Most business owners start their companies with the best of intentions. They are usually passionate about developing a product or service to fill a void in a specific market. What happens between coming up with an idea and launching the company is where most business owners make their biggest mistakes.
I often talk to my clients about investing their time, money and other resources into running a business. I ask them “How can you invest everything without fully mapping out what it will take to make your company successful?” I then share with them my five steps to starting and running a successful business.
1) Have a Vision – When you come to forks in the road for your business, it’s important to know which way to turn—are you gravitating toward entrepreneurship or small business ownership? Do you know the difference between the two? Not knowing could mean the difference between success and failure.
2) Create an Operational Plan – What does success look like? Your operational plan is similar to a GPS system on your smartphone. It should include a step-by-step analysis of what you need to do in order to achieve your objectives at the end of the year. Learn to play the “What If” game to test your plan on a regular basis. For example, “What if my building burned down?” and “What if I lost my largest customer?”
3) Understand the Competitive Landscape – You must know your competition and what it will take to beat them. Who are they? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do you plan to beat them? It’s important to know that you will probably need different strategies (cost vs. convenience vs. quality) when competing against different companies and brands (You are hoping that the reason customers buy from you are stronger than the reason they might choose a competitor).
4) Make Changes When Necessary – At some point in the startup phase of your business you will hit a dead end. Something you thought was going to work—didn’t! How do you make sure you are not throwing good money into bad opportunities? Make sure you have a Plan B, C, D, and E if needed. Be nimble in your business.
5) Don’t Go It Alone – One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is thinking they have all the answers to all the problems that ever existed; they don’t. Another big mistake they make is not seeking help or advice when they hit an obstacle on their path to success. Who are the best people to have on your advisory board and how often should you meet with them?