Entrepreneurship is booming. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, about 33 million small businesses operated in the U.S. in 2023. About 5.1 million new businesses were started in 2022 — down slightly from the record 5.4 million created in 2021. Small business is an economic driving force, representing 43.5% of the gross national product. There’s no doubt: Small business owners account for substantial job creation and income.
But any business needs a good plan to succeed and grow. A business plan is essential to bringing a business idea to life. It’s a map to help guide entrepreneurs through structuring, startup, running, and growing a business. Without a map for a new business, you can easily get lost along the way. One great source for information can be found at the Small Business Administration's: Write your business plan guide. It’s packed with useful ideas and examples. Along with that resource, let’s take a look at some additional helpful tips for starting a small business.
Here are some valuable business tips to help you structure and execute a business plan:
When starting your own business, thoroughly research and understand who or what your target audience is. That may sound obvious, but lacking solid descriptions of your target customers may lead to business failure. Analyze relevant demographic data, current consumer behavior, market trends, and competitors. Knowing your target audience is crucial for effective marketing, communication, and meeting potential customer needs.
Parallel to target audience research, additional analysis is needed to identify possible new markets for sales. A business owner should review marketing trends and conditions, consumer demand, cultural differences, purchasing power, and likely competitors. These factor heavily into new market expansion decisions. You might need to modify your current business model to cater to specific demands of new potential customers.
Intellectual property (IP) includes things like inventions, trade secrets, and industrial processes. But IP can also encompass brand names, logos, artwork, and package designs. This type of IP has potential for increasing competitive advantages and strengthening brand value. Protecting your IP may include registering any trade secrets and obtaining patents, trademarks, and copyrights. A business plan should establish any how’s and why’s of IP protective strategies. IP enforcement and defense should be considered, such as licensing agreements and infringement litigation strategies. By maintaining and leveraging IPs, businesses can differentiate themselves from competitors.
Despite the chaos of daily events, small business owners must understand how money flows in and out. Accurately projecting and managing cash inflows (revenue, investment returns) and outflows (expenses, loan payments, taxes) is crucial. Establish an accounting system, perhaps by using one of the many software solutions available on the market. Keeping up to date on your cash flow is the only way to know whether you have sufficient funds for daily operations as well as growth. With thorough analysis of expenses, you’ll identify potential cost savings, uncover ways to help improve profits, and maintain healthy business finances.
One good way to gather valuable insights is to use active listening with both established and new customers. Besides building stronger relationships and greater customer satisfaction, it provides free intel that can help build a competitive market edge. Communicate with customers — listen (and write down) customer expectations, preferences, and pain points. Regularly review that data and look for trends and other target audience insights. And if you want to go the extra mile toward success, listen to shoppers who decide not to do business with you.
Great customer service involves much more than satisfactorily closing the deal. Exceptional customer service enhances the overall experience for customers. Focus on understanding customer expectations, training employees to deliver excellent service, and continuously improving processes. Make customer service a priority and you will foster loyalty, build positive word-of-mouth referrals, and drive repeat business.
Successful entrepreneurs don’t only worry about the day-to-day sales. As we mentioned, effective communication with customers help uncover opportunities to improve customer satisfaction. Let other business owners merely “close the sale” while you uncover customer pain points. Talk to them about the problems they are trying to solve. Discover what you can do to help. Follow up with a call or email, let the customer know you’re working to make their job (and life) easier. There’s a great upside to this technique. Even if a pain point can’t be immediately fixed, the customer knows you “have their back.” When they know you’re looking out for them, they’ll be more likely to return.
Email marketing and its digital counterpart, content marketing, can play a big role in business success. Targeted emails build relationships, increase brand awareness, and promote products or services. Content marketing focuses on blog posts, videos, and relevant content to entertain and educate your audience. It can establish you as a trustworthy authority in your field. Both methods can help expand your business reach, generate leads, spark conversations, and ultimately increase customer business and loyalty.
Along with the above topic, leveraging social media platforms to help grow business is also important. This can involve creating a comprehensive plan, selecting the most beneficial platforms, and creating engaging content aimed at your target audience. It can also include monitoring and responding to customer feedback, leveraging advertising, and employing analytics to measure impact and effectiveness. All combine to help increase brand visibility, improve customer engagement, and drive website traffic and conversions.
Many entrepreneurs have trouble prioritizing tasks, setting goals, and properly allocate their time. Create a written schedule, to-do lists, and delegation lists. There are several productivity apps and tools available to help manage time—some of them may even be free. Spreadsheet programs like Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets can also help. Outsourcing HR services is another common way for a small business owner to help free up time with core business functions.
When you’re running your own business, it’s easy to spend all your time trying to maintain and grow it. But a healthy work-life balance is needed. Being overly tired and burnt out doesn’t help. So, strike a balance between administrative tasks (bookkeeping, paperwork, payroll processing) and personal or leisure time. Set boundaries, delegate duties, outsource tasks, find efficient workflows, prioritize self-care. Successful entrepreneurs aim for sustaining long-term success while maintaining overall wellbeing.
Small to medium-sized business owners face many unique HR challenges. TriNet helps you handle your toughest HR questions and tasks, freeing you to focus on your people and business growth. With TriNet, you get a team of HR experts with industry-specialized knowledge and 24/7 support.
We can give you valuable HR guidance — whether it’s HR administration, best practices insights, or strategies on varied HR related issues, rules, and requirements.
Our services provide real-time experts to help with your HR challenges. From payroll processing to risk mitigation, to access to benefits and technology platforms, TriNet can help. With TriNet on your side, you can get back to building a successful business.
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