.gov, which is a searchable, online directory of more than 1,000 federal grant programs. It might be a long process, but it doesn’t cost you any equity.
- Start a crowdfunding campaign online. Sometimes power is in numbers, and a bunch of small investments can add up to something major. If you think your business might be a fit for something like Kickstarter
- Apply to local angel investor groups. Online platforms such as Gust and AngelList and local networking can help you find potential investors who relate to your industry and passion.
- Solicit venture capital investors. VCs typically look for big opportunities from proven teams that need a million dollars or more, so you should have some traction before approaching them.
- Join a startup incubator or accelerator. These companies are designed to help new or startup businesses get to the next level. Most provide free resources, including office facilities and consulting, along with networking opportunities and pitch events. Some, also provide seed funding as well.
- Negotiate an advance from a strategic partner or customer. If someone wants your product or service bad enough to pay for it, there’s a chance they’ll want it bad enough to fund it, too. Variations on this theme include early licensing or white-labeling agreements.
- Trade equity or services for startup help. For example, you could support a computer system for office tenants in exchange for free office space. You might not get paid for this, but you won’t have to pay for an office, either, and a penny saved is a penny earned.
- Seek a bank loan or line of credit. before applying for a bank loan, including whether you will qualify. If you do meet the requirements, a good place to start for loan opportunities is the Small Business Administration.