As with many entrepreneurs, I jumped into business and launched Gold Soul Candle Co. without very much knowledge of product development, marketing, financing or any of the main pillars needed to succeed. Of course the logical solution would have been to go to back to school and learn everything about business, but like many other business owners I didn’t have the time, money or wherewithal to return to the sleepless nights of graduate school. The good news for you is that since I’ve had to take a crash course in building a business through trial and error, I have been able to come up with the 5 tips for small businesses that nobody talks about.
- Things will go wrong… A lot. Don’t fixate on one issue.
The first tip that I have is to understand that that anything that can go wrong, will probably go wrong at some point in your business journey. From problems with vendors, confused customers, website issues and more, there is a lot of room for error when running a business. Since small businesses usually don’t have the staff necessary to cover these issues, as the business owner you’ll often find yourself in a constant state of blowing out flames that continuously pop up, as if you’re in an intense game of whack-a-mole. The problem is that contrary to our technique when playing whack-a-mole, which is to focus on the entire game and not give up just because we missed one mole, in business the opposite tends to happen. Small business owners can get very distracted by one problem and forget that it’s just as valuable to solve the other issues that pop up.
2. If you think your product is perfect, you aren’t being innovative enough.
As a small business owner your job is not to create a perfect product, but instead to constantly be perfecting your product. In the free market, perfect products simply do not and cannot exist. There are very select few industries in which there is no need to innovate constantly, and if you are reading this article, its likely that you are not in one of those industries. Small business owners should avoid falling into the trap of becoming so proud of their product because of press and customer reviews, that they believe that its not possible to make it better. A great example of the benefits of continuous innovation is Bill Gates, who even with a highly successful tech company like Microsoft, finds ways in which to use his skills innovate both within and outside of his company.
3. There is no short cut to building a successful business.
The internet is full of articles that claim you can make 10k in your first month of business or double your revenue every month, but the truth is that building a business is similar to a weight loss journey and not as linear as most of us hope. In simple terms, building a business is about gaining customers and increasing revenue, but the complicated part is everything else. There is the cost of customer acquisition, the need to adequately serve each customer, the overhead and expenses, and more. The key is to focus on organic growth and attempt to not get caught up in the numbers.
4. Listen to the experts.
If you are only listening to yourself and nobody else, you are most likely running your business into the ground. With all the new inventions, technology, and policies that are constantly changing there is no way for you to be your companies resident expert at everything. Instead, focus on becoming a jack of all trades and a master of one. Spend your time mastering one skill for your business, and lean on the experts for everything else. If your small business budget doesn’t have room to hire an expert, read books, read blogs, and network to keep yourself up to speed with what is happening and necessary in business.
5. Lead by example.
The last tip that nobody talks about is that even as a small business, you are seen as a leader to both your staff and customers and should act as such. We often say “when the company grows i’ll do _____” but forget that the company is growing everyday regardless of what the numbers say. You have to adopt the mindset of a large business owner, much sooner than you actually become one in order to successfully grow your business. Practice leading by becoming a mentor to your staff or other small business owners.
Overall, these tips should be able to help you somewhat maneuver the uncertainty of running a small business without a lot of background knowledge. I hope that as I continue my journey through entrepreneurism, that I can help other business owners discover some of the unknowns that they may face, and help prepare them with the tools needed to conquer them. In the meantime, the secret is simply to keep going, innovate and lead.