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11 Key Lessons for Small Business Success

Posted by Alden Hui on August 15, 2019
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Experience comes from costly trial and error. Skip the costs and learn from these small business owners. This article is based on the compiled answers of entrepreneurs across the web. Here are 11 things that small business owners wish they knew before starting a business. 

1. Start with more money than you planned on using

The expectations and reality of running a business can be a stark contrast. Unexpected costs build up quite easily. When you are first beginning, it is better to be prepared with additional funds, as you will be tackling many new and difficult responsibilities.

2. The boring stuff

More than 50% of running a business has to do with operations; human resources, accounting, marketing, or advertising. These can make or break a business. That’s why they are important to understand. Many people start a business with the misconception that a great product leads to automatic sales. This is rarely the case. You can outsource the unwanted work if you have the funds, but if not, prepare to learn because pushing these things aside will be detrimental.

3. Don’t be afraid to outsource

Small business owners are often reluctant to make their first hire. As most businesses are solo ventures and independently funded, it is no surprise owners fear the worst when it comes to hiring. However, this cynical approach will harm more than help. There are millions of specialized workers out there who can provide the same service much more efficiently. This can save the owner time and stress, and not to mention, let them focus on growing the business.

For example, hiring a bookkeeper throughout the year and processing invoices as you go avoids the headache of doing it all during the year end. The same applies for accountants and marketers. The extra money can outweigh the headache and let you focus on what matters.

4. Done is better than perfect

Humans are programmed to be threat seeking creatures. Very rarely, will you focus on the opportunities. You can read and plan a million different options and still fail at the end of the day. The act of doing and failing is often better than not acting at all.

There is no secret to business. Every situation is different. Once you develop your basic understanding of business, just start doing.

5. The most important quality - perseverance

Everyone likes coming up with ideas but gives in once the real work begins. It is analogous to gym memberships. The ones who stay do so because they maintain the same level of interest after 6 months. Businesses will face roadblocks, that just comes with the territory. What separates success from failure is not giving up. It is okay to make mistakes – you never fail until you quit.

6. There are no overnight successes

Most businesses fail, and that’s the cold, harsh truth. The success stories you hear are coming from the 1% of businesses formed. Overnight successes are sensationalized stories that mislabel the months and years of hard work that came before the “big break”. You only saw the last part of their journey.

7. You can’t be everything to everyone

There are times when a customer may be asking for related products or services outside of your expertise. Although you naturally feel inclined to help, it may be best to redirect their search elsewhere or make a mental note. If enough customers inquire, then this may become a worthwhile endeavor in the future.

This concept can be applied to many different situations too. There are always difficult customers who take more from your business than you receive. Some people like to call it “firing a customer” but at the end of the day, it is severing a connection with a bad supplier or employee. This is always the last recourse, but don’t be afraid to do it.

8. Everyone makes mistakes. Just avoid the expensive ones.

Owning a business is almost indefinitely tied to change. Many businesses close or sell because owners are tired of managing change. The times when you should be most wary is when change has not occurred for some time. The key is to continue testing within your budget. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Small mistakes help you avoid the expensive ones. If you have not innovated in a while, then you are due for a sacrifice.

9. Managing Human Resources

It is difficult to hold people accountable without the correct systems in place, but at the same time many small businesses require employees to operate. Once you reach a level of scalability, you must be willing to trust your hires or scale back portions of the business.

10. Invoicing

Gone are the days of physical invoicing. Online invoicing platforms are easy, simple to use, and defeat the hassle of maintaining old records. Every B2B business (and even B2C) can find a use for online invoicing. But the benefit isn’t just for sellers – customers can pay through a variety of payment forms (credit card, PayPal, etc.) with online invoicing. All around, it’s professional and makes transactions much more efficient.

11. The product is only as good as you are

It’s not always about the product. An important factor of running a small business is also about you. How do you represent yourself? Are you taking advantage of networking opportunities in your daily life? Do you work on other facets of the business besides the product? Would you buy the product if you were a stranger receiving a sales pitch?

I hope you learned something from this post, whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur or veteran of small business.


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Topics: small business in Canada, small business resources