5 tips to growing a successful business

by April Cummins

1. Documented business plan

Planning, Planning, Planning. Did I mention you need a plan? Or how about this one; business owners don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.

Why don’t new business owners have a plan? I don’t think I am wrong when I say the vast majority start a business without a plan. I think the biggest reason is they just don’t know where to start, or for that matter how to execute a business plan. Many would think there is a plethora of information and templates online, and while there are, they simply don’t apply to your business. I know of a few people who have tried to emulate an online business plan template only to ditch it and finally write one on their own.

Another reason for not developing a business plan is simply, that people find little value in a written document. They feel they have it all in their head and that’s good enough. Do me a favour and print that out and send it to your lawyer, accountant and financial advisor. Exactly, professional people require documents. Starting your business with a documented plan will evolve into documenting all ideas, events, meetings; an excellent habit to cultivate.

Lastly, I think people just won’t find the time to develop the documented business plan. Time is a valuable commodity, but so is money and profit and therefore you need to invest some time.

2. Purpose and focus

Contrary to what many people think, owning a business is not a permanent vacation, and in fact, you will find that it is a 24/7 process. Bottom line, you will need to work hard. But, you will need to work smart, after all no one can work staggering hours and come out mentally and physically unscathed. Being dedicated and passionate go a long way, but there is a certain business discipline to doing certain tasks you particularly do not want to perform. You must embrace a time management system whereby you dedicate time to quoting, invoicing, debt collection and other administrative tasks. It all funnels down to hard work. This fortitude will pay off, and please, stay focused.

3. Know your target customers and markets

Assess the market and target customers for your services and products. You don’t want to have an excellent business idea and plan that is in the wrong area. Selling salt licks in a densely populated urban area isn’t going to be profitable, but selling exotic and gourmet salts may very well be. Do market assessments for your services and products as well as the competition. This will give you an indication of how the business will perform.

One of the most effective marketing methods a business owner can perform is the art of networking. Initially, you will need to develop a “word-of-mouth” methodology demonstrating the value your services and products provide. Join the local Chamber of Commerce or Business Association. These stellar institutions host a plethora of events, trade shows and meet and greets. These networking connections can lead to prospects, partners and mentors, all in the interest of growing your business. Remember, it’s not what you know, but whom. Building connections with people who have experience and insight is a valuable asset.

Lastly, promote your business with all the resources you can muster; be the brand ambassador.

4. Provide great service

Do not compromise on the value of your services and products.  At the end of the day, if you tolerate mediocrity then that’s what you get.  If you have a poor employee that is a detriment to your business, then do something about it, even if it’s your brother-in-law. I understand it’s a difficult decision, but you will both be better for it in the long run. Don’t let mediocrity hold you hostage.

Recruit your employees well, interview and screen well. Employ great people and look after them, and your business will grow stronger.  Don’t forget that your employees are brand ambassadors too, so make sure they know your vision and mission. You will need to develop an emotional intelligence and be able to communicate your expectations. Make sure you successfully provide support, training, clear communication, guidance and direction.

Be consistent throughout all aspects of your business, Consistency is a key component in turning a profit for your business. You need to consistently keep doing what is necessary to be successful day in and day out. This will garner long-term positive habits.

5. Ask for help (find a mentor)

One of the most difficult things for any person to do is ask for help. In our day and age, there is a stigma attached with asking for help. You must shed that idiotic emotion immediately. Any intelligent business owner should always be asking questions and seeking guidance and assistance.  You should always be seeking advise and help and acquiring knowledge in any manner you can.

Perhaps you are a skilled electrician looking to start your own business, but marketing and administration may not be your strength.  You will need to find a professional that will guide you in your weak areas.  Why try to build a website that will take you way too much time, may not convey your brand, mission or vision. You are wasting valuable time and effort for a mediocre marketing tool. You know your business, communicate with a professional and get the best possible product. Do not be afraid to enlist professionals because that will be the best money you ever expend.

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