The sad truth is that only a few small business start-ups survive more than a year or two. You can boost your odds of survival with good luck and by following a few basic business fundamentals.
1. Have a solid business plan – “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It’s a well-worn saying, but its common usage does not make it any less true. If you fail to make a business plan, you’ll probably have trouble getting lenders and potential partners take you seriously. You’ll also miss out on an important opportunity to fine tune your business before you launch it.
2. Make use of technology – There’s lots of great business applications out there you can use to maximize efficiency and much of it is open source or inexpensive. Whether it’s a database program, inventory tracker or bookkeeping application, use the technological tools available to you to make your business operations as lean and efficient as possible.
3. Be flexible. While having a business plan is important to give your business direction, a successful business owner must be able to adapt to changing circumstances or new information. Don’t be afraid to make changes to the business plan when necessary.
4. Customer service. One key advantage small businesses have over larger competitors is their ability to form one-on-one relationships with their customers. Leverage that advantage as much as you can, providing personalized customer service and making shopping with you something your customers look forward to.
5. Aggressive cost management. Watch your inventory closely. Avoid over-scheduling employees. Keep utility bills in line. Watching every potential cost to your business and keeping unneccessary spending down will help your business get to its break even point and then to profitability a much shorter journey.
6. Hiring the right people. If you’re in a business where employees are necessary, be sure to hire the right ones. Small businesses, unlike larger corporations, have no room for deadwood. Be sure to check backgrounds and references and go with your gut when hiring new employees.
7. Knowing the competition. Keep abreast of what your competitors – large and small – are up to. Occasionally visit their stores or check their websites to see if they’re offering anything you don’t or to find ways you can better compete.
8. Outsourcing non-core tasks. One way you can keep tedious tasks like bookkeeping from taking up time better spent on core business operations is to outsource them. The Internet has made a wide varity of services outsourceable to providers as close as next door or as far away as New Dehli. Take advantage of the opportunity to find competent, affordable help for some of your neccessary, but non-critical tasks.
10. Identify niches. The best way to stay ahead of the competition is to be somewhere they aren’t. Finding underserved populations or unmet needs is an excellent way small businesses can find prosperity.