There are many statistics published today about start-up company success rates and they all paint a bleak picture -- the odds are clearly not in your favor. In order for a company to survive, it takes hard work, a fine balance and a unique understanding of your most import asset - Your Customers.
Build it and they will come.
This adage is only true in the rarest of circumstances; I certainly would not consider pinning your hopes for the success of your business on this ideology. In most instances successful business entrepreneurs are people who have tried, fallen, and gotten back on the horse many times. 1 - Learn from your mistakes, this is Key to the future success of your business.
Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
Understanding your competitors is part of your overall market analysis. Before I design a website for any client; I first sit them down and ask them to list off 10 any competitors. This may seem like a simple list of 10 entities doing the same thing you want to be in business doing, however in retrospect this becomes the basis of your entire business plan. Who are they? - What do they offer? - and most importantly it offers you answers for your businesses future direction in the market place. - What can you offer (+products / services+) that are unique or better within this same market place? These are just a few questions that automatically come from a good competitor analysis. 2 - Never lose sight of the competition, what their objectives are and the direction they are heading (never get complacent)
Understanding the Customer
This is perhaps the Holy Grail of any business. To understand your customer's Wants, Needs, and Expectations is vital regarding your company's future planning. Fortune 500 companies do this very well and understand the need for this as an ongoing effort. We have all been on the phone to our insurance company and at the end of the phone call we are asked to participate in a 'quick three minute survey'. As small businesses I would encourage taking a more honest cost effective approach. I encourage all my clients to consider using a Blog and an extension of their business website. This is a cheap and extremely powerful way of communicating with your customer base. All feedback is useful information whether positive or negative, and allows your business to mature and respond to changing customer needs. 3 - Never lose sight of the customer; they are the voice that drives the future direction of your business.
Rome wasn't build in a day
It is important to prioritize your tasks when running a business. If you are like me and a perfectionist, you are quickly going to have to let go when things start to get busy. It is important to make lists and remain focused on the core business objectives at all times. I have seen many businesses fail that should have succeeded through lack of good organization skills - fear not however, this skill can be learnt will discipline and will power. 4 - Never lose focus of your core business objectives; in fact, this is your entire mission statement.
The Silo Business Doesn't Work
Be aware of disaster recovery practices, and have contingency plans in place to support the operations of your business in the event of a potential disaster. Many small business lose customers because there supply chains fail them, or because of lack of data back-up mechanisms. These risks can be managed by implementing a disaster recovery plan for your business. Managing a Web Development Company, my main asset aside of people is Data. So naturally, I limit this risk by ensuring I back-up all my data off-site every night, this forms part of my disaster recovery plan, thus managing this risk through a limitation strategy. 5 - Identify potential risk areas in your business, and put a contingency in place to minimize the risk. The strategies to manage risk include transferring the risk to another party, avoiding the risk, reducing the negative effect of the risk, and accepting some or all of the consequences of a particular risk.
It is important to build relationships with suppliers, to ensure that you can keep your core business functioning. The more quality relationships you build, the more you will be able to pass onto your customers. Make sure you also maintain these relationships and let them know how much you appreciate them; after all, they are the links that help form your chain. 6 - Identify potential business opportunities within your daily networking, you never know who a potential customer is, or where a potential opportunity lies, so explore.
Do not run before you can walk
Make sure you grow your business slowly, this is especially important when treading into unfamiliar territory. The slower you go the easier it will be to adjust for environmental factors. 7 - Moving too fast too quickly could result in expensive mistakes down the road, and potential loss of business.
Be true, to all
Do not make promises that you cannot deliver, this is important for the future growth and reputation of your business. If you begin promising products / services you cannot deliver then your reputation via word of mouth and the internet may suffer - this is particularly risky for people who offer services. 8 - Its vital to stay true to your business model, even if it sacrifices a sale. You cannot start making false promises at the expense of your business.
Embrace technology, it's your friend
No matter what you sell or whom you sell to it is inevitable that your customers will seek you out on the internet eventually. Companies cannot be afraid to be technology shy today. Why you may ask? - Well the answer is simple; it is because your customers are not technology shy, and they are becoming more and more internet savy every day - Be there friend. 9 - Give yourself a competitive edge by embracing technology, remember the instant gratification customer. A happy customer often means a return customer; IT can help make a happy customer as customers are embracing the internet on mass in today's market place.
Don't be afraid to brand your Business / Ideas
Marketing is one of the core functional components of any business. You need to learn how to market you products / services. Just having a product or offering a service is never enough, you need to actively climb that mountain and shout loudly from it saying, "HERE I AM, COME AND GET ME" - It is often the case that people who are experts in their respective field have no idea how to effectively market their service or products to maximize sales. 10 - Learn your market place, competition, how to market online, and direct marketing; this is essential and can directly affect the performance of your business.
Duncan MacDonald is the owner of http://www.newlookwebsites.com/ we specialize in the online marketing and development of new and existing websites for small and medium sized companies.