How to Succeed in Small Business

Updated on May 29, 2019
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I'm a freelance hairstylist in Oregon. I'm an entrepreneur at heart and I want to help you be a successful cosmetologist!

Actionable tips to ensure your small business is set up for long term success!
Actionable tips to ensure your small business is set up for long term success!

Define “Success” as a Series of Attainable Goals

While it’s extremely important to have a long-term plan for your business, it’s equally important to have a plan for how to get there. For example if you open a yarn shop and your definition of success involves selling 500 skeins of yarn per day, you will feel disappointed every single day you fail to meet this goal. However, if you define success as something more attainable, like handing out 100 business cards this week, you have both planted seeds that will grow your business over time, and set a goal that you have complete control over.

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”

— Vincent Van Gogh

Some examples of attainable goals are:

  • Sharing at least ten product samples with family and friends
  • Designing an incentive program
  • Beginning a social media campaign to demonstrate your product or service

Once you’ve broken some moderately-sized goals like these into steps you can accomplish quickly, you will be seeing success in your small business daily, rather than when the quarterly numbers are compiled. Being in the driver's seat of your success is incredibly empowering. Reframing your definition of “success” can make a huge difference when trying to keep a “marathon mindset.”

Having a marathon mindset is crucial to small business success.
Having a marathon mindset is crucial to small business success.

Have a Marathon Mindset

Succeeding in small business is a marathon not a sprint. If you are like 99.99% of small business owners, you are unlikely to strike it rich overnight. It’s only in extremely rare cases that one brilliant idea results in big money right off the bat. Most of us have to work at it for a long time before seeing a sustainable income. The first few years of a new business venture are the hardest, and they can feel like an eternity when you’re investing huge amounts of effort every single day and seeing very little return. Keeping a “marathon mindset” can help you see long term success in your small business.

Keep Track of Everything

On that note, be sure you are tracking everything; income, expenditure, inventory, receipts, mileage, business lunches, etc. You are much more likely to succeed in small business when you know where every penny goes. Sloppy book work will not only cause you frustration during tax season, but can also cause you to miss big write offs. By tracking every penny you will set your small business up to succeed in the long term.

It’s also a good idea to pay a qualified tax preparer to help you. While it is an expense, it will save you time and hassle in the long run and keep you from making any big mistakes that the IRS can come after you for later. It can also save you thousands over the years in write offs which can offset the hefty self employment tax rate.

Keep a careful log of cash flow.
Keep a careful log of cash flow.

Pay Yourself First

This popular financial planning phrase doesn’t mean “pay yourself before your employees,” or “pay yourself before you see a profit.” It means ensuring that your income continues to make you money for years to come. As soon as you start turning a profit, pay yourself first! Your small business doesn’t come with a 401k, so open an investment account and start contributing right away. This way, your earnings will continue to make you money.

Also, be sure that you are taking your income seriously. Don’t just pocket a random amount of your profit at the end of every day; give yourself an actual pay day (and a pay yourself a set rate). It will be much more rewarding to eventually give yourself a raise than to have only a vague idea of how much you are personally making from your small business.

Take Things Personally, But Not Too Personally

While you must take your product or service seriously, you will burn out quickly if you let every criticism get to you. At the same time, if display a devil-may-care attitude when client has a complaint it will come off as if you don’t care about either your product or the customer.

Have a plan in place ahead of time for what you will offer when a customer complains. Once you’ve created a grid to work through (Such as which situations should warrant a full or partial refund? etc.) you will be more prepared when the time comes and you find yourself face to face with an irritated customer.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

Literally or figuratively. If you believe in the product you’re selling or the service you’re offering, don’t be embarrassed to charge a fair price. If you cut your prices to bare minimum, you’ll not only cripple your business in terms of profit, but also undermine the believability of what you’re offering. Demonstrating that you believe in and use your product lends credibility to both you and your merchandise.

"The best things in life are free. The second best are very expensive.”

— Coco Chanel

Keep in mind that people are more likely to purchase from sources they believe to be authentic even if it means paying more. Would you seek legal advice from a lawyer who looked more like a pawn dealer? Or go to a hairstylist who who’s hair was disheveled? Probably not. What if they were experts I their field? Maybe. But you’d most likely seek out a product or service from someone who was both an expert in their field as well as who looked the part.

Never stop learning!
Never stop learning!

Master Your Craft

People appreciate expertise. This doesn’t mean you should act like a know-it-all, but you should know your product inside, outside, upside-down and backwards. Work on a method of sharing that information with your customer in a meaningful way. A customer who is empowered actionable knowledge is one who is likely to return to you.

Continuing education is also a powerful tool for small business success. Part of your profits should immediately be funneled toward a fund that you can draw from to attend conferences, webinars or classes. This will not only keep you inspired, but it will also help you stay on the cutting edge by giving you a working knowledge of the current trends and styles within your particular industry.

Actionable tips to ensure your small business is set up for success!
Actionable tips to ensure your small business is set up for success!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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