Tips to Start a Successful Business
1. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
The key to becoming a successful entrepreneur isn’t being great at everything; it's knowing your strengths and weaknesses, then utilizing them to create a business model that works to your advantage. By doing so, you capitalize on the skills you have so you can focus the rest of your energy on learning how to start a business.
However, knowing your weaknesses is just as important as knowing what you excel at. For example, if you know you are great at networking but lack technical skills, it is probably in your best interest to start a business that focuses more heavily on customer service than technology.
Getting to know your strengths and weaknesses starts with asking yourself some important questions such as:
- What is my current skill set?
- Where could my skills use improvement?
- How much time do I have to learn additional skills?
- How confident am I in my ability to execute these skills on a large scale?
- What is a reasonable, attainable business goal for me?
Understanding your limitations is as important as knowing the ways in which you thrive. By learning how to utilize both your strengths and weaknesses, you increase your chances of success.
2. Listen and Learn
One of the best ways to prepare to start a business is to utilize the knowledge of experienced business owners by listening and learning. If you don’t know any business owners or if you want to ask a number of people, reach out to businesses you admire to set up a meeting with the owner.
Before you meet: Prepare your questions and get ready to take notes. Think of this as a class in starting a business and go into the conversation with an open mind.
Once you have started your business, keep listening. As your business grows and ages, seek feedback from customers, employees, and others to continuously improve your business model. Honest feedback from family, friends, or others can help you grow your business in the right direction as long as you are willing to listen.
3. Have a Business Plan
Making a plan for your business is a helpful organizational tool and motivator. A business plan is essentially the road map of your business’s first three to five years of operation, outlining the necessary steps to successfully reach its yearly milestones. This outline will help you understand how to reach your goals and keep your business on the road to success.
Creating a business plan is one of the most important things you will do when starting a business. Easily make yours using our Free Business Plan Generator.
4. Start Small
Success in business doesn’t happen overnight. An overambitious business plan or idea can prove difficult to manage and far too costly for a new business. Starting small allows you to fine-tune your business idea to the essence of the service or product you’re offering, leaving you room to grow organically with your market.
Moreover, being realistic about your skillset and the attainability of your goals encourages you to narrow your focus on creating a strong starting point for your business. To do this, assess the aspects of your business model, product, or service that aren’t essential. Additional features or inclusions can be costly and unnecessary to successfully get your business off the ground.
5. Explore All Your Resources
When you’re starting a business, it’s crucial to do as much research as possible to build your expertise and confidence to help make your entrepreneurial venture a success. This can include talking to experienced people, reading articles and books, or taking a class; any resource that gives you more clarity on how to start your business is valuable.
We recommend getting started with our guide on how to start a business. This business planning guide includes everything from how to obtain business insurance to choosing the right business structure. Additionally, a visit to our business center will provide you with all the extra tools to get your business off the ground.
6. Be Mindful of Legal Requirements
Start your business off on the right foot by ensuring that all legal requirements are fulfilled on a state and federal level. Not completing the proper legal requirements can result in fines or even the closure of your business. If you are unfamiliar with this process, we recommend using a professional service to ensure you meet any licensing requirements.
To start, take a look at the business licensing and permits you’ll need to operate. Research the state or federal licensing or permits that pertain to your business by visiting the Small Business Administration (SBA) website. You will also need to register on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website for business taxes and applicable identification numbers, such as Employer Identification Numbers (EINs).
7. Spread the Word
Gaining exposure for your business starts with you. Even if you aren’t a fan of public speaking, starting a successful business means sharing information about your new business to anyone who will listen. As a new business owner, you should get comfortable with your sales skills and build confidence in your ability to effectively convince others to become your customer.
A powerful tactic to spread the word about your business is word-of-mouth marketing. This is a valuable marketing tool that steers customers toward your business and builds credibility. Word-of-mouth marketing entails taking steps to motivate customers to share your business or product with others.
Tips for using word-of-mouth marketing for small business include:
- Grow your business’s social media presence through advertising and effective branding
- Create a rewards program for new and loyal customers to incentivize them to partake in your business again and again
- Accentuate the importance of customer service with your staff to provide the best customer experience possible and (ideally) generate positive customer reviews
8. Know Your Target Market
In order to conduct effective marketing campaigns, you need to define who your target market is. While it may seem like a good idea to appeal to as many groups of people as possible, understanding and marketing to your target audience is essential to starting and operating a successful business.
Determine the demographic that will buy your product(s); this is your target market. For example, consider a women’s clothing boutique in a college town that carries trendy, youthful brands. This business’s target market is most likely not middle-aged men or seniors. Therefore, this business will market to female college students and younger folks because they know their marketing campaigns will be more effective with that demographic. That is their target market.
9. Study Your Competition
Do your homework on competing businesses, especially ones that are excelling in your industry. The purpose of researching your competition isn’t to imitate other businesses; it’s to draw comparisons and learn from their successes and failures to create a unique business. Understand your differences and similarities, use what makes your business stand out to create a new experience or service for customers.
Things to look for when researching your competition:
- Reviews on Yelp, Google, or social media platforms to get an idea of what customers like and dislike about the business
- Their social media accounts to try to pinpoint their target market and identify any effective branding techniques
- How you can build on what is working for them to serve your business in a fresh, new way
10. Stay Organized
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced entrepreneur, staying organized is crucial to managing the important components of your new business and ensuring its success. Building organizational skills can help make certain important steps aren’t missed and make the process of starting a business far less overwhelming.
Tips for staying organized while starting a business:
- Make a checklist of all your essential tasks
- Hire professionals to help where you are less confident
- Create a business budget
- Plan your schedule and keep track of your time
- Schedule social media campaigns in advance
- Use digital organization and productivity tools
11. Work Smarter
Understanding what actions take precedence and what can wait will greatly impact the process of starting your business. Prioritize the important tasks that are crucial to opening and operating the business to start. Once your business is up and running, focus on the less urgent tasks.
It’s a good idea to take advantage of any tools that are available to you, specifically for steps you are unfamiliar with or less confident in completing so that you can focus your energy on the other important tasks you have to accomplish. We suggest utilizing free tools such as our free logo maker and free business name generator to tackle your business to-do list will save you time and money (compared to hiring a service).
12. Know When to Ask for Help
Starting a new business is a lot of work and knowing when to ask for help is an important step in maintaining your forward momentum and avoiding burnout. Whether it’s using a professional service, calling on friends and family, or hiring a temporary employee, finding help when you need it is usually worth the cost if it helps propel your business forward.
For example, if you have trouble with budgeting and could use help creating navigating expenses, hiring an accountant or bookkeeper to help you get organized can end up saving you money by assessing what you have to spend and what you need to save. It is often much more expensive to fix a mistake than to prevent it; by asking for help when you need it, you have the potential to save money and open your business with peace of mind.