10 Smart Tips Every Small Business Owner Should Know
Owning a small business calls for wearing many hats and making heaps of decisions, so it’s no surprise that it can feel overwhelming and exhausting at times. Since success doesn’t happen overnight and there’s rarely a single way to do something, we asked a number of entrepreneurial women how they run their own successful show. From trusting your gut to ditching tasks you dread, they offered us 10 smart tips that’ll help you achieve your goals while growing your business.
Follow your heart.
Brianna Abrams, the founder/chief PieSmith at Los Angeles-based Winston Pies says that following your heart is essential to feeling successful and fulfilled. Recalling her own story, she explains: “I made a huge transition in my career when I decided to leave the legal profession—working as an attorney at one of LA’s largest firms—to open my own bakery. It’s easy to let doubt overshadow these large life decisions, but don’t afraid to make a change. If you’re contemplating a pivot in your career or simply want to take a new approach to managing your business, follow your heart and your passion and the rest will fall into place.”
Know your north star.
Rebecca Horan, a brand strategist, reminds us how important it is to have a north star while building a business. “Establishing your purpose, mission and values is an easy step to push to the back-burner when you’re starting and feel too busy, but it’s important to do it sooner rather than later,” she shares. “This will help you clarify what you do and why, what you hope to accomplish in the future, and what you stand for and against. This trio acts as your North Star, guiding you in every decision you make, and it helps explain your business in a succinct and memorable way to customers, future employees, potential investors and the media.”
Cultivate a solid support network.
Having a community that helps you rally and will celebrate milestones with you can have a big impact. Nicole Mason, the founder and managing member of Mason Counsel Group, explains how her network has specifically helped her as a small business owner. “I’ve found that a supportive group of female business owners—not even in the same field of business—is one of the most pivotal and foundational pieces of my success,” she says. “My ‘business besties’ have tips and insights on everything from how to improve your profits to which bags are the best to carry your files in.” Nicole credits her community with changing her personal life and her business.
Push yourself to keep learning and improving.
Nicole believes learning new skills as a small business owner is easier than ever before. “Whether it’s new branding and marketing tips, research and development for new products/services, or improving your revenue and ROI, there is always something to learn,” she explains. “With the internet, podcasts, audiobooks, there’s no excuse. You don’t have to let learning and improving eat up your life, either. Imagine where you can be next year if you improve one area of your life just 1 percent each week starting right now!”
Carrie McConkey, who owns a fashion consulting company, echoes Nicole. “Learn about your craft by studying successful business practices and those known for their great work,” she expands. “Don’t forget mentors and peers, either; surround yourself with people in different stages of their own careers who can help mentor you.”
Brianna says that like following your heart, trusting yourself goes a long way in business. “As business owners, we make countless decisions all day long,” she says. “Some are incredibly meaningful and some are more mundane, but you must always believe in your abilities. Be open to hearing other people’s feedback, but know that ultimately you know your product better than anyone else. Trust your gut.”
Confidently spread the word.
Marketing your business will be key to sharing your products or services; and while it might sound like a no-brainer, it’s an area where many people make mistakes. “You might assume that people already know what you’re doing or feel too shy and modest about your work,” Rebecca says. “The first and most obvious step, telling people, is often the hardest. However, once you do it, you’ll be shocked at how many people in your network will know someone who needs the service or product you provide.”
Carrie agrees. “Whether you own a store or work online, spending time in your community while representing your business/your brand will bring fruitful rewards. Exciting things can happen when you connect with those around you!” Not sure where to start? Carrie suggests attending relevant events or volunteering in a way that relates to your business. “Each time, commit to meeting one or two folks with whom you feel a connection. Exchange contact information, and follow up. Your efforts to get to know others and contribute to your community at large will pay off in positive exposure and a great reputation,” she promises.
Know what your weaknesses are.
“No small business owner is perfect, and most of us prefer to focus on the parts of business we like,” Kelly Anne Parker, the founder of Send Ribbon, acknowledges. “But do you know what your weakest area is? For me, it’s the numbers. While growth, sales, marketing and working with customers excite me, finance and operations aren’t my best skills.” Knowing this has helped Kelly Anne succeed. “To reach my goals, I made a commitment to expand my skills and knowledge in these departments—and to delegate the pieces of the business that aren’t my strongest suits to experts.”
Hire professionals who can help.
“These are three important areas that can make your business successful,” Nicole reminds. “Hire good people; make sure they respect you, believe in you and your business; make sure they are good at what they do.” Worried you don’t have the funds for this kind of investment? Nicole notes that because you won’t hire these professionals as employees, they needn’t cost as much you might imagine. “The big price tag doesn’t have to be the case; many people are willing to lower fees or provide deferred payment options for business owners—you just have be respectful of their time and ask nicely.”
Be proactive and persistent.
Your success as a small business owner may ebb and flow, especially in the beginning. To keep things moving in the right direction, design and photography studio owner Amy Shamblen suggests being both proactive and persistent. “Running your own business is tough stuff,” she admits. “Not getting your dream clients? Do you need more business? Don’t be afraid to reach out! The worst that could happen is someone saying ‘no’—and that’s it. Don’t fear rejection because there will be a time when someone says ‘yes’ and it changes everything for you.”
When it comes to being persistent, Amy says to set and stick with your goals. “Keep your goals in mind, stay focused and remind yourself daily why you’re doing this. Start with a larger goal work and your way down to manageable, daily lists that help you accomplish those bigger achievements. All those baby steps will lead you to success, even if it doesn’t feel like it.”
Make your customers feel special.
“Growing up in Brooklyn, I learned what it felt like when a business owner went out of their way to make you feel special,” Kelly Anne says. “Owners would remember your name and give you a grand welcome on the way into their deli, laundry mat or shop. I remember being thanked for my business and feeling so welcome when I walked in the door.” Kelly Anne says that while it’s easy to forget about this kind of personal touch online, it can be the same way. “As a new business owner, promoting this old-school style of making customers feel special and welcome was critical to our brand and design,” she explains. From handwritten notes to small gifts, acknowledging the people who value what you do can help build a loyal customer community and contribute to your success.
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