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2019

If you want your business to succeed, you have to work hard. You have to hustle and grind. You have to burn the midnight oil, give up your weekends, and wave goodbye to your hobbies. While you’re building your business, you have to assume that that business will be your life. It’s going to be a long, hard slog.

 

This is the message we hear so often. We hear it so much that we assume the only path to success lies through sacrifice and sadness.

 

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It doesn’t have to be that way.. For many incredibly successful people, it isn’t that way.

 

Some of the biggest successes I’ve had have come while developing products where the process was so much fun that my team and I barely knew we were working.  We didn’t stay late at the office. We didn’t burn through weekends or miss school concerts to attend boring meetings. We just focused on enjoying ourselves and making something that we thought had a viable market.

 

We believed that a product that was fun to make would be even more fun to use. And we were right.

 

The same principle applies to every business and field. You don’t have to choose between enjoying yourself now and achieving success in the future. You can have both.

Start by finding the thing you love to do. That might not be the highest paying thing you could do, but as long as it pays your bills and puts a roof over your family’s head, it is the thing you should do.

 

Identifying that activity isn’t as easy as it sounds. Because we assume that work is hard, and fun isn’t work, we don’t always see the activities we enjoy can also become sustainable businesses. If you have doubts start slowly. Test the ground by selling your cupcakes at a food fair and checking the feedback, or by trying out a stand at an art fair. The more you sell, the more experience you’ll build and the greater your confidence will become.

 

You don’t have to rush into the business. Do it at a pace that feels comfortable.

 

You can also learn to say “no.”

 

So much of the work we do is work for others that we’d prefer not to do. Sure, you have to keep your customers happy, and it’s important to show your dedication sometimes. But the penalty for declining to take work that pays little and delivers large amounts of frustration is often much smaller than you’d think. It’s often a price you’d be more than willing to pay.

 

It’s not easy to say “no” to work. But once you start doing it—and your business life starts getting better—you’ll find it becomes easier to do.

 

But the most important way to build a business that compliments the life you enjoy is not to worry about the stuff that other people are doing.

 

Part of being in business is being in competition. But being the best isn’t the same as making the most sales, landing the largest number of new clients, working the most hours, or growing at the fastest rate. Its also about enjoying your life as much as you can.

 

Some other entrepreneur might appear to be more successful than you. They might appear to be taking on more staff, spending more on advertising, and building up a bigger following. But if they’re working more hours, spending less time with their families, and enjoying themselves less, then you’re coming out ahead.

 

Your business doesn’t have to be your life. But the two will always be connected. As long as you enjoy your business, you’ll be enjoying your life and doing good stuff.

 

 

About Joel Comm

 

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As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Joel Comm to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Joel Comm is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Joel Comm. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Is your small business (or your dream of starting one) on the right track? Whether your business is still in the planning stages or is a well-established venture, having a long-term vision for your business is essential to moving it forward.

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How can you achieve your loftiest plans? Follow these six steps.

 

Step 1: Clarify your business vision

 

The term visionmay conjure up images of a distant, hazy landscape. But if you want to achieve your business vision, you must  be crystal clear on what it is. Start with a “brain dump” of what you want for your business within the next one, three and five years (or even further out). Your vision might be revamping your brand, expanding to an entirely new market or region, becoming a household name, or reaching a certain sales target.

 

  • Tip: Creating a vision board showing what you want can help you identify goals and think about what achieving that vision would look and feel like. 

 

Step 2: Make a plan

 

If your business is still in the pre-startup stages, now’s the time to write a business plan. (BPlans and SCORE* have tons of useful business plan resources.) Even if your business is up and running it’s not too late. Plan for achieving your vision as carefully as you did your startup. For example, if you want to expand your retail business nationally, where do you need to start?

 

  • Tip: Think through what’s involved and write out each step.

 

Step 3: Break it down

 

Your vision plan will be overwhelming if you try to tackle it all at once. Dig into your plan and break every step into smaller steps. For example, for the vision of expanding nationally, one step might be identifying possible locations. You can break this into smaller steps such as:

 

    • Identifying potential markets
    • Researching demographics in those markets
    • Investigating vendors and suppliers in those markets
    • Visiting commercial real estate websites
    • Contacting commercial real estate agents

 

  • Tip: If you’re having trouble getting started on a particular step, break it down even smaller. For instance, “Contacting commercial real estate agents” can start with “Find contact information for 3 agents.” Even taking small steps will give you a sense of progress and help keep you on track.

 

Step 4: Find your cheerleaders

 

Making your business vision a reality will take time and commitment. To improve your odds of success, find supporters to motivate you when times are tough. These can include experts and advisors such as a business mentor, colleagues who have your back, or friends and family members who always know the right thing to say.

 

  • Tip: You’re not looking for “yes men,” but rather for good listeners to bounce ideas off of and vent frustrations in an appropriate environment.

 

Step 5: Track your progress

 

On the journey to achieve your vision, it’s easy to stray off course—especially when you’re also handling the day-to-day challenges of running a small business. That’s why it’s so important to track your progress. Set up periodic check-ins with yourself and your team. Schedule them weekly, monthly, quarterly or at whatever frequency works best for you. The key is to hold yourself and your employees accountable for continually working toward the goals that you’ve set.

 

  • Tip: At each check-in, review your progress, assess whether you need to modify your plans, and recommit to moving forward.

 

Step 6: Celebrate your successes

 

Making your vision a reality can be a long process. Along the way, take time to celebrate victories, no matter how small. When team members achieve goals, give them rewards and public praise. When the team reaches a milestone, throw a party or take them to lunch. If you’re a solo entrepreneur, reward yourself whenever you surmount a hurdle. Treat yourself to something special or take time out for an activity you enjoy.

 

By following these six steps, you’ll achieve your vision for your business before you know it. What’s on your horizon?  Tell us in the Comments section below.

 

*Disclaimer: SCORE is a client of my company.

Let’s face it: being a small business owner is tough. It’s a full-time responsibility and like playing professional football, it takes commitment and discipline to succeed. During a recent visit to Winter Village at Bryant Park in New York City, I hit the Holiday Shops with entrepreneur and travel expert Lee Abbamonte – who visited every country by the time he was 32 – to talk with small business owners about the challenges they face.

 

All the small business owners we talked with ran unique businesses and had their own vision of success, yet they shared a common theme: passion!

 

 

Caption: Small business owner and former NFL star Dhani Jones and entrepreneur and travel expert Lee Abbamonte talk to small business owners about the challenges of running a business and expectations for 2019

 

 

The day got me thinking about my own business. After hearing about some of the most common challenges, I wrote down my own thoughts for 2019 that can help you run your business better this year.

 

Of course, these come with a few unapologetic football puns.

 

Play 1: Get a strong “O”rganization Line

 

A lot of business owners told us that organization was not their strongest skill. To this I’d say - be glad you live in 2019! There are plenty of digital resources available that can help decrease digital clutter, maximizing efficiency. A couple of programs to consider: Google Drive and Trello. Also, check out a new tool from Bank of America to organize your business finances – details below, under the Extra Point heading.

 

For more digital resources, read this.

 

Play 2: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

 

One small business owner told us being an entrepreneur meant “long days, short nights.” As a small business owner, delegation is critical! But make sure to assign tasks with strengths and work styles in mind. Give employees both motivation and structure with clear deadlines. And a loyal, passionate team is priceless, so be sure to recognize and reward employees when merited. This can include financial benefits, workspace upgrades or milestone celebrations.

 

For more ideas on how to reward employees, check out these helpful stories:

27 Ideas to Celebrate Your Employees Hard Work – No Matter the Season

 

Play 3: Tackle a Marketing Strategy

 

When developing your small business strategy, remember that while marketing methods such as print ads or direct mail are consistently stable, digital marketing constantly changes. Stay ahead of your competitors by taking the time to consider some online marketing essentials. Building a website, developing a social presence and utilizing email marketing are all key to a successful marketing strategy. Whatever your small business is developing a strategy for, check out these tips:

 

 

Play 4: Score a Touchdown, Again

 

Now comes an important piece of the small business puzzle: How can you keep the customer you just won? Earning a customer is one thing but retaining a loyal customer is a different game, and an important one at that. Forty-three percent of consumers spend more money with companies they are loyal to. A returning client costs less than acquiring a new one, they spend more and typically refer new customers. Consider some basic blocking and tackling tactics like loyalty reward programs or offering discounts to those who make referrals.

 

For more ideas on how to retain customers, read this.

 

Extra Point

 

Getting back to organization, Bank of America designed a digital tool specifically to help small business owners manage their financial performance. Business Advantage 360  tracks your account balances, ongoing expenses, analyzes cash flow and even what-if scenarios, all from a single dashboard (mobile and desktop!).

 

Trust me, you’ll want to check this out – I had a sneak peek and it’s incredibly useful!

 

 

About Dhani Jones

 

Dhani Jones is the owner of BowTie Cause, which empowers numerous organizations with custom bowties designed to support their initiatives. Before his journey into entrepreneurship, Jones played for eleven seasons in pro football as a linebacker in New York, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati. Additionally, he hosted the Travel Channel series, “Dhani Tackles the Globe” and the CNBC series, “Adventure Capitalist.” He is a guest contributor to the Small Business Community.

Positive word-of-mouth reviews are a must for small business success. With thousands of followers and countless 5-star reviews, PSP Diesel in South Houston, Texas, understands the power of social media to drive business growth. In this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street," we discuss strategies for boosting your small business' online reputation.

 

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“The Heartbeat of Main Street” delivers timely insights tailored to the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Featuring a rotating line-up of small business experts and industry leaders – and covering a range of topics – each episode explores the trends that have an impact on revenue creation for small business owners.

 

The series is hosted by ForbesBooks’ Gregg Stebbens and Small Business Community Contributor, Steve Strauss. More information and previous episodes can be accessed through a dedicated home page and on the Small Business Community podcast page. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.

 

 

Narrator:                    Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” at ForbesBooks at forbesbooks.com and Bank of America at bankofamerica.com. Here's your host, Steve Strauss.

 

Steve Strauss:           Art Martinez is the owner of PSP Diesel. Art is often described as being the best in his craft, and is praised for his honesty, professionalism, attention to detail, and great work. Their commitment to customer satisfaction is evident with countless five-star ratings and testimonials, and he's gonna teach us a little bit about how we can get some great reviews, too.

 

                                  Art, how did you become an entrepreneur?

 

Art Martinez:              It was in 2007, 2008 during the Financial Crisis. I did work for a dealership. Work had declined, and bills had to get paid. It started with one customer who was looking for quality work at a reasonable price, and we capitalized on that. We took that experience, we took care of the customer. We surprised him with our efficiency, our professionalism, and it grew. In about seven or eight years we've been in business and our current data, we hold about 4,800 customers year-to-date.

 

Steve Strauss:           Wow. That's so impressive. Why do you think people love coming to your business?

 

Art Martinez:              I think one of our biggest compliments that we get, Steve, at the shop, is our honesty and our professionalism. I believe that it shouldn't just be a transaction. It shouldn't be about profit. It shouldn't be about selling. It should just be about an overall experience. Creating a relationship with that customer and understanding their needs.

 

Steve Strauss:           Give us an idea about how big your business is now here 10 years later after you began. In a typical day how many trucks are you servicing? How many people work for you? What's the size of your business?

 

Art Martinez:              We've been showing since 2008 ... We've shown about a 25% growth. We started with one employee. There is a partner, Richard Alvarado, myself. We started with one employee, and eight and a half years later we have 14 employees, and we operate within a 20,000-square-foot facility. During a busy week we repair about anywhere from 25 to 35 trucks, ranging from a basic oil change, basic break job, to a full-on race build.

 

Steve Strauss:           I know that developing a digital presence has clearly been vital to your business. Can you tell us a little bit about your strategy from the get-go with regard to digital?

 

Art Martinez:              From the very beginning our strategy has been organic growth, word of mouth. I encourage my customers to recommend their neighbor. Their neighbor's gonna recommend the construction worker. It wasn't until about two and a half years ago that we really, really started focusing on social media and our channels. Why not? They’re free advertisement and in today’s age, we’re surrounded by that. We wanted to take that opportunity and post some pictures. Let the community know that we’re here and we’re here to help.

 

Steve Strauss:           You do have a lot of reviews, a lot of positive reviews online. Art, what’s your secret?

 

Art Martinez:              Steve, it’s really, really simple. Our strategy has been the same from the very first customer to our current customers now. People like honesty. People like to be treated fairly, and they want to be put in a certain situation where I said earlier, it's not just about profits. It's about creating an experience and understanding their financial needs. These trucks are used as mobile offices. The trucks are down, that means they're not making money.

 

                                   A lot of our clientele are rig welders, construction workers, and when these vehicles are down, they're not getting paid, they're not making money. It sometimes means going out of the box. Whether it's a loaner program, whether it's a ride to the airport, you're creating an overall experience. You back that up with an honest experience, a reasonable bill, and maybe a courtesy call after the job has been done, a review will follow.

 

Steve Strauss:           That last sentence is what I want to ask you about. Clearly the first part is you have to do five-star work if you want to get a five-star review, but how do you get people then to take their experience and go online and take the time to figure out where to write a review for you and then write a review for you? Do you ask them? Or are you saying it just happens organically?

 

Art Martinez:              No, it happens organically, but a key note question that I commonly ask my customers from first impression, from when we first meet, I shake their hand, introduce myself. "How did you find us? How did you end up here?" We don't have a store front. We operate within an industrial part of South Houston, which is a very small industrial community, so in order to find our shop, you're either on the internet, you're on Yelp, you're on Google, or somebody told you exactly where we're at. That's key to me. Why? I want to know. We don't want to invest a whole lot of money in advertisement.

 

                                   I mentioned earlier our biggest advertisement is word of mouth. The customer comes in and tells me that, why wouldn't he want to try our shop? We've got 145 reviews and they're all five stars, my direct approach is, well, that comes at a very high price because I can tell you just as much as we have really good experiences, we have bad experiences. This is probably gonna answer your next question, you must control a negative experience. We're in business. It's how you control it and how you make it right.

 

Steve Strauss:           Let's say somebody has a bad experience, because you're right that does happen in business, and they go online and they write a bad review about you. How you do handle that?

 

Art Martinez:              I can tell you year-to-date, Steve, I'm being completely honest, I don't think we've ever had a negative review posted on ... We've had customers call back and tell me their negative experience. I want to know what happened, who was involved, and how we're gonna make it right.

 

Steve Strauss:           Well, I know I can give some advice to people also with regard to negative reviews. I saw a study recently that said that companies that do nothing about their negative review, end up, of course, with a negative review. Those companies that go back in and find the reviewer and then write to the reviewer and say, "We're really sorry you had a bad experience. What can we do to help it?" They try and fix the situation, after that often not only will the reviewer be amenable to removing the review, but they actually become customers again. You can really turn by just doing what you say you do, a negative experience into a positive by doing great customer service. I'm sure that's been your ... kind of what you're saying as well.

 

                                  What do you think of asking customers to write you a good review?

 

Art Martinez:              I think it should be encouraged, definitely. In our lobby we do have signs, "Your Experience Matters." We do talk to customers about, "Hey, if the experience was positive, please ... your input ... we want to hear your input." We're listed on Yelp, Google. That's about it. We don't really influence anybody into reviewing the business. We believe if we're doing everything that we possibly can to make it a plus experience, that review will follow.

 

Narrator:                    Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at forbesbooks.com and Bank of America at bankofamerica.com.

 

 

Learn more about how to boost positive online reviews for your business – and deal with those pesky bad ones – from Rieva Lesonsky. 

Mari Smith explains how to increase authentic business reviews on Facebook.

It could be said that an entrepreneurial spirit is often an inherited trait. Like many entrepreneurs, I grew up in a small business household where I watched my father’s small carpet store become a healthy chain of around 15 locations. The reality of life as a small business owner was a typical kitchen table conversation in my family.

 

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When I was seven or eight years old I was asked to write a report about what my dad did for a living. Where my classmate’s parents had easily identifiable jobs like “lawyer” or “nurse,” I struggled to find a simple way to sum up “retail carpet store owner.”

 

“Tell them that I’m an entrepreneur, Stevie” was my father’s response. When I asked what that meant, he explained that an entrepreneur was someone “who took a risk with money to make money.”

 

I have heard many definitions of the word entrepreneur since, and many are quite good, but my dad’s characterization is still my favorite. It combines the essence and thrill of entrepreneurship – it illustrates that going into business requires risk, but also the possibility of a payoff if done well.

 

In the years since that conversation with my father I have learned the best entrepreneurs strive to reduce the inherent risk of running their own business whenever possible. It’s impossible to eliminate risk entirely, and you probably wouldn’t want to because risk is what makes it possible to grow and achieve new levels of success. But the smartest small business people learn to reduce risk, and, even then, to make sure that the risks they do take are well thought out and worth the potential loss.

 

How do they do that? Here are a few ways:

 

1. Court bigger, more stable customers and clients: There are many factors that are outside of the control of the small business owner. The economy surges and dips. Clients’ needs change. One way then to counter the constantly shifting business cycle is to work with stable corporate and government clients, when possible, because bigger customers can lead to bigger budgets and long-term relationships.

 

Generating opportunities to work on coveted corporate or government contracts can be challenging but is not impossible. I recently gave a webinar on the subject for SCORE, which can be viewed here

 

2. Create additional profit centers: If having bigger and better customers helps stabilize your business cycle, it should follow that having additional products and services can also help by diversifying the kinds of clients you serve.

 

Starbucks is a simple example of this kind of development. Originally the company only sold coffee beans, but they soon added coffee drinks. Then, capitalizing on an opportunity, they added Frappucinos to boost warm weather sales. And then food, music, and so on. Small businesses can use this same method to grow their offerings. By analyzing the market segment that you’re supporting and adding additional products and services to your offerings as opportunities arise, you increase the chances of making more sales in both good times and bad.

 

3. Establish proper legal status: It may be tempting to leave legalities for the future while you get your business up and running but delaying those steps may leave both you and your budding endeavor vulnerable. Incorporate right away. Establish business credit apart from your personal credit. Make sure you have enough insurance.

 

Yes, risk is part of the game, but if you play your cards right, you can ensure that your company grows and returns the investment on the time, work and care you put into it.

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

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