I have been a small-business owner for approximately two years now. What a ride it’s been! The road to small-business ownership can be a rough and rocky one, but I can tell you that I have learned a great deal along the way. Here, I will share with you the top 7 habits that I have come to believe all new entrepreneurs should cultivate. There are common characteristics of successful entrepreneurs, but these tips focus on action and what you need to do to find success.
1. Focus on Customer Service
Customer service is of utmost importance to all businesses, but especially new ones. We have all experienced bad customer service – perhaps at a major retailer, perhaps from an online shop. I will never understand why these companies don’t get it: customer service is king! At the onset, building your customer base is key to the success of your small business. After having worked so hard to build this customer base, why would you do anything to jeopardize it? Take care of your customers (in fact, coddle them) in any way that you can. Don’t let them take advantage of you, but top-notch service in the beginning could very well create customers for life!
2. Market, Market, Market
In the beginning, times are going to be hard. I’ve never heard of any new business that customers just magically flocked to. You have to market. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on advertising, but you do need to be as diligent as you can with your marketing. There is too much competition out there (regardless of the business you may be in) to take any other approach.
3.”Give Them What They Want, Sell Them What They Need”
These are by far the best words of wisdom I have heard in my time as an entrepreneur. Initially, giveaways are more than likely going to have to be a part of your business plan. However, if you play your cards right, you can give your customers what they want for free, and hook them by selling them what they need. Giveaways do not have to eat up a large portion of your budget. Depending on your business, you might offer a gift card, a free e-book download, or something of that nature. Dangle that carrot in front of them as a freebie, then get them to pony up for what they need – your product or service.
4. Keep “The End” in Mind
The second best lesson I ever learned on the road to small-business ownership was, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how are you ever going to get there?” It’s tough to do in the beginning, but you should set some concrete goals for yourself. By all means, don’t make them overly ambitious or unattainable, but do put the milestones in place.
5. Track Your Progress
Once you’ve set your goals, you need to track your progress. I have noticed that a lot of first-time small-business owners fail because they do not recognize what is working and what isn’t. If you launch a certain marketing initiative, track it to monitor its effectiveness. If it’s not working after a certain period of time, then scrap it. If it works, build on it and see where it takes you. Capitalize on the things that work for you, and evaluate and revamp the ideas that don’t produce results.
6. Take Calculated Risks
In the beginning, your start-up and maintenance costs are key. Do what you can to save money by utilizing cost cutting ideas for business, and from the onset, take a prudent approach. Don’t dive headfirst into any endeavor, whether it is a marketing initiative or an investment in overhead. Dip your toe in the water, so to speak, until you get a feel for exactly what you’re doing. Later on, it will become clearer what you need to do, and you will have some experience under your belt; that is when you can become more aggressive.
7. Always Stay Positive
I have seen it with my own eyes far too many times – brand new small business owners who have great concepts but simply give up too early. Realize one thing: It’s going to be tough in the beginning. You are going to make small business mistakes and there are going to be times when you just want to forget the whole thing. But if you believe in your core ideals, and you maintain a positive attitude throughout all the trials and tribulations, chances are that you will emerge better off. Never lose your optimism, and stay upbeat during any initial obstacles you may encounter.
I am basically a brand new entrepreneur myself, and I learn new lessons every day. But the tips I have listed above all come from personal experience, and I truly hope that they can help you along your way to successful small business ownership.
Do you have any other ideas for first-time entrepreneurs? Feel free to share them below.