Thursday, March 19, 2009

Seven Steps to Small Business Success

According to the Small Business Administration, given the current rate of failure, nearly 85% of all small businesses started this year will fail by the end of 2014. That means that more than 8 out of every 10 entrepreneurs will have their hopes and dreams crushed and their financial accounts drained. But it doesn't have to be that way.

There are steps that every small business owner can follow that will help them reach their goals and do so, relatively easy. The following Seven Steps to Small Business Success are a cursory look at the simple steps that are often overlooked, but are so critical to survival.

1. Build A Solid Foundation. Every business (like your home) needs to be built on a strong foundation. Whether you are just starting out or you are struggling with the growth of your company, start by building or shoring up the foundation first. In business, your foundation is clearly defining "what you do", "where you are going" and "what is most important to you on that journey" - the answers to these three questions make up your Mission, your Vision and your Commitments, respectively.

2. Define How You Measure Success and Make Decisions Based on Those Metrics. Now that you built your foundation, its time to start figuring out how we are going to go from a foundation to the beautiful dream that is the vision. It's time to begin focusing on how we define, more concretely, what we will measure to decide if we are on the path to our dream. Its time to focus on your Metrics and Goals.
3. Create a Cohesive Team - Built on the Foundation of Your Dream. No one person has all the answers and can do it all - not in any industry. Build a team and define the culture of your organization.

Your team may include your family, your friends, your employees, a Business Coach, a CPA, an attorney, or anyone else that commits to help you reach your goals. Each member of your team, including you, needs to clearly know what they do, what they don't do and what is expected of them and that they will be held accountable - not to you, but to the team.

4. Write Guidelines, Build Systems, Share Everything and Empower Your Team. Don't keep everything in your head and try to do things "off the cuff". Clearly define jobs descriptions, expectations and processes within your business - the principals, boundaries and guidelines that represent the company, its employees and its practices. Without these explicit words, a company can be easily taken advantage of, be distracted from its goals or simply get caught chasing its own tail all day.

Additionally, the real competitive edge in the next decade is knowledge and learning. Your team can only help when they know and understand what the problems are - so share. . . everything. You'd be surprised where some of the best ideas come from.

5. Make the Sale. When it comes right down to it, you have to generate sales. If you are lucky, you will have a product that sells itself - but in the long term, that too shall pass. So you ask, how do I sell my product / service? Like every other stage of business - Start with a plan and then move to action. You need other people selling for you - employees help, but you want "raving fans" of your product and cheerleaders of your services. Get out and talk to as many people as you can - potential clients, business owners, friends and family. Join groups and organizations that are have potential clients or relationships with potential clients. Become a visible part of your market. Start with people that you know and that know you. It's not only okay, but highly encouraged, to start with friends and family as your first customers, and then broaden from there. People buy from those that they know and / or trust. So sales is about creating relationships and helping others see value in what you have to offer. And relationships take time. Most people don't want to be sold, but they love to buy - so listen and learn what they want, what they need, and what they value. But don't forget in the end to Ask for the Sale!

6. Take Advantage of Opportunities and Maintain Discipline. The most successful businesses maintain focus on their core mission and how it serves clients. Your core business should be a combination of what you do best, what you are most passionate about and what is what pays the bills. When opportunity comes knocking, and it will, you must have the discipline to make sure that it is aligned with your core mission and your strategic, vision before you jump on it - always think carefully before you commit your company resources to what may turn out to be a costly endeavor that takes you time, money and assets from what you do best.

7. Find an Accountability Partner. The "great" people and companies in the world find a way to do what the need to do, but don't want to do, to become who they want to be. Nearly every one of those that truly become great have an accountability partner to help them focus on the goal - the future they are trying to achieve. In sports, we call them coaches. In school, we call them teachers. Some of us have family (parents or maybe a spouse) and friends that hold us accountable to become who we want to be without becoming subjectively attached to the outcome. In recent years, the advent of the personal, executive, and business coaching industry has given us even more options. Whatever it takes - find someone who will stand in your future and believe in you even when you lose faith in yourself - someone who can make you do the things you know you should do, but don't want to do, don't know how to do or are afraid to do, so you can become the person who you dream of becoming.

For more about any or all of these steps, please contact email for more information.

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