Read the full disclosure here.
This article was originally published in 2012, and updated in 2022.
Once you have your small business up and running, it is definitely not time to sit back and wait for the profits to roll in. As I have said before “build it and they will come” only worked in Field of Dreams. Once your business starts picking up, it’s easy to begin getting so overwhelmed by the work that we forget to manage the business. The goal of every small business owner should be to work ON your business and not just IN your business. Here are six rules for entrepreneurial success, that if you follow them, will help you stay on the right track and avoid that overwhelm that causes so many entrepreneurs to throw in the towel.
Pay Attention to the Details
Don’t get so busy that you let the little things slide. Make the time early in your business to develop an organizational plan that can support you in your growth. As you get too busy to do everything yourself, know what you need to outsource and delegate and do it. If you are having trouble figuring out how to delegate and release control, try reading The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. This is a great instruction manual for every small business owner. You should be controlling the essential functions of the business that match your strengths and that bring in the income and outsourcing those functions that are not the best use of your time and talents.
Keep Your Overhead Low
There is a great temptation for many new business owners to invest in the accoutrements, to have an office and all the trappings that give the image of a successful business. That money is always better spent giving the business a solid foundation than a pretty image. Save your money for essentials; cut corners on the luxuries. If you can work from home in the beginning, it can save you thousands in your first year. If your existing computer, smart phone and laptop will do the job, wait to upgrade until your business has the cash. Whenever possible, adopt a pay-as-you-go policy of investment. Avoid the temptation to use credit cards to finance your business. If you must borrow, seek out a low-interest SBA loan, but be prepared to show a solid business plan and give full financial disclosure as part of the process.
If you need some help with the nuts and bolts of business finance, I cannot recommend Profit First by Mike Michalowicz enough. This book was a game changer in my business. When I started my photography business some years ago, I was told not to expect to take a salary or have any profit for the first three years. Yes, three years! I had a hard time with that one, too, and quickly realized it was ridiculous advice. You’ll find a much more practical and reasonable approach in Profit First.
When you are in business for yourself, you need to be on top of your industry. Continual learning–and applying what you learn–is one of the essential rules for entrepreneurial success. You need to know what’s happening in the business world and you need to make sure you have the latest information available for your niche. There are many ways to keep up with the business world. Subscribe to magazines in your niche (many trade publications are free, either online or in your mailbox). Learn who the key influencers in your industry are and follow their blogs and Twitter accounts.
Find out if there are industry associations for your niche, both nationally and locally, that you can join for support and learning. Budget to attend industry conferences and conventions. You can learn more about the benefits of such training in this blog post. Read and listen to those whose advice and information you find to be worthwhile. But don’t ever be lulled into thinking you know enough.
Find a Mentor and/or Coach
Coaches and mentors aren’t just for beginners. Most CEO’s and successful business owners have coaches. Having someone to keep you accountable, to help you stay focused, to break through barriers and increase productivity are just a few of the benefits of having a coach on your business team. Coaches can provide specifically tailored individual and small-group assistance to help smooth your road to success. If you’re ready for a mentor/coach, message me here and let’s talk.
Know Your Value & Communicate It
If you do not place value on your product or service and really own that value, no one else will either. Don’t try and compete on price. Fellow photographer Blake Discher once said, “Competing on price is a race to the bottom.” Just because you’re a new business doesn’t mean your products or services need to be cheaper than your competition’s. Your pricing needs to be based on a combination of YOUR cost of doing business (which is NOT the same as your cost of goods, but we’ll discuss that in a future post) and your value. Do not underestimate the value of your time and your expertise.
You did not leave the corporate world to work for minimum wage–or less. If your job doesn’t pay as much as working in a fast-food restaurant would, you might as well go work in a fast-food restaurant and save yourself some stress. You need to make sure you are worth the price and then settle for nothing less. Learning to embrace and communicate your value is one of the rules for entrepreneurial success that many entrepreneurs struggle with.
Set Yourself Apart
Part of your business plan should include your branding. Branding is more than a logo, a color scheme and a tag line. Branding is how your business will be known. It includes your reputation, the way you do business and most importantly, your USP, which stands for “unique selling proposition.”
What is it that you do differently or better than anyone else? Are your widgets cooler, stronger, more flexible or prettier than anyone else’s? Do you have an amazing code in your web designs that make them stand out from everyone else’s? Do you have a way with words that just makes your client’s copy sing? Market that unique talent. Make sure that everyone knows what your business can do that sets you apart from your competition and why they want to do business with you. Oh, and while you’re at it, do it in a way that builds you up without tearing your competition down. It’s really not that hard and will make you much more successful in the long run.