When I first started my business, I read a great book called, Making a Living Without a Job. Little did I know that a tip in that book would be probably the best piece of business advice I would ever receive - and I collect and share business advice for a living! The tip was:
Create "multiple profit centers."
Most people who start a small business and only have one or two consistent ways to make money -- maybe it's a social media post, or a sale, or a certain product, whatever. But what I have found that the secret to sustaining and growing your business is to have extra ways to generate income.
It's like owning stock. You need to diversify your portfolio, and in small business, that means having multiple profit centers. That way, when one part of your business is down, the other profit centers can pick up the slack.
Find a really good mentor!
But also recognize that the person that is a good fit to mentor your business today, may not be the best fit a year from now. So, understand that your mentors will change over the years.
I've been blessed to have many mentors in the 20+ years I've been an entrepreneur in the USA (since emigrating from Scotland in 1999!). This country provides so much support for small business owners; we just have to be willing to ask for that support!
I love the "find a really good mentor" advice. I tried my best. I sought out a really inspiring woman in my wider church community that was 30 years in to her career and was said to be doing over 100 million a year in hospital contracts etc. I was a newbie and by no means a threat to her, and 7 years in now, I am still not a threat to her business.
Someone well-known in the community sent two emails introducing me to her and trying to make the connection. I delivered hand-written notes and my last effort was a note with a box of chocolates asking for a 20 minute coffee etc.
Well, she never responded, and I feel that most people are really not up for mentoring. I honestly do what I can for people that I could possibly help, because I know how vital a mentor is and how little drops of information given by someone intelligent, experienced and with good-will toward you can change the course of your business path.
I agree with both Mari and Steve. Mentors are essential and not putting all your eggs in one basket is sage advice for business and for life.
I've learned several "most important" things (sorry).
1--Find the vendors that are crucial to your operations. We wasted a lot of money year one because a friend recommended a service package that was way more than we needed. Year two, we quickly switched our payroll to Bank of America (really) and saved a ton of money. This taught us to be more careful about choosing service providers and make sure we get what we need now.
2--Be wary. People will make you promises with the best of intentions--and they won't always keep them. This means it's essential you constantly feed your funnel. You have to balance your time between cultivating new clients and serving existing ones. That sounds easy, but it can be harder for small businesses to give both equal attention.
3--Follow the "Golden Rule". I've found that no matter who you are, or who (or what company) you're working with--kindness counts. Be the client you wish all your clients were like.
That in the end, it is largely persistence that matters.
Can people who are not-so-bright succeed in business? Yes.
Can a not-so-great-product succeed? Yes.
Can a business owner who is an administrative mess still survive? Yes.
With persistence you can overcome a lot of your shortfalls. Persistence will get you through all the nightmares and obstacles thrown to you by a small business.
Can intelligent people fail at business? Yes, they do all the time.
Can an excellent product fail or never launch? Of course.
Can a well-run businesses with excellent potential fail? Yes, of course, if the owner gives up.
All things considered, it is persistence that determines whether or not a business is still running or succeeding. A cousin of mine told me this over the phone during a disaster in my first business. She was an excellent salesperson and this was her take. It has been a truth for me as I wanted to give up so many times, but thought that the thing that will keep me in business was persistence, and nothing else - if I keep going, I will keep going.
Bank of America is honoring Women's Small Business Month with your stories! We’d like to add your voice to the conversation by asking you a question.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned since starting your small business?
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