12 Tips for Running or Growing a Successful Business

When you first launch your business, your main goal is to establish your brand and start growing. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen overnight. Growth is an ongoing process that requires hard work, patience and dedication. There’s no special step or secret way to surpass other businesses in the industry or achieve immediate success.

Running a successful business takes passion, dedication, and strategy. The passion and dedication can only come from within you. The strategy, however, can be learned. Once you obtain the necessary permits and licenses, get incorporated and offer a legitimate product or service, you’re a business owner — on paper, at least. But keeping a successful business up and running is a different story.

You’ll run into roadblocks that can threaten business viability if you overlook critical administrative tasks like bookkeeping or maintaining relationships with high-quality suppliers. In fact, the top reasons for new business failure include a lack of marketing strategy, having no plan for how to scale the business to meet growing demand, or offering a poorly conceived product or service with a too-small total addressable market (TAM).

According to stats published in 2019 by the Small Business Administration (SBA), about 20% of startups fail in the first year, while half go under within five years. There are, however, proven ways to reach growth milestones that can catapult a business to success.

With that in mind, Here are some tips and tricks for keeping the lights on so you can avoid being just another statistic:

1. Hire the right people.

Before you can even think about your company’s growth trajectory, you need to have a solid staff to help you achieve your goals.

Your goals are essentially your definition of business success. There are various approaches you can take to defining them. In the context of business success, however, the SMART system is probably the most appropriate. These initial goals are just to get you started. As you start getting close to achieving them, you’ll set yourself new ones.

“Hiring the absolute best people you can is a surefire way to ensure fast growth,” said Christian Lanng, CEO and co-founder of business software provider Tradeshift. “It’s all about having the right team.”

When you have hardworking employees who are dedicated to your company’s success, your business will be better equipped for continued growth. In addition, delegating tasks to focus on important work will free up your time and energy, allowing you to perform at your best and cultivate a collaborative work culture.

2. Stay organized.

Proper documentation, time management, and automating repeatable tasks can mean the difference between boom and bust. 

Keep accurate records of business finances: Record every transaction (customer billings and vendor payments) into the proper account at least once weekly and keep an eye on the bottom line. Keep copies of all invoices, cash receipts and cash payments for bookkeeping and tax purposes. 

Set (and keep) deadlines: Stay on top of administrative tasks using project management software — this lets you set deadlines, assign tasks to employees and upload documentation to a central repository.
Plan ahead: Plan your social media campaigns in advance using social media scheduling software. Use email marketing automation to follow up with new leads. Use Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams for quick communication with your team. If something can be explained in an email, you don’t need to have a meeting about it.

3. Create a written plan

Your why is your starting point and your goals are your first milestones. Your business plan sets out the path you believe will take you from your starting point to those milestones. Write down your plan in as much detail as you can, then conduct a thorough SWOT analysis on it. Ideally, ask someone you trust for an independent second opinion.

If you identify weaknesses and threats in your plan, then try to address them before you even start your business. If you can’t, then start addressing them as soon as you possibly can afterward.

In particular, make it a priority to deal with anything which may limit your ability to make and receive payments. For example, if you’re setting yourself up as a limited company, apply for a business bank account as soon as your incorporation is confirmed. Likewise, if you’re planning on using a payment processor get your account(s) set up as quickly as you can. You’ll probably have to go through some kind of verification process before you can actively use the account(s), and you may need time to familiarize yourself with the system.

4. Reduce your risks.

Risk is an inevitable part of starting and growing a business. It’s impossible to control everything, but there are many ways to limit internal and external threats to your company and its growth. One important resource to help you accomplish this is your business insurance provider.

“Small businesses need to manage their growth to avert disruptions that can bring business to a grinding halt,” said Mike DeHetre, senior vice president of underwriting and insurance at Preferred Mutual. For example, “the theft of employee data, customer records, and product designs can destroy a small business, generating significant costs and eroding customer confidence and loyalty,” he said. “Not every business owner’s policy covers data breaches or other cyber losses. Small businesses should be prepared by seeking insurance products that help them recover, including those that cover the cost of remediation and lawsuits.”

As your small business grows, you may add space or equipment, create new products or services, or increase your operating and distribution footprint. Therefore, DeHetre recommended reviewing your policy periodically to ensure you have the right coverage.

“It’s easy to forget this step amid rapid expansion, but you don’t want to find out that you’ve outgrown your coverage just when you need it the most,” he said.

5. Protect your intellectual property.

Intellectual property consists of the intangible assets — trademarks, copyrights and patents — that differentiate your ecommerce business from any other. 

For a small business, this means protecting things like designs, business ideas and trade secrets. If a competitor tries to copy your product, they can erode your market share and damage your reputation. If you decide to register a trademark or apply for a patent, it’s best to seek an attorney’s help to make sense of the legalese and avoid making minor mistakes (eg: omissions in descriptions or drawings, missing deadlines) that can result in your request being denied. 

6. Invest in yourself.

In the early stages of your business, you’ll likely see a very lean profit margin (or no profit at all), so any money you make should go directly to helping your business grow.

“A startup’s ability to invest in itself [helps] accelerate growth,” Lanng said. “In those early years, it’s critical to make sure that you’re redirecting any revenues back into the company. It’s vital to invest early and heavily in order to grow quickly.”

While it might be tempting to pocket all of your profits, it’s better to invest in your business’s growth so you can reap bigger benefits later. Determine which parts of your business need more attention. For example, do you need to hire more workers, expand your marketing efforts, or secure additional funding? When you find a crucial area that needs improvement, give that area your financial support.

7. Always think ahead.

While agility is an important quality for a startup, you can’t fly by the seat of your pants when you’re running a business. Planning your next step — in anticipation of all possible scenarios — is the best way to stay grounded and secure as your business evolves.

Thinking ahead is broad advice, but it can be as simple as reviewing all ongoing contracts, like comparing rates with the best credit card processors and seeing if you can negotiate a better deal.

8. Boost your customer service.

In most industries — especially retail — businesses compete on the customer experience rather than the product. Make it easy for your customers to get in touch with a real human on social media, messaging apps, email or even by phone.

Remember, a small business should be accessible. There is no excuse to present like a faceless corporation. If orders take time to fill or you’re creating a custom item, keep your customers informed of the process and manage their expectations accordingly.

If customers do complain, use active listening to understand their pain points, investigate the root cause and offer a resolution that matters to them.

Another great method of growing your business is to focus on providing superior customer service. When you exceed customers’ expectations, they are likely to tell their friends, family and followers about your business.

When you go the extra mile, such as by offering discounts if a customer has a poor experience or following up to ensure a client was satisfied with your product or service, you establish a reputation for great customer service. [Make sure you have the best business phone system for your customer service team.]

9. Deliver unforgettable experiences.

Great customer service increases the lifetime value of your customers and helps attract and retain new customers. In fact, 86% of consumers say a good customer experience can turn them from one-time buyers to loyal customers.

Also, manage people’s expectations. You’re a small business with limited resources and scalability. You probably can’t offer 24/7 customer support or a two-day turnaround on a custom item. What you can do, however, is resolve issues expediently, deliver a consistently great product and provide personalized support.
10. Practice corporate social responsibility.

Consumers want to buy from businesses that are passionate about causes that help make the world a better place. Whether you donate to cancer research or support a nonprofit such as a homeless shelter, look for ways to contribute meaningfully to the causes you support, and share that with your customers.

You could publicly express your support to underserved communities, donate to various organizations, offer your time to fundraisers, and provide sustainable products to help the environment. There are many ways to be socially responsible as a business; find a few that work for you.

11. Research your competitors.

Although it might not elicit immediate growth, researching your competitors is one of the most important first steps in launching your business. Ask yourself who your competitors are, what they’re doing (that you’re not doing) that works for them, and how you can differentiate your business from theirs. The answers to these questions will help you form a more productive business strategy that defines the areas of your business that require more attention.

How to measure business growth

There are a few factors to examine to gauge your business’s growth. Depending on your goals, you may prefer one factor over another, but analyzing them in context with one another can give you the clearest picture of how well your business is scaling.

Revenue: Revenue is a go-to metric in establishing business growth; after all, it’s the amount of money your company is bringing in. Revenue growth over time can be good, as it generally means you’re making more sales or higher-value sales. However, it’s important to balance revenue with expenses, because making more often means spending more.

A more important indicator than revenue is profit, which is what your company has netted over the course of a given period. When it comes to profit, a positive growth rate is great, but it doesn’t always tell the whole story. If your profit margin is healthy, even a flat profitability year over year might not be bad. But for new businesses, quick profitability growth should be a key focus.

Market share:
Market share describes how dominant your business is in its space compared with competitors. For new companies breaking into an industry, growing market share rapidly is a major concern. Without gaining a significant foothold against your competitors, it will be hard to drive sales to grow revenue.

Customer acquisition: One of the best ways to grow market share is by focusing on lead generation and sales volume. By getting your brand in front of potential customers and then converting them to make a sale, you can grow your company’s market share and revenue at the same time.

Customer retention: Acquiring new customers helps you gain market share only if you retain those customers, so focusing on customer retention and improving this metric over time is also key to monitoring the growth of your business.

Team size: Growing your team is a significant expense, but the size of your team also represents how much you can do. Balancing a team that can meet operational needs with the payroll budget is a key challenge for every entrepreneur, so monitoring the growth of your team over time is particularly important.

Successful small businesses are run by passionate entrepreneurs who also possess strong business acumen. To maximize your chances of success, keep accurate records of all transactions, cut costs wherever possible (without sacrificing product quality) and focus on providing an outstanding customer experience. Successful businesses offer products and services that ease a pain point, solve a problem or serve a passion. 

One of the most helpful things a business owner can do is write a business plan. This document lets you define the scope of your business needs, startup costs and the target market.

In this way, would-be entrepreneurs can evaluate the viability of their business idea without sinking time and money into starting a business that will not succeed. 


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