Having and running a successful business is the goal of entrepreneurs and business owners. While success is often a relative term, we know that entrepreneurs start their business with a specific goal and a vision and it is when they reach that goal that they are “successful”. It could be $1M in gross revenue or donating to charity but each business owner has their own metrics and definition of success and we wanted some tips on how to become successful. We asked some entrepreneurs and business owners what their advice was on running a successful business.
1) Own Your Idea & Believe
In order to be successful entrepreneurs need to completely own their idea and believe in it. If you don't believe in your idea/business you are going to fail. Another aspect of great importance is to know your audience. Think like your audience; consider their wants, needs and how using your product benefits them. If you can answer the question “Why do I need this product/service?” admirably, and come to an honest conclusion, you are on your way to becoming a successful entrepreneur”..
Thanks to Nabeel Mushtaq, AskforTask.com!
2) Helping the Customer
When it comes to making your business successful it really comes down to one thing: helping the customer. Let's face it, you don't need to be first: Microsoft didn't make the first OS or word processor, Apple didn't make the first mobile device. You need to be better, 10x better, to help the customer in a way that matters. So how do you deliver 10x value? 1) Identify your customer: Who is your product or service for? Are you targeting a particular industry? Role? Consumer? Building out some segments and picking which ones are best for you is a key first step in the process. 2)Get feedback: Once you know who you're building for, talk to them. This can help you figure out ways to add more value and also helps you get the most bang for your buck. If I know what's most important to my customer I can figure out where I get the most benefit/money. 3) Iterate: Will it be perfect the first time around? Not even close, but good products/services reinvent themselves. You can too! Make improvements for your customers and see what's next. If items pop up that you can't get to right now feel free to add them to a delivery roadmap.
Thanks to Sean Higgins, ilos Videos!
3) Become Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
With economic hardship becoming more and more of a reality for the average American, the risk of entrepreneurship and having a successful business is great. More people are taking the mainstream path to “play it safe,” while only few are taking risks to find true success. Finding independence as a teen allowed me to create my own path rather than diving down the path of least resistance, a path that is often within a certain area of comfort. I've been lucky enough to realize my passion and create a road of my own resistance, becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable and differentiating myself from “average.” I would encourage others to do the same. Distinguish who you are and what sets you apart, and forge your own pathway to success.”
Thanks to Daniel “D” Katz, D's Naturals!
4) Flowers is our Secret Sauce
As a 25-year-old business we learned a lesson that amplifies creativity. ScanMyPhotos.com, the Ecommerce photo digitization company shifted all advertising and marketing costs to simply buying flowers. Each day, as customers rave about having us digitally preserve their nostalgic photo memories, we respond with same-day delivery of FTD flowers. Customers who needed pictures for a memorial service, special anniversary or simply for sharing their story with us are stunned to open their front door to a magnificent floral display. That's how to dazzle and boost unparalleled word-of-mouth advocacy for ScanMyPhotos.com.
Thanks to Mitch Goldstone, ScanMyPhotos.com!
5) Big Risks for Great Rewards
Essentially entrepreneurs should be the first to run and jump off a cliff and build a parachute on the way down. Do it fast with action on the first thought or idea so you don't overthink it and talk yourself out of it wasting a great opportunity. Building a successful business means stepping out of your current market and comfort zone into bigger markets. Because it is all about taking big risks for great rewards. That can be national and even better international. Building and having a successful business means leveraging your network for contacts referrals and joint venture partnerships. Build your online presence and make your business and brand stand out as the “go to” company to work with. This is how I did it.
Thanks to Kisha Mays, Just Fearless LLC!
6) Knowing Our Audience
Our product doesn't appeal to everyone, so it's important that we're targeting the right people in the right place with our limited budget. We've been working with the rich blogosphere to help get our message out to the 25-45 crowd and careful to craft our language to be fun and flirty. We know our customer is smart so we built our product to last. We felt we'd gain more sales from positive word of mouth than by repeat buyers and from feedback, we were right. Our customer is also coming to us because they are budget-minded, so we included shipping. If you don't know all of the details about your audience, it's impossible to meet their needs with confidence.
Thanks to Shari Deutsch, The Strap Saver!
7) Surround Yourself with a Great Team & Communicate
At TechnologyAdvice, having constant communication with our team – especially our management team – helps us determine what is working, what is not, and what changes we can make. To effectively start and grow a business, it's necessary to establish ways to clearly identify gaps in departments and bottlenecks in workflow or production. For us, it's been placing people I trust in leadership roles that reflect their strengths and expertise, and then relying on them to be open and honest in their assessment of their teams and the challenges they're facing. This trickles down to your hiring process by determining what positions you need to create, or what types of skills you need to recruit. We designed our own 13-step process for defining, creating, and hiring a new position.
Thanks to Rob Bellenfant, TechnologyAdvice!
8) Be Inquisitive with Users
We have a growing tech company, ShuttleCloud, and there are few things we've learned while growing our business. The biggest lesson, by far, is to be very inquisitive with your current or potential users. This is commonly known as customer development and is an essential part of understanding how you current or planned product meets the needs of your target audience. Often people starting a business search for confirmation of their assumptions – it is a natural inclination to want the reassurance that your ideas are also held by others. However, that almost always spells disaster for a fledgling business – understanding the flaws of your business model and product is the most valuable data you can glean from your users. So, understanding those user insights will help you shape your product, pricing and positioning to grow your business.
Thanks to Bob Greenlees!
9) You're Either Growing or Dying
In business you are either growing or dying! Unfortunately most businesses don't know this. So they are dying while thinking that they are existing. In order for your business to grow, you must understand the 7 fundamentals of business growth. These fundamentals can be summarized in 2 sentences. The first sentence is this. “There are only 3 functions of business. The second is that there are only 4 ways to grow a business. While these may be the abbreviated versions of these principles they cannot be ignored by any business of any size that is serious about business growth! The 3 functions of business are as follows: 1) Innovation 2) Marketing 3) Money Management. When you ask business owners, which of the 3 is the most important? Most business owners get it wrong twice before settling on the correct answer which is “Marketing” (which is at least 3 times more important than the other 2). With the 3 functions of business firmly under our belt, we must then look at the only 4 to grow a business! They are as follows: 1) Increase the number of customers 2) Increase the amount each customer spends 3)Increase the frequency that each customers spend 4) Spend 80% of your marketing efforts attracting best buyers.
Thanks to Myron Golden, Myron Golden Enterprises!
10) Understanding Market Positioning
I think that understanding your positioning within your market place is key. In order to differentiate from competitors, it's important to understand who your competitors are and how you are different. Anyone involved in your business or using your business will always be interested in what makes you the best choice. However you can't even begin to educate consumers, craft your marketing material, or complete an analysis for investors until you fully understand the landscape you are in.
Thanks to Abigail Mason, Hey Abigail!
11) Listen to Customers
My best advise for other entrepreneurs would be to listen to your customer!!! If they have questions about your products and send an email, respond immediately. If they have an inquiry about their order, even if you just sent the shipping confirmation, reply as if it's not a bother and sincerely answer their question. If they email you with how much they love your product, don't ignore it, reply and tell then how glad you are that they are happy. If they don't like it, ask how you can improve your product to better fit their needs, and let them know you'll put it into consideration. Your customers want to be heard, and in a timely manner. If you send an email response immediately back, they are going to feel like they are a priority to you and your business, which they should be. Even if they aren't satisfied with their purchase, they will appreciate your ability to connect back with them, they just want to be heard. This also helps with gaining loyal customers. You bet they will be telling their friends and family members how great it was to work with your business, and most importantly, they TRUST you. Word of mouth is the best advertisement and trust can never be bought.
Thanks to Lindsay White, Lot801!
12) Listen Your Way to The Answer
Rather than “pushing” a product or service on to a customer, be interested in them. If you are serving other businesses (B2B), then ask good questions about their business and what makes it successful. Figure out how you can contribute to that success. If you are serving consumers (B2C), take a personal interest in your consumers and their interests and ensure to keep track of these so you can mention them when you follow-up. Actively listening with your eyes, ears, and heart, enables you to pay close attention to your customer and what's important to them. The ability to build trust quickly through open-ended questions, effective nonverbal gestures (including smiling, eye contact, head nodding, leaning forward), and verbal gestures such as paraphrasing is essential in building relationships with your customers.
Thanks to Celia Szelwach, Gift of Words!
13) The Worth of a Single Customer
Realize the worth a single customer has to growing your business. For example, if you have one customer that makes a positive referral to a person that would not have been a customer without the referral, that referring customer saved you the cost of acquiring that new customer — no direct marketing was needed on your part as the business. Imagine if that first customer was able to refer two customers to your business, and they, in turn, referred two more. That first customer’s positive referrals just made an impact in saving your company money from direct marketing. Grow your business successfully by harnessing the power of word-of-mouth.
Thanks to Chris Cooper and Charlie Turner, GWIG!
14) Run a Marathon
Being an entrepreneur is a long-term lifestyle change. Most successful companies that go from an idea to some form of exit (i.e. IPO, purchase) take 10+ years regardless of what you hear in the press. It is a marathon plain and simple. If you come up with a sprint you will be finished before you are even started. Being an entrepreneur takes a toll on you: physically, mentally and spiritually and you need to make time to maintain all three areas of your life or you will burn out. Make time to spend time to exercise. Make time to spend with your spouse, friends & family there will always be another meeting or another report to build. Make time for a vacation to disconnect and recharge your batteries. If you treat being an entrepreneur like a fun, dynamic marathon you will be well on your way!
Thanks to Paul McTaggart, Dental Departures!
15) Invest in Your People
The best advice I can give someone running a small business is to invest in your people. It may mean some short term sacrifice, but the long term benefits include increased loyalty, a culture of continual improvement and obviously a team that is better equipped to help grow your business. Investing in people may take the form of putting them through formal training, but could also just be a time-investment whereby you commit your time and energy towards showing them how to do things better, differently or just trying to transfer some of your stronger skills on to them. When employees want to continually improve and grow and they know you are committed to helping them do that, that improvement, growth and energy will be put back into the business. The most promising, talented and loyal members of your team will give you a base to build your business around.
Thanks to Shashi Hansjee, Entelect!
16) Simply Living the Image & the Lifestyle
I make business successful simply by living the image and lifestyle that sparked my products and services. I write books for and own a publishing company about spirituality because being spiritual is a tremendous part of who I am, I founded an organic skincare company because I use and treasure my own personal skincare regimen every day to the point where I now share it with others, I created a wellness practice to inspire others to live the healthy lifestyle family and I live. I love who I am and my companies are based upon my lifestyle so naturally I genuinely love what I do, which naturally compels others to want to do business with me. Love what you do, be what you present in your business or quit what you do to find your passion. That is what many other successful entrepreneurs have done too. I've found my true business motivation and passion, and if you haven't found yours already, I hope you someday will too.
Thanks to Stephanie Adams-Nicolai, GODDESSY!
17) Surround Yourself
Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. One may have a lot of business experience and talent, but he must always be open to learning more from others. Build a Board of Directors that come from similar industries that can share their experiences of successes and failures in order to help your company prepare for what may lie ahead.
Thanks to Hamilton Powell, Crown & Caliber!
18) Plan & Prepare
Do not fall in love with your 1-3 year business plans. There are only two time-frames that matter: 90 days and 10 years and nothing in between. Your 90-day plan is data driven and you’re focused on overcoming the chokepoint. The 10-25 year plan is driven by your vision and mission. As long as you stay focused on those two paths, there’s little need to focus on a 3-year plan.
Thanks toMJ Pedone, Indra Public Relations!
19) Feeling Good About What We Do
As co-founders of a burgeoning social mobile app for fitness, the key to our success is feeling good about what we are doing every day and keeping it fresh and new. We are actually lucky because our app motivates and inspires people to get fit (Think Instagram+Pinterest dedicated exclusively to fitness). Since we launched the social platform two months ago, the community has grown like wildfire, as our users have discovered a safe and authentic space to share their fitness journey including their fitness goals, progress, challenges and struggles. Accordingly we are always meeting new people in the fitness industry whether it be nutritionists, athletes, coaches, studio instructors, bloggers and fitness fanatics. Every day feels fun and different. We also feel like we are helping people with their fitness struggles and providing them with a much needed forum to maintain healthy lives which makes our job rewarding and exciting.
Thanks to Anna Kohanski Mason & Monica Mange Johnson, BurnThis!
20) Dare to Think Big
Try this little experiment. Ask several successful people about their career goals — and you’ll find an amazing number of people who achieved exactly what they set out to accomplish. If it was “six figures” – that’s what they earn. If $75,000 was the goal, they hit it. I promise you that if they set their sights on $200,000 that’s what they’d be earning. Most of us are very limited in our view of success. Set your sights high.
Thanks to Chad Hallock, Budget Blinds!