by Sydney McBride |
So, you’re thinking of starting your own business?
Well, first you need a vision in order to ensure long-term success.
You need a great idea, money to execute your idea and even more time to invest in the execution and planning of your idea. In simple terms, you need to research and analyze the market into which you’re about to jump; you must know your demographic inside and out.
Once you’ve done your homework and identified the necessities to be able to open a business, everything else should just fall into place, right?
For many small businesses, failure has nothing to with a lack of planning or a lack of money. Rather, failure happens when you neglect the intangible aspects of running a business.
I’ve seen geniuses sink businesses because they thought money would keep them afloat and they didn’t focus on how to run their business from the inside out. There’s a lot to consider when starting a business, but some elements are essential and no successful business will take flight without getting them in line first.
If you strip away the tangibles, you should still be left with the following underlying characteristics — the keys to the foundation of running a great business:
As the leader, you are the core of your business and brand. Whether your business is online or at a physical location, you must humanize your brand and it must be likeable.
This is why your core is so important. If you’re the person behind the scenes, running the show, this should be easy.
You know your vision and should be able to articulate it to your employees and customers. Your life should preach your brand and message to everyone, including through your personal social media accounts.
If your business is large enough to have a management team running the business for you, make sure the right people are in the right places. You can have Excel spreadsheets full of plans, numbers, data and goals, but if the right people aren’t executing those plans, your spreadsheets will quickly become irrelevant, just like the future of your business.
Whether it is you or a management team at the helm of your business, the core leadership is the artery that pumps blood to your business’ heart.
It’s better to have a team of enthusiastic employees that need training than a team of trained employees who have no love for what they’re doing.
Everyone managing your business must know how to manage every aspect of it. This includes you; you are a janitor, a secretary, an accountant and a manager. You must be ready and willing to do it all. Even as your business grows, don’t think you’re above any job, any person or any task.
Remember to stay humble because we all know that pride comes before the fall.
Internally, the worst place a business owner can be is out of the loop of communication. Be accessible to your employees and ready for whatever may come your way.
An open line of communication can be your greatest asset when conflicts arise. Being able to quickly find important information, troubleshoot and solve problems is realistic when proper communication is present. Listen to what your employees tell you and listen to your customers.
The lessons you need to learn will keep repeating themselves until you fix the problem.
Externally, let the world hear your message! Don’t ever be afraid to shine a light on your ideas, your brand and the services your brand supplies.
By looking at your company’s website and social media accounts, it should be easy to discern your corporate philosophy, information about your company, your core values, your mission and your business philosophy.
If people have to take the time to question what you’re all about, you’re missing out on time they could potentially be shopping or spending money with you.
Believe in what you’re doing, make your mission clear and then make the world your ally.
You need customers. You need them to buy your products or services and consume your information and brand. Customers want to feel valued, and value is not an equation, statistic or price.
Know your customers. Study your customers. Love your customers. It’s that simple.
Small business owners often want to talk about “loyalty” when it comes to their businesses. They regard their customers as property and believe that if one leaves for another business, it’s an act of disloyalty.
Newsflash: Customers do not owe you anything. They are paying you for your product or service, and if your product or service is not up to par, it is not the customer’s responsibility to stay with you.
Don’t give anyone a reason to go elsewhere. Work hard and constantly strive to innovate your practices to keep up with your customers.
Getting customers in the door is one thing; retaining them is quite another matter. When someone walks into your business, it is your job to make sure the person feels welcome, becomes informed about your business and will come back for repeat service.
When I went to a new studio in town for a fitness class and was immediately greeted with cold silence from the receptionist at the front, it tainted my experience. She was my first impression of the business and her unfriendly greeting immediately turned me off.
However, I loved the class I took and the instructor was great. I had paid for a three-class trial and went back to the studio two more times to finish my package.
The front desk experience never really got better for me, but I noticed that the receptionist went out of her way to greet returning regular customers. It baffled me as to why she wasn’t showing a new customer the same level of service.
After my third class, I never heard from anyone again. There was no follow-up, no thank you and no signup from me. Customer service does make a difference and consistency is key. I subsequently purchased a three-class trial from a rival fitness studio, which offered fabulous front-desk hospitality and resulted in my signing up to be a regular member.
Businesses should always treat returning customers and new customers with the same appreciation. Kindness, warmness and a simple greeting will never go out of style.
Running a business is a balancing act. There will always be moments when you won’t feel able to do it anymore, and there will be times when you are the most unpopular person in the room.
Remember, leaders don’t always make the popular decision; leaders make the fair decision. It is your job to uphold the same standards across the board for all of your employees, customers and vendors. Being consistent and fair requires courage.
It’s hard to stand up to people, but you owe it to yourself and your business to stand up for your values and your beliefs.
Hold on to your courage and don’t ever be afraid to take a leap of faith, especially if you know that you are doing what you’re meant to do. The world needs more entrepreneurs, more dreamers and more risk takers. When you work for the dream rather than the money, the money will always follow.
Be patient with small beginnings and know that oftentimes, courage is just persistence repeated. It is possible to run a great business, but you must do it from the inside out. Take a chance because life is short and time will continue to pass whether you chase your dream or let it pass you by.