Do you find yourself spending time, scouring the internet, talking to friends, trying to figure out how to start your new business, or take the one you have to the next level? Are you oh so tired of the watered-down, sounds-good-in-theory business tips, and just wished you could find real business tips? Not the fluff, not the rah-rah feel good chatter, but real advice?
Sound like you? If so, then you are in good company. It's likely no surprise to you that my number one most asked question as a small business consultant is, ‘Alli, How do I really build a successful business?”
And usually when people ask me this question, they don’t mean, “Alli, please tell me the nuts and bolts of running my business.” When most people ask this question, they actually mean, ”Where will my customers come from?” “How will I make money and lots of it?”
And sure, finding customers and making money is important, but it’s not the first question that should be rolling out of your head. You need to back up and think big picture strategy first.
Here are ten business tips that I think are the real answers to “How do I build a business?”
Ten Business Tips You Can’t Afford to Ignore
1. Don't Start Your Business With Money as the Primary Goal
I know, I know. Seems counterintuitive. I mean, after all, isn’t the purpose of owning and running a business to make money?
Who doesn't want to get rich blogging? But if money is the main reason you do what you do, then you will never have enough.
Let money be a result of your success (and your solid business plan), not your primary motivating factor.
"Make money, don't let the money make you. Change the game, don't let the game change you" -Macklemore
2. Ideas Mean Nothing without Action
“Wait. What? Ideas mean nothing? I thought the idea was everything?”
Clearly your idea is important. But your idea isn’t everything.
Nine times out of ten, an average idea, executed with excellence, will beat the heck out of a KILLER idea executed poorly. (Tweet this!)
The point is, execute like a boss.
3. Focus on the Pain
If you are more focused on the problem your CUSTOMER has, than the idea that YOU have, your business will do well.
Connect the dots for your audience. Show them how your product or services solves the problem.
If you’re solving the right problem, you’ll know it because your readers will move from readers to subscribers to customers.
4. It’s All About Your People
It should probably go without saying, but your business is about people. Not just any people, but the specific group of people you hope to serve. Whether you are selling a product or services, you are selling to people. You have to be able to talk to people, walk in their shoes and understand them if you have a snowball's chance of selling to them.
If you don’t understand your target market (your people), you will fail and fail hard.
5. Learn How to Fail
And speaking of failing and failing hard, you need to fail. Failure is how you learn best. Don’t be afraid to fail, because if you aren’t failing, then you aren’t taking risks. And if you aren’t taking risks, you will spend the majority of your business life stuck in mediocrity.
Don’t be afraid to fail, just fail fast. Don’t get stuck deciding if you should try something or not. (Tweet this!)
Learning to quickly solve problems can only serve to improve your business and entrepreneurial skills. A series of small fails that you can quickly learn from is better than one giant fail. Don't spend 18 months and your life savings on manufacturing widgets that the market doesn't actually want. That is a big fail. An 'epic fail' in internet speak. Test ideas early and often to ensure little, fast fails. You'll win in the long run!
6. Test Everything
Prove your idea or concept before spending time on the product. Trust your gut, but verify.
- Test that the problem exists
- Test that the problem is big enough to make people or businesses change
- Test that you have a solution to the problem
- Test that someone will pay for your solution (if they won’t, it’s not the right solution)
7. Communicate Clearly
The art of communicating is critical to master, and master early. Most people assume they are great communicators, but never actually find out if the other person understands what they are trying to say.
Face-to-face communication is always best, but in today’s world of telecommuting and online business relationships, a phone call is always a great way to communicate.
Here's a business tip: The most important thing to remember in the area of communication is to be careful with written words. It's easy to miscommunicate via email because the emotional indicators are not there. Read your email out loud and if you think there is any way that your tone could be misunderstood, go back and edit.
8. Your Brand is Only as Good as You *Really* Are
First impressions matter. Your logo, your writing, your presence online all matter and you can't scrimp on your visual strategy, but your character, who you really are, is the most important thing for you to protect. A lack of integrity will be your downfall. This is especially true online.
Social media is a perfect medium for us to let our guards down. Daily, I see vague pleas for sympathy, annoyed ranting or passive aggressive, and hurtful updates go public for people who really should know how to manage themselves, but the ease of social sharing takes the filters away. All I can think is, "Doesn't that person have anyone who will tell them to chill out and behave themselves?" Everything you do matters.
"Your brand works for you or against you, but it always works" -John Morgan
Remember, even the most premium branding can't hide a questionable character behind the scenes.
9. Most Advice is a Waste of Time
Most advice is a waste of your time, because most people don’t take the time to really LISTEN to you or your business ideas. They have a standard one-size-fits-all approach to business, and they try to apply it to yours. Don’t be foolish enough to fall into this trap. If you’re going to let someone to teach you what you need to know, make sure you do your homework.
The same goes with what you read online. A lot of what you can find online is fluff. Great fluffy, filler content, filled with platitudes that sound great, but don’t pan out to change you in any conceivable way.
One of the reasons I write one long post full of so much valuable information each week is because I want you to learn.
I'm not writing for the people who skim and won't actually take action. Those people will never be A-players.
I could write ten short posts with the content from one article, but I want you to invest time and energy into learning and actually changing your life and your work.
10. Build a Dream Team
"A-Players Hire A-players, B-players Hire C-players." - Steve Jobs
When it comes time to hire your support team, hire A-Players. But even before that, think about your support team.
- Surround yourself with A players. They will work hard to change themselves and their businesses. Their success, their drive and their motivation will inspire you as well.
- Don’t feel like you have to be an expert in everything. There are brilliant people out there in the world. Get to know them. Learn from them. Heck, refer your clients to them if that is better for your clients. Build a network of talented colleagues who you endorse. (That will go a LONG way in terms of your reputation as a business person as well!)