8 Top Business Tips for Success

Tips for Business SuccessIntroduction:

I read an article recently about a guy with a college degree who was feeling disillusioned because he couldn’t find a job. At least not one that met his expectations relative to the type of job he felt his degree merited.

Well it’s a tough world out there, as I’m sure you know only too well dear reader, and despite what some people may think, the world doesn’t owe us a living. The world owes us nothing and it’s down to us to make a life for ourselves.

Work is just doing stuff for other people in return for money and there will always be people with stuff that needs doing. So rather than seeking a job, perhaps we’d all be better off if we focused on seeking customers for the services we could provide.

That’s at the heart of what business is all about, providing people with solutions to their problems for profit, and there is much to be said for becoming an entrepreneur.

The advantages of self-employment:

There are many advantages to being self-employed.

For instance, not having to deal with office politics is a big advantage for a start.

And of course being the beneficiary of all of the proceeds of your efforts is another good reason.

Instead of making a lot of money for other people, you make it all for yourself. The harder you work the more you make for yourself too.

Unless you’re a lawyer or an investment banker, the chances are the only way you’ll ever make serious money is through building your own business. Building a business that one day you’ll be able to sell for a lot of money.

However remember this; you might think that if you’re self-employed then you’re your own boss. Well that’s not true. The customer is the boss.

Serve customers badly and you won’t be serving them for very long, that’s for sure.

The first rule of business is that you must ‘know thy customer’.

You must gain a deep understanding of the products, services and marketing that will appeal to your target customer.

One size will not fit all and each market will require a different approach.

Now going into business is not for the faint-hearted. You must be prepared to work very hard, at least in the early days.

However, if you can provide your target customers with real solutions to real problems then you can make serious money.

If someone else is already offering a solution to the target problem then your solution must be better than theirs in some way if it is to sell.

Creating great products and offering great customer service is the route to business success. However never forget your reputation and image. These things matter too.

Make sure you create an image that will appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Running your own business will be a challenge but it can also be extremely rewarding, both financially and in terms of a sense of achievement.

Remember also that running a small business is not a whole lot different to running a large business. The only real difference is one of scale. The key issues are always the same.

So here are some tips for would-be entrepreneurs:-

Business Tips for Success:

1. Control your costs:

Money comes into your business and money goes out. It’s that simple.

However fail to ensure that the former is always greater than the latter and trouble will follow at some point, whatever the size of your business.

A bigger business might be able to weather the storm a bit longer but the consequences of expenditure consistently exceeding income will be the exactly same. Keep losing money and eventually your business will go bust.

Take every opportunity to maximize your revenue and always keep your costs as low as you can. And never, ever lose sight of cash flow.

Don’t spend money unless it is absolutely necessary.

Ask yourself, do I really need to spend this money? What will I get in return? Can I achieve the same result at less or even no cost?

It might surprise you to learn how frequently it is possible to avoid cost, whilst still doing all the things big businesses do.

The key message here is that you must keep an iron-grip on costs and you must manage the flow of money carefully.

2. Do your own market research:

Every product should solve a problem for your customer and you should have some idea of what that problem is and how your product will solve it relative to the products offered by your competition.

Just because you think you’ve got a great product, doesn’t mean you have in the eyes of customers. Your opinion means nothing if there are not enough people willing to buy your product at the price you’re trying to charge for it.

If your product won’t sell then potentially your business could be in trouble.

Perhaps you think you’ve spotted a gap in the market?

If it’s a genuine gap then you might be on to a winner. However a gap in the market doesn’t always guarantee that there is a market within that gap. Maybe there’s a reason for the gap which you’ve yet to understand.

In business, the trick is to find out what people really want and then offer it to them.

How do you find that out?

One very good way is simply to ask them yourself.

I’m not referring to your family and friends here. They’ll be far too polite to give you any meaningful feedback.

You must talk to real customers, if and when you have them, and potential customers.

You can conduct some of your own market research in your local shopping mall or wherever you think your target customers might congregate. And don’t be shy. Only by actually talking to people can you confirm whether your ideas have real potential.

So identify some basic questions, stand there with a clipboard and just start asking people, as politely as possible.

Often they’ll be far more helpful than you might expect.

And don’t forget you can always use the Internet too.

Search engines like Google have keyword search tools which are free to use. These tools allow you to get a ‘rough and ready’ measure of what people are searching for and how frequently.

Market research doesn’t have to be expensive. As a small business entrepreneur it is possible to do it yourself. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on this activity but it’s essential that you do it.

Your results might not be quite as scientific as those produced by the professional market research people but they will provide you with a rough guide and that’ll be good enough in the first instance.

3. Advertising costs money: is there a better way?

It’s true that visibility matters. For your business and your products it’s essential.

Your products might be the best in the world but they won’t sell at all if potential customers have no idea they exist. Surely that much is obvious.

The question is, how does any business ensure that customers have visibility of its products? The obvious answer is advertising of course.

However media advertising can be very expensive and it’s a cost which new businesses often cannot afford.

One small advert in the back of a glossy magazine can cost you a lot of money and yet you have to ask yourself whether that would be money well spent?

How often do you notice the small advertisements in the back of a magazine? In my case, the answer is not very often.

With so many advertisements competing for my attention I tend to filter them all out. I’m willing to bet that you do too dear reader.

So, if you’re not careful, money spent on advertising can be money wasted in my experience.

A better approach might be to use some creative thinking with a focus on public relations.

Smart entrepreneurs know that business is show business. It’s all about getting noticed.

For example the entrepreneur Richard Branson is a brilliant exponent at getting media attention at little or no financial cost to his business.

It helps that he’s a likeable guy of course but he’s also clever and creative in his approach.

If you have an interesting back story perhaps the local press, local radio or even television might be willing to run a story on you and your business and the products you have to offer?

Social media can be a very powerful medium for gaining attention for your business too.

Social media is also a useful way of driving traffic to your company’s website, particularly Pinterest which is an incredible tool.

Then there’s using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques on your website content to ensure you drive traffic to your site from the search engines.

Let’s face it you do need to appear on the first page of a Google search if there’s to be any chance of anyone noticing you and your business. However if you can make that happen you can get enormous amounts for traffic from Google and other search engines, like Bing and Yahoo.

Make sure you offer visitors to your company website the opportunity for signing up to a regular email newsletter. And give them an incentive to sign up.

This could be a free report or perhaps a discount code for one of your products.

How about running a competition using your company’s fan page on Facebook or your company website?

The price of say a smartphone or a Kindle or other electronic device as a prize would be cheaper than the cost of a small advert in a glossy magazine but it’s more likely to get noticed and it’ll probably generate a lot more excitement.

If you have a car or van; don’t forget that it can be emblazoned with your company logo, your website details and product information on the back, sides and front. Even on the roof.

It would be free advertising as you’re driving around.

Park your vehicle at a big event attended by thousands of people and you’re beginning to master the art of guerrilla marketing.

The bottom line is that creative thinking and public relations can produce powerful results in your quest for visibility at a fraction of the cost of advertising. The key message is; be creative.

4. Don’t make yourself indispensable:

The biggest mistake any entrepreneur or business manager can make is to think that every decision should be made by them.

If you’ve started a business from scratch you tend to form an emotional bond with it. It becomes your baby and you become very protective of it.

That’s natural of course but as the business grows you’ll have so many things to do that you couldn’t possibly do them all. You could try, of course. However if you try to do everything you’ll find yourself falling behind in key areas like product sourcing, sales and keeping your accounts up to date.

Fall behind and it becomes very hard to catch up. Potentially it is also very damaging for the business.

So you have to learn the art of delegation.

A good start would be to document every task and process within the business and then create an Operations Manual. This can include everything from the preferred method for answering the phone to completing invoices and dealing with complaints.

It can also include the degree of flexibility which you are delegating to staff, so they can get on with basic tasks allowing you to get on with those activities which are much more important for achieving business success.

No business should be dependent solely on one person.

If it is and that person gets seriously ill or has an accident then obviously the business would be in trouble very quickly and it would struggle.

Delegate basic activities to your staff and you can be sure that the business will continue to function even when you’re not around.

It will also give you a bit more thinking time for steering to the company towards bigger and better things.

The key message here is that you must delegate. Never delude yourself into thinking that only you can do a particular task.

5. Charge sensible prices:

It’s easy when you’re a small business to undervalue your products and your time. The result is that you undercharge for what you have to offer.

This is particularly true when professionals are selling their expertise and time on the basis of a consultancy arrangement.

It’s common for first-timers to lack the confidence to charge what they might perceive to be a high rate for their services.

The problem is that selling things cheaply can be counter-productive because customers then think they’re getting an inferior product or service and can be put off.

It is a fact that price can often be used as a proxy measure for quality when your business is being judged.

You have to be very business-like when considering the pricing of your products and services.

So look at what your competitors are charging and then analyse where you think your products and services fit into the market.

If you struggle with that idea then you can always seek guidance from someone else, like a fellow business owner or your accountant.

However you must always remember that you must believe in your products and services. If you don’t then why should anyone else?

You must project confidence.

If you don’t have the courage of your convictions then the chances are that your business will never succeed.

Believe in yourself and charge what you’re really worth. Sell yourself on the basis of the value you bring.

6. Make the best use of technology:

Sometimes small business owners think that because they are small they can act in a small way. However that can be a mistake.

Don’t be afraid to invest in your business. For instance investing in up-to-date technology like the right phone system and websites do not have to be expensive but they can be the difference between a customer contacting you or not.

These days no business, large or small, can operate without a website.

And that website needs to be as user-friendly as it possibly can be.

Make sure your website provides customers and potential customers with the opportunity to sign up for a regular email newsletter. And as suggested earlier, offer them encouragement so they do sign up.

Ensure also that your telephone system allows customers to reach you at their first attempt. Certainly customers won’t make too many attempts to call you before they will simply go elsewhere.

If you don’t know how to do all this yourself then go on a course or seek guidance from someone with the right expertise.

Good communications will pay handsome dividends over time.

7. Set goals:

You have to know what it is you’re trying to achieve, if you are to have any chance of successfully achieving it.

Never set your sights too low either. Set yourself a challenge and then put all your energy into achieving it.

Once you’ve set a goal then you need to establish a plan as to how it is going to be achieved.

For instance if your goal is to achieve a certain level of turnover over the next year, you have to break that down into the small steps you will need to take for it to be achieved.

How many sales will you need to achieve each day, each week and each month?

What implications will those sales targets have for production?

Do you have enough sales staff to generate that amount of business?

And so on.

Always create a plan and review it regularly making adjustments as and when necessary.

8. If you got a great idea then do something with it:

How many great ideas never see the light of day because the person with the idea fails to do anything about it?

And how many times does someone with an idea see someone else come along with the same idea and beat them to market?

Procrastination stops many entrepreneurs from cashing in on a great idea. Don’t let this be you.

If you’re waiting for the perfect time to do anything you will be waiting for the rest of your life.

Now is always the perfect time.

Don’t wait until you think the economy will be better or your children have left home or some other arbitrary barrier.

The right time to start your business is right now.

So go for it. Yes you’ll make mistakes. You won’t get everything right first time. You won’t become an instant millionaire either.

However by getting started you will be heading in the right direction and you will learn along the way.

Hard work combined with implementing good ideas will get you there eventually.

Concluding Remarks:

I hope these tips prove useful to you dear reader.

It was not intended to be a comprehensive guide for entrepreneurs and I recognise that you may many of your own ideas.

I love to hear them, so please feel free to share them with our readers.

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