Over the years, I have helped hundreds of entrepreneurs start and grow profitable businesses. Several commonalties or success factors seem to surface again and again. Here are a few that can help you
- Your business ties in with your skills, knowledge, and experience. It’s always a plus to have a solid background and a good understanding of your business. If you have experience in the business, you have experience in the industry… and that helps increase your chances for success.
- You have a solid competitive advantage. It might be a patent, license, territory protection (e.g., franchise), special technical knowledge, access to esoteric suppliers, a copyright, a unique marketing area, or a highly specialized service aimed at a very small market niche.
- You have a passion for what you’re doing. Your business is not just about making money, but about doing something that you love.
- You have a written plan. A well-thought-out business plan will help you avoid problems, anticipate changes, and market and manage your business more effectively and efficiently.
- You have products and/or services that are special or unique. Think: Fulfilling a customer need or want; meeting a demand; improving on problems that exist in your market; filling a gap that your competitors have ignored or missed; etc. Think faster service; more personal service; more knowledgeable specialists; etc.
- Your pricing structure will yield good margins. The more unusual, unique, hard-to-find, or highly specialized your products and services are, the more opportunities you have of charging premium prices.
- You have the capital to help grow your business (and you have the ability to generate more money if necessary). What else can I say?
- You have a clear picture of your target audience (and you know how to reach them). You know who they are and where they are located. And you know the marketing methods and the specialized media to communicate with them.
- You have a good understanding about your competition. You know their strengths and weaknesses, their locations or marketing areas, their products and services (and the advantages and disadvantages), their ability to make changes to stay competitive, and their stability.
- You projected good cash flow. It will always be the lifeline of your business.
- You know how to manage and lead. It’s difficult to put a price on managing excellence-but strong leadership is priceless.
- You have a support team. These are consultants, specialists, independent contractors, professionals, and mentors who you can call on for guidance. Don’t forget friends, relatives, and former business colleagues.
- You will give it your 100%. Most important, you will continue to be fully active in your business, rather than let someone else run it.
Your business activities and benchmarks should be evaluated at least every month. Then build on the most successful ones.
Richard Siedlecki is a self-employed management consultant (firm established in 1978) who focuses on business and marketing plans, new business start-ups, developing competitive advantage in highly competitive markets, getting more profitable sales from existing customers, and creating customer loyalty programs. His specialty is direct marketing via direct mail, catalogs, and the Web. This Atlanta-based consultant can be contacted at 404/303-9900.