I have never met an entrepreneur who has launched a business without intending to succeed at it. I suspect you haven’t either.
Starting a business is more than “just business:” it’s personal, too. As business owners, we often look at our company’s ascent (or lack of) to profitability and popularity as a direct reflection of our own worth.
There’s a lot at stake, and entrepreneurs need to build an arsenal of techniques to fight adversity and overcome the challenges that stand in the way of their success.
To help you in your uphill battle, I’ll share a few tactics that have served me well in my business journey.
Stay centered by upholding your core values.
Your company's core values are the heart of your business, and you should use them as guideposts to keep you on the right path. Sometimes, potential customers or existing clients might request you to change your processes or provide services in a way that does not align with your core values. Altering your M.O. for one customer, unless there's a very distinct advantage in doing so, could have a snowball effect. Ultimately, it could diminish your productivity and detract from your ability to serve other customers effectively.
In my experience, customers that ask you to compromise your values are generally not the right customers for your business.
My advice: Stay true to your core values under all circumstances.
“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” ~ Roy E. Disney
Spend time “on” not just “in” your business.
Many business owners get so wrapped up in doing the work—i.e., “working in” their business—that they neglect “working on” their business.
That’s unfortunate because planning is integral to business success. Have a strategy for strategizing goals and objectives for your business:
- Make planning a priority.
- Start small to make it manageable, setting aside as little as 15 to 20 uninterrupted minutes each day or a few days each week for planning.
- Set up a support network of business peers that will be willing to serve as a sounding board for your ideas.
- Enlist the help of a business coach or mentor for guidance and feedback.
“Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there.” ~ John P. Kotter
Exercise patience and persistence when landing those “big fish.”
You cannot force trust. Sometimes it can require months—or even longer—of relationship-building to acquire major clients with large-scale revenue possibilities.
In running a social media company, I've learned that some prospects need a great deal of time and information before they decide to entrust my team with managing their social media channels. Often, there are multiple levels of vetting and approval before contractual decisions are made. Although I would love to see sales cycles be much shorter, I understand and appreciate the care some organizations take in choosing a partner that will represent their brand on the very visible social media front.
Of course, merely waiting won't turn ideal prospects into ideal customers. You need to put your best foot forward from the start and follow through:
- Put in the effort to understand prospects’ needs.
- Respond to questions quickly and thoroughly.
- Identify and address objections or concerns promptly.
- Don’t leave a meeting, conference call, or email conversation without establishing a follow-up plan.
“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” ~ Napoleon Hill
Put laser focus on running your own race rather than dwelling on where your competition is placing.
Awareness of your competition is healthy, but don't let it distract you from developing your business and delivering excellence to your customers. Your company has unique qualities and strengths, and nurturing those characteristics will serve your brand better than trying to emulate a competitor.
“Be yourself because an original is worth more than just a copy.” ~ Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun
Create content that continually builds your brand reputation.
Content doesn’t have to “go viral” to benefit your business. However, it does need to be relevant and deliver something of value to your audience. If you create quality content consistently and share it through your blog, social media channels, and email, over time you will see sustainable results.
According to Demand Metric, content marketing generates over three times as many leads as traditional marketing and costs 62 percent less.
Invest in producing and distributing content; it pays off!
Years of consistent blogging have grown my business in ways I never thought possible. In fact, four of our five top five clients found us because of my company’s blog.
“Getting an audience is hard. Sustaining an audience is hard. It demands a consistency of thought, of purpose, and of action over a long period of time.” ~ Bruce Springsteen
Set clear expectations to facilitate desired results.
Without a clear definition of desired outcomes, how can you know if your business’s efforts are meeting your customers’ needs? Without that clarity, how can you determine the strategies and tactics you must use?
You can’t. That’s why, from the very start, it’s crucial to establish expectations regarding:
- What your company’s responsibilities are
- What your client’s responsibilities are
- Which results will be considered successful outcomes
Besides getting initial understanding and buy-in from your customers, also revisit expectations often to reinforce them and make adjustments when needed.
“If you align expectations with reality, you will never be disappointed.” ~ Terrell Owens
Accept that there are no shortcuts. Success requires sweat.
We live in a magic pill society. We want results, and we want them now (and sometimes even yesterday!).
Over the years, I’ve talked with many business owners who believe there exists some sure-fire formula for succeeding and others who expect they can become multi-millionaires by working just 4 hours a day.
That’s not realistic, and it’s a dangerous mindset. While there are best business practices that may universally apply to most startups, there is no one-size-fits-all plan to ensure success. Moreover, I have never met a successful entrepreneur who only worked half days while launching a company.
If you want a profitable business, you need to work for it. There will be long hours, sweat, and tears.
“Success isn't always about greatness. It's about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” ~ Dwayne Johnson