As a small business, we at UniAmerica Insurance find this topic more than relevant. Running a small business for a long time prompts valuable lessons.
Here are six tips from several successful small business owners that are worth paying attention to:
1. Build a Support Network
For Laura Kelly, being a business owner can be an isolating experience at times. “Especially if you’re a solo business owner, you can lose touch with other business owners,” says Kelly, who 15 years ago started The Handwork Studio, a Pennsylvania-based company that runs needlework camps and classes for kids in 10 states along the East Coast.
The crucial solution for Kelly has been to stay networked in the larger business community. That means meeting with her personal business coach for an hour every four weeks. The coach has helped her find solutions to problems and work through tough decisions with her business. She also networks on Facebook and Linkedin from the comfort of her own home.
2. Be Very Specific With Your Goals
Another lesson Kelly has learned over the years: break big goals into smaller ones. “I have 10-year goals, I have 3-year goals and 1-year goals, and I have quarterly goals for my business,” she says. “When it come to revenues, I will break them into smaller numbers so they’re easier to obtain. If I know I need to make a couple hundred thousand in revenue in the first quarter, I say, ‘What does that mean in terms of camp sales? How many campers do I need to obtain?’
Every employee at The Handwork Studio has a dashboard with their goals on it which shows their progress toward those goals. It helps keep everyone focused.
3. Delegate Whenever Possible
When the Marks Group, a technology consultancy, started in 1994, it was just Gene Marks and his dad. “He was doing sales and I was doing service,” Marks recalls. Then his dad died. “When he passed away, I took it over and realized I couldn’t do it all, and hired some new employees. I’ve learned that you can make a lot more money when you have other people doing it for you.”
As he hired more people, it dawned on Marks that he had been doing work that he was pretty bad at doing. The revenue of the business soared as he brought on new people because he was hiring people who were better than him at certain jobs.
4. Keep Your Overhead Low
Eight years ago, it dawned on Marks that he was just sitting in an office costing nearly $30,000 a year in rent, while his employees were out working with clients. So Marks got rid of the office in suburban Philadelphia and made his workforce virtual. Along the way, he replaced the landline with an Internet-based phone that cost about $10 a month, and he ditched computer servers for the cloud, too.
5. Find Your Best Niche—and Stick With It
Trying to do too much too soon? Feel like you need to be all things to all clients? Maybe diversifying isn’t always the best strategy. Sometimes, it’s good to replicate the magic if you have something that works really well. That’s been the successful strategy for Ace Apparel, says Marc Mathios, who along with his two brothers are the third generation to run the 78-year-old family business.
“One of the industry silos that we’re really good in is parking garage operators,” Mathios says. “The reason that parking garage operators like to work with us is because we manufacture our own line of jacket that’s suited for parking garage companies. … We’ve duplicated that success with 30 different parking garage operators across North America.”
6. Keep Your Day Job For a Little Longer
When starting out a business, it’s important to continue the workflow you’ve bad before you started it. You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re struggling because your current business is in trouble.
Spanx founder Sara Blakely credits her success to the fact that she actually kept her day job as an office equipment salesperson for two years, learning to work with minimal sleep as she got her form-fitting shapewear company off the ground. According to Forbes, Blakely did not want to resign from her day job until she was absolutely sure her small business idea would work.
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