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What does it take to succeed in a small business today?

July 27, 2012

(By David Fant, chairman of SBAM’s Strategic Communications Advisory Committee. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine.)

What does it take to become a successful business? And what does it take to remain in business after the first few years? It’s an interesting question considering the fact that the SBA estimates that over 90 percent of all start up businesses fail in the first three years. I got to thinking about this fact and went back to when I started my company 22 years go. What is it that has allowed me to be a part of the 10 percent that succeed in business?

There are many reasons. Some relate to how I was raised and taught as a child. Independent, quick at problem analysis and resolution, and learning to adapt and look at problems or issues from multiple perspectives. From a business viewpoint surrounding myself with friends and advisors, vendors, clients who would help me understand what I should be doing with my business and how to become more in-tune with my customers’ needs.

What is it that allows a business exist beyond the first three years? The reality is rather simple. A successful company provides a product or service that the market needs and wants at a price they are willing to pay. Sounds simple, but with today’s competition, pricing and defining market needs and wants can be a daunting task. Interestingly enough, many businesses totally ignore outside input and totally ignore data/information that is key to the success and growth of their company. Here are some suggestions for you to consider in growing your business:

1. Set aside one day a month, no interruptions, to look at your financials, sales/expenses and research, what is happening in your industry. In which areas can you save on expenses, and what new industry trends can you implement to diversify and increase sales?

2. Subscribe to industry business magazines, and join trade associations and set aside at least one hour a week to review articles and discover new ideas that are being discussed in your industry. 

3. Once every three months, gather your staff (if you’re a company of one, go see your accountant or other business advisor) and discuss what they see may be needed or could be done to lower costs and increase sales. Remember you are not the only one in the company who see’s what’s going on in your business. Others in direct contact with clients/vendors are more in tune to what is happening than you will ever be.

4. This may be an odd suggestion, but occasionally watch TV programs such as Restaurant Impossible or Hotel Impossible. You will see so many people who didn’t pay attention to their business and who are about to lose it all if they don’t change. The key word in that last sentence is change. Always innovate, always be ready to change to meet your market needs and in order to lower costs. And most importantly, don’t quit paying attention to your customers’ comments and needs.

5. Keep an open mind and be flexible. “We can’t do that,” should never be an answer to a request for a product or service. If you can’t, find someone who can and refer the business to them. If it’s something you can do, but never have, explore this as a new product line or opportunity to pursue.

Remember, success is not an accident. It’s a well-planned journey into business that makes a company a success. Delivering high quality products and services that customers are willing to buy is the key to ANY successful business.

David Fant is the sole owner of Market Mapping plus,

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