When it comes to running your own business, how do you know where to begin? There are so many little considerations and moving parts to any business that it can seem overwhelming. You set out thinking business success is only a few short weeks away once you have launched your business however there are many things a serious business owner has to think about when launching and running their business.
That’s why I’ve collated these 100 tips. These are ‘survival’ tips that will help you grow and maintain your business – whether you’re just starting out in your business venture, or you’ve already been in business for a while.
In this blog post you will get tips on the following areas
How to get to know your customers so that you can deliver the products and services they need in the ways they need them
The basics of business planning that every entrepreneur needs to know
What you need to do now to prepare for future disasters so that your business isn’t derailed when they occur
How to document your systems and processes not only for your employees but also for potential investors
The essentials of small business finance
How to identify the help you need and build a solid network that will provide it
Ways to keep an eye on your market and its changes and developments
The basics of managing a strong social media presence and what to do with it
How to monitor and control your reputation online
Essential time management tips
Tips on reducing and managing stress for when things get hectic.
By the time you finish this blog post, you’ll have the basics under your belt and a long list of things you can do today to make sure your business not only survives but thrives in 2019.
Here are 100 small business survival tips.
1- Look at Who’s Looking
Whether you have an online store or an offline brick and mortar shop, pay attention to who is visiting and know as much about them as possible. If you’re offline, watch your customers shop, talk to them and get to know them as well as possible. For an online store, pay attention to your metrics use google analytics or wp slimstat and look at visitor profiles. You can use this information to tweak and better appeal to your customers.
2 – Focus on Needs
Focus on your customers’ problems and needs. Your products or services should fulfil those needs or solve those problems. If your products or services don’t, how could they be improved so that they do? Or, thinking about it another way, what type of customer could benefit from your products or services?
3 – Focus on Relationship, Not Sales
From the moment a customer encounters your business, hold off on sales and instead focus on building a relationship. Think in terms of how you can help the customer. Interact with them and create a bond. Easing off on the sales means they may not buy anything today or even tomorrow, but if you build a good relationship they eventually will, and they’ll stick with you.
4 – Create a Two-Way Dialog
The best way to get to know your customers and build a solid relationship is to get two-way communication going. Encourage them to contact you and interact with you. A great way to do this is through social media. Remember that even offline businesses can and should use social media to do this.
5 – Find Out Who Is Filling Their Needs Now
Find out who a potential customer is buying from right now and how they feel about it. Knowing this information reveals a great deal about your customers’ tastes and how they make their purchase decisions. Perhaps you have something unique to offer that your competitors don’t.
6 – Put Yourself in Your Customers’ Shoes
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and see things from their point of view. When you do this, you can better understand the wide range of buying options they have, as well as the pros and cons of each. This also helps you clarify the edge you have over your competitors.
7 – Take Advantage of Tools
There are many online tools to help you get to know your customers better. Metrics give you passive data on who visits your site and what they do there, but tools like SurveyMonkey or survey slam, which lets you create surveys, Activecampaign an email and crm system that allows you to see what interests them can all help
8 – Don’t Assume
You probably know the popular saying, ‘When you assume, you make an ass of you and me.’ When it comes to online business, it’s more like ‘When you assume, you get out of touch and lose relevance with your market.’ Never assume you know what your customers like. Always rely on hard data or your customers themselves.
9 – Seek Out Face Time
Whether online or off, you should value the actual face-to-face time you get to spend with your customers. Phone calls and emails can be helpful for getting to know them, but there’s nothing like actually spending time with them. Where you can try to arrange a meetup or similar, where it’s not easy have a zoom social and invite them along with no agenda
10 – Find Out How They Feel
When gathering information about your customers, don’t just focus on demographics or behavior, but also how they feel and think. This is part of what’s also called psychographics. When you’re trying to address needs, ease pain and solve problems, your customers’ feelings are extremely important.
11 – Set SMART Goals
When setting goals, do it the SMART way. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. In other words, make sure your goals are specific and locked in to a deadline. Decide how you’ll measure them so you’ll know if you’ve reached them or not. Make sure they’re achievable and relevant to your business.
12 – Identify Your own Milestones
You reach large, overarching business goals by setting smaller sub-goals or even micro goals along the way. These are the milestones that get you to your destination. Not only do they give you direction, telling you what needs to be done on a daily basis, they also give you a sense of achievement when you reach them that keeps you motivated to keep working toward your goals.
13 – Keep Breaking Up Your Goals
Large goals are daunting, but so are your milestones. In order to reach each milestone, you should break them up into definable steps. Take your sub-goals and milestones and keep breaking these up further and further until you have specific tasks you can accomplish each day.
14 – Determine What Makes You Unique
In order to make your business a success, you need a strong unique value proposition. This is what sets you apart from other companies. Don’t focus on being the biggest, fastest, cheapest or best, because something better can come along. Instead, focus on what you offer that’s unique. This is harder for another company to outdo.
15 – Define Your Target Market
Create a profile for your target market that includes demographics, buying habits, and the feelings and attitudes that make up what’s called psychodemographics. Create this profile as if it were an actual person, or avatar, and focus your efforts on marketing specifically to that person.
16 – Size Up the Competition
In the planning stages of your business, research your competitors. You need to find out the overall business climate, as well as come up with ideas to set your business apart. Look at what they offer, what makes them unique, and how they solve customer problems. Also, try to find out what their customers think about them.
17 – Focus on Details
When most people start a business they have a vague idea of what it is and how it will work. But to survive and thrive you need details spelled out as clearly as possible. Think about how your business should operate on a daily basis. How specifically will you meet your customers’ needs? Where will the profits to keep you going come from?
18 – Find Out What People Do on Your Website
When designing or re-designing your business website, focus on what you want people to do there. Don’t just think in terms of design and features, but what actions you want visitors to actually perform. For example, you may want them to sign up for a newsletter or start following you on social media. For each online marketing channel, identify a purpose in this way.
19 – Get the Resources You Need
Identify what resources you have to work with and which resources you’ll need in the future. Outline how you will develop or secure those resources when you need them. Identify others who can help.
20 – Plan with Patience
If you’re just starting out, it’s normal for a business to make little or no money for its first few years of operation. Be patient when planning your business. Give it the time it needs to grow and become profitable.
21 – Back It up
Create a system for backing up your business that includes routinely backing up all data and storing it. Include procedures for what to do if data is lost and define who has access to the backed up data. Consider using cloud services as well as a physical back-ups, and back-up your data in more than one place.
22 – Invest in Security
Invest in a solid security program or service that will ensure your network is safe. Update whenever updates are offered. You may also choose to have your network tested. There are services that try to hack into your site in order to discover its vulnerabilities.
23 – Use Password Protection Best Practices
Your greatest security is simply choosing good passwords and changing them regularly. Use random passwords that are impossible to guess. Avoid common passwords like birthdays, kids’ or pets’ names, or anything related to your company. Change passwords regularly and restrict access carefully. When you hire outside help, give them temporary passwords and delete when the work is finished. Always change passwords when a person leaves your company.Using a free service like lastpass will help you immensely.
24 – Conduct Security Training
Train your staff and outsourced team well on security procedures and how to avoid malware. Make clear guidelines on downloading from the internet and teach them about common threats like phishing schemes. Make sure everyone is on the same page.
25 – Create an Acceptable Use Policy
Along with your security training, create an Acceptable Use Policy. This is a written statement that outlines what uses of the company’s computers are appropriate or inappropriate, especially in regards to internet use. It’s important to have these guidelines spelled out clearly.
26 – Protect Your Customer Data
27 – Use Multiple Channels to Keep in Touch
Make contact with your customers through as many different channels as possible so that if you lose one, you can still communicate with them. For example, if your site gets taken down, you can still maintain contact through social media or your email mailing list. Using a service like liveagent will allow you to have multiple channels of communication filtered into one place to keep it organised for your business
28 – Establish Disaster Protocols
Establish clear protocols for any type of disaster that could occur, from data breaches to natural disasters that shut down your company. When something like this occurs, you and your staff need to act quickly and in an organized manner.
29 – Hire Good Legal Back-up
Hire a business lawyer and make sure that all of your legal documentation is in order. Keep copies of all paperwork and understand well what you legally can and can’t do. This will include your terms of business and any contracts you need with your customers.
30 – Listen to Legal News
Keep an ear open for changes in internet law. Especially where ecommerce is concerned, there have been major changes in recent years that anyone doing business online needs to know. Make sure you understand copyright law well and how it pertains to what you do online.
31 – Map It Out with a Manual
Define all of your business practices and write them out in a manual. This can be used as a troubleshooting guide for when things go wrong as well as a training manual for new employees. Document each process for every area of your business including product development, quality control, customer service, internal and external communications, the sales process, financial processes, etc. Use graphics and checklists to make it easy to follow.
32 – Create Training Materials
From your manuals, create materials specifically for training new staff or contractors. These should give an overview of how the company works, as well as specific information for learning systems, processes and policies.
33 – Make Training Videos
If you rely on virtual help for internet or computer based tasks, an easy way to train this help is to create videos. Use screen capture video production software and film yourself actually doing the work. When you hire someone, you can give them these video tutorials and they only need to watch and follow.
34 – Secure Funding
If you’re working on a start-up, write your business systems and processes with financial funding in mind. If you want to take out a business loan, you’ll have to show these materials as part of the application. The more detailed and thorough they are, the more likely they are to get you the funding you need. You may also need to show this documentation to investors.
35 – Write Step Processes
When writing your processes, take each process or thing your business does, and break it down into steps. The steps should be simple and easy for anyone to understand even if they don’t have any knowledge of your industry. If a process has more than about seven steps, break it down into two sub-processes.
36 – Write a Style Guide
Some companies write a style guide. This is a manual that explains how communications should be made in a detailed way. A style guide might cover, for example, how you write emails to customers, what to say on the phone to clients, and words and phrases to use/avoid in marketing materials. How you communicate is important for your brand image, so it should be consistent. Some style guides also include ready-made templates you can use instantly for communications.
37 – Go Visual
Whenever possible, use visuals in your documentation. A graph or diagram explains a process instantly at a glance so that there’s no confusion over terminology. A great way to document your processes is by using mind maps. A mind map allows you to present a ‘big picture’ of information in a simple, easy to understand way.
38 – Allow Room to Grow
In your business processes and systems documentation, allow room to grow. Your business will evolve over time, and your processes and systems need to be able to sustain this change. Make each process scalable and write your documentation with your future growth in mind.
39 – Ask for Collaboration
Enlist your employees or coworkers to help you document your systems and processes. They may think of details you would forget. They may have other input as well that helps to explain the system more clearly. If you have a larger company, you might ask your employees to document their own processes, and then have others review for accuracy and clarity.
40 – Identify Areas to Improve
You can use your documentation not only to outline and clarify processes, but also to identify areas that need improvement. By writing everything down, you get a clearer picture of how your company works. You may find areas where there is waste or inefficiency. It helps if you ask employees and customers for feedback.
41 – Create a Solid Budget
Every business needs a budget. No business can survive without one. Your budget is your estimated monthly expenses and profits. Start by considering expenses. Most start-ups can’t rely on profits early on until they have a steady cash flow going.
Separate expenses into three categories: Fixed expenses which don’t change, such as rent, leased items, and insurance; variable costs, which are related to sales volume and include things such as raw materials, shipping and software to meet sales demands; and semi-variable costs, which are costs that can be adjusted depending on volume of business such as advertising and salaries.
42 – Use Accounting Software
Make it easy on yourself and use an accounting software program such as QuickBooks. While you can’t completely automate your financial operations, automating what you can is a huge help. It makes managing your finances that much faster and easier.
43 – Forecast Major Expenses
Make a list of all of your business’s major expenses such as computer upgrades or subscription services. Put these on your yearly calendar far in advance so that you have time to plan how you’ll pay for them. This way, you won’t have to take money that’s needed elsewhere when it comes time to make your payment.
44 – Pad Your Estimates
When estimating costs for expenses that aren’t fixed, such as rent or salaries, pad your estimation because things usually cost more than expected. For advertising and marketing expenses, take your estimate and double it. For legal and licensing expenses, triple them. They may not cost this much but at least you’re covered if they exceed expectations.Detailed research will help you with this so you can be fairly accurate and there will be no sudden surprises.
45 – Plan To Survive Shortfalls with a Credit Line
Arrange a credit line with your bank when things are good and you don’t need it. Then, when you experience a shortfall, as every entrepreneur inevitably does at some time, you can borrow only what you need. The reason this is a good strategy is that banks are wary of lending to creditors who need it immediately. It’s much easier to establish a credit line when you don’t need it.
46 – Get into a Regular Billing Cycle
Create policies for billing clients if your goods or services are such that you receive payment later. When you get payments later, you’re extending credit to your clients. Like any creditor, you need to regularly invoice them and create clear policies for dealing with late payments. Unpaid invoices (Accounts Receivable) can really hurt your cash flow when they get out of hand.
47 – Plan Taxes Well in Advance
One thing that’s not a financial uncertainty is taxes. Tax season rolls around every year at a set time, so plan ahead. There’s nothing worse than being caught unprepared when tax season hits. Put together all the resources you need including any legal help. It’s good to also set aside some extra cash for tax season in case you have to pay more than expected.
48 – Don’t Set and Forget
Create a budget and revise it constantly. Revisit it each month to see what has changed, as some things certainly will. Update your budget based on the activity of the last month. Also take into consideration any changes in your company that may affect finances, such as new staff or new regular clients.
49 – Scan Your Paperwork
Scan all financial paper work and back it up. This makes it easy to store and retrieve financial documents. You can also easily share documents with potential lenders or others who need to see them. Scanning saves paper and protects you if you get audited.
50 – Record Your Finances
Record your finances honestly and keep in mind that someday a banker may be pouring over them, deciding whether or not to offer you a loan. If you think about this future banker when you make financial decisions, it may influence you to make decisions that are sound now.
Running a small business isn’t easy and you’ll find many roadblocks along the way. But these 100 survival tips are enough to get you started with conquering those challenges and getting past many of the common mistakes business owners and entrepreneurs make.
Here are a couple suggestions for using these tips to your best advantage:
1. For each of the categories of tips, try picking one tip that you know you need to work on and explore it in more depth.
2. You can also pick a whole category and devote a week or month to implementing some of the tips.
Good luck in your business ventures and here’s to your business success!
Kevin Arrow is the CEO of the Online Visibility Academy where ethical entrepreneurs can train in digital marketing skills
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