Small Business Success – The Top 10 Rules

1. Start with enough business capital.

Depending upon the kind of business you’re in, how big an investment it requires and how long it takes you to develop a positive cash flow, you need enough money to pay the bills until your business turns the corner. It may take longer than you think, so have a source in mind for a second round of financing, if you need it. Bear in mind that the number one reason new businesses fail is insufficient capital. 

2. Conserve your money.

Your cash is the life-blood of your business. Especially when your business is new, and you haven’t yet developed a lively cash flow, available dollars will mean the difference between success and failure. Don’t waste anything, not paper clips, not pencils, not anything at all. And when you consider a business purchase, ask yourself, “Will this help my business grow?” If the answer is yes, then ask, “What else might I buy with this money?” In other words, if you don’t need it, don’t buy it. And even if you do need it, make sure there isn’t something else you need more.

3. Sell what the market wants.

Is there really a profitable market for what you want to sell? You may think there’s a need for what you have because no one else is selling it, and perhaps you’re right. It’s far more likely, though, that it’s not being sold because no one wants to buy it. Be suspicious of a lack of competition. Even if you put together a top-flight business with a great marketing program, you simply can’t make people buy what they don’t want. If you think you can educate people to want your product, you’re wrong. The way to get your piece of the market is to sell to the market’s needs, not your own.

4. Provide good quality.

If you sell poor quality, you will forever be replacing your customer base, because people will seldom buy again from a business that sold them schlock the first time. Shabby work always comes back to haunt you, and it can take years to change your negative status in the marketplace. Good word of mouth is the best kind of advertising there is. In many businesses, new customers are primarily the result of the referrals from existing customers. A good reputation is your biggest asset. Be known for quality.

5. Give your small business your best shot.

When you start a small business, you take on all the responsibility and a huge number of tasks. There’s little room in an entrepreneur’s life for anything but his/her new business. To create a successful business, be prepared to put your heart and soul into the effort, to work long hours, and to confront and solve a myriad of problems. When the going gets tough, keep saying to yourself, “I will not be defeated. I will win.” It’s that kind of attitude that weathers difficult times, and builds successful companies. No, you don’t have to be superhuman to be an entrepreneur, but you do have to be strong. Being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone.

6. Be prepared to manage.

Know enough about the basic aspects of the business you’re in, so you don’t make serious mistakes on the big, important issues. Sure, there are stories about 20-year-old college dropouts who step into the business world with no experience, and become instant billionaires. But those are rare exceptions. Most of us need some experience before we really know what we’re doing. The point is, don’t just jump in with no background in your field, or you could quickly find yourself over your head.

7. Hire good people.

Smart, efficient employees are solid gold. They make your business run smoothly. They make you look good. They make money for you. Employees who are lazy, stupid and/or troublesome can drive you crazy, and even destroy your business. Get the best people you can afford. Take your time and be exceptionally choosy when you hire. The two most important attributes to look for are enthusiasm, and strength of character.

8. Put the latest, best technology to work for you.

Today’s most advanced technology helps you work faster, more productively and more accurately. If you spend two days doing what a computer system could accomplish in fifteen minutes, you can bet it will be difficult to outperform your competitors. Investing in old technology is always a mistake. Its useful life is shorter because it will be obsolete sooner. And old technology is often incompatible with new add-ons you may need up the road.

9. Market aggressively.

Some wise business person once said, “Nothing happens until you sell something.” Without sales, there is no cash inflow, no profit, no business. For some new entrepreneurs marketing is an afterthought, something they have to do now that they have the rest of the business put together. In fact, the proper place for marketing is at the very center of your business. It’s the key function that must be the focus of everything and everyone in the company. As the boss, it is up to you to emphasize marketing, and to make sure everyone in the company understands you’re in business to sell and to make a profit.

10. Learn the things you don’t know.

Be honest with yourself, and admit there are things about running your small business you don’t know. Probably you don’t even know what you don’t know. If you stop learning, the world will pass you by. So be curious. Search out new perspectives, and expand your base of knowledge. You will never have an answer to every question, but you will continually become a more effective manager.