Starting and running a successful business takes not only a lot of hard work, risk and perseverance, it also requires a significant amount of strategizing. Successful businesses rarely stumble into success, they plan for it and spend time thinking about what is needed to build strong foundations. Below are the top best strategies for business success and why they matter.
1. Learn a Macro Skill
While you certainly don’t need a business education to start and run a successful business, there are designations out there that provide you with important macro understandings of business operations. Six Sigma careers such as project management and business process engineering give business owners a 360-degree view of modern business processes and provide a base knowledge required to understand all of the various business functionalities and how they work together in unison.
2. Create a Business Plan
Planning a business is crucial because it helps you identify whether there is a real market need to be satisfied and, therefore, whether you stand a chance of turning a profit and being successful and it lets you know what you’re startup costs are going to be, and therefore how much money you will need to invest to get your venture off the ground. Business plans are also necessary if you are going to be applying for loans with financial institutions, and if you plan on looking for private investors.
Even if you are simply requesting small amounts of money from friends and family, it is a good idea to have a strategy laid out and a firm understanding of what your fledgeling business is up against as a new entrant to the market.
3. Find a Mentor
One of the worst things you can do as a business owner is assume you know everything or that you always know best. Some of the most successful people in business, and in other areas of life, are those who grew and honed their skills under the guidance and tutelage of a good mentor. A mentor can be anyone who has experience and success in business with the time, patience and desire to help you succeed.
A mentor is a sounding board for ideas, a critical voice when you are moving too quickly or imprudently, a voice of reason and calm when the stress of business is threatening to overwhelm you, and a source of encouragement and wisdom.
4. Search for Ways to Automate
Digital transformation is in full effect and if you are not actively looking for ways to harness automation and digitization, you are likely losing ground to the competition. Automation is something that is niche and industry-specific, and there will be different software and digital services that are tailored to these particularities, but there are things that companies across industries have either already completely automated or are in the process of doing so. This is a curve that business owners and leaders should be constantly trying to stay, at the very least, on, but ideally ahead of.
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Business owners should be looking, first and foremost, to automate any tedious routine manual work that takes up a lot of time–such as responding to customer queries and sending out up emails following purchases–as well as parts of workflows that are vulnerable to human error and could be done much better by a software or algorithm. It is worthwhile to educate yourself on the differences between workflow automation and workflow management and when, where and why to pursue each.
5. Track Your Costs
Many business owners let their costs and cost tracking get away from them because it is easy to ignore costs while you are small. Once you start to scale, however, and the number of individual costs begins to pile up, you run the risk of completely losing a handle on how much money your business is spending, and where and whether you could be making better decisions with that money.
Cost tracking is also important from a tax perspective. If you let your receipts and invoices pile up through the year, sorting and analyzing everything come tax time is one of the worst situations a business can find itself in. Even more stressful is losing track of evidence that the business has incurred these costs throughout the year.
6. Identify and Utilize Talent
One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs and business owners make is trying to go it alone or working outside their areas of expertise. It can be hard to relinquish control to other people, but finding and deploying human capital ends up becoming one of your main roles as a business leader and owner and is paramount to success.
Quality people with skills, worth ethic and who buy into your business’ vision are, in fact, invaluable and should be nurtured and made to feel like they matter and belong. Talent often hides in what, at first glance, may seem like the unlikeliest of places, which is why it is important for entrepreneurs and business leaders to always give people their fair shake.
7. Have a Mission
Having a mission and, importantly, having a well-defined mission statement is necessary because it helps keep you on track as you plan and expand your business. If you have a clear understanding of the purpose of your work, you know what goals you are working towards as an organization, what kinds of products and services you want to offer, and how you want to be perceived by your stakeholders and the communities and market demographics you operate in and serve.
Mission and purpose-driven companies tend to have more success because not only do they have this road map, but they also make sure that they are bringing on the right kind of people. Having people who buy into your mission and, in turn, make it their mission is how you establish foundations for long-term success.
8. Focus on Customer Experience
The competition for businesses, and particularly online, in the era of big data is fierce. Companies, if they choose to (and they should), have more access than ever before to what their customers like, dislike, how to speak to them, what kind of offers and deals to entice them with and, overall, how to make the purchase experience hyper-personalized towards the individual. All of this falls under the rubric of customer experience and it is one of the main points that businesses compete on.
Your customer experience includes how easy and pleasurable it is to use your website (and while surfing on different devices and browsers), how convenient and straightforward your customer service process is (can people reach you if they have issues), and the kinds of products, offers and prompts that specific site visitors receive based on a wide range of data that tells you, the business owner, exactly what makes a person tick.
9. Don’t Neglect SEO
Many small businesses struggle with their digital marketing, and particularly their search engine optimization, because they feel it is either not necessary or it is too complicated–something to look into once a business is already well-established and can pay a third party to take care of. But SEO is the foundation of any small business’ marketing strategy and the marketing investment that will provide you with the longest-term sustainable ROI.
The best part of SEO is that it is something businesses owners and entrepreneurs can learn about and do on their own. It is something that you will want to outsource eventually, as it is time consuming, but it is an incredible competitive advantage with very few barriers to entry at the startup level that is available to all businesses.
10. Keep Your Branding Consistent
Your brand is your business, for better or worse, and people want to do business with brands they recognize. If you want your brand to be easily recognizable, you not only need to invest time and money in designing the right logo and coming up with the right colour palette, but you need to make sure that, once designed, this is how you present your business everywhere–from your social media to your website, business cards and marketing.
11. Cultivate Your Social Media Presence
Cultivating your social media presence means not only making sure you are visible on the major social media networks, committing to regular posting and consistently updating your followers and clients on what you are doing. You also need to ensure you are on top of the trends and relevant hashtags for your business so that you are maximizing your organic search visibility.
Social media is another one of those marketing and PR functionalities that requires a large investment of time, so once you start to grow, and feel like you have the money to spare, it might make sense to hire a professional social media manager.
Businesses fail for all sorts of reasons, but those that succeed almost invariably put the above strategies into action. You need to know both your business and your market inside and out in order to make a success of a new venture, and if you take the time to carefully consider and implement the above recommendations, you stand a much better chance of success in a sea of global competition and a constantly changing business environment.