Starting your own business is no easy task. As a small business owner, you’ll be called on to wear many hats on your journey from entrepreneur to successful business owner.
The journey is one of hills and valleys, inevitably filled with highs and lows. Thankfully, it’s also a well-worn path with a lot of information to guide you. While every business is different, there are a few things you should know to make the experience more manageable.
1. You don’t know everything
You may be an expert in your chosen industry, but that doesn’t mean you know everything. Business owners come in all shapes and sizes, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be a self-appointed expert in all fields. Rather, allow yourself to take the time to learn new things and surround yourself with people who ARE experts in a required field.
2. Everything takes longer than you think
Expect the unexpected and prepare for delays. Whether you’re looking to obtain a loan from a bank, waiting on a shipment, or putting your product into production, it will likely take longer than you think. To avoid unnecessary panic attacks, try to avoid tight deadlines. If possible, “bake in” a certain amount of buffer time so you’re never really stuck in a jam.
3. Be active on social media
If you’re on a budget, social media is the best place for you to devote your marketing time. Social media offers a range of free opportunities and even paid advertisements are far more affordable than other traditional advertising methods.
- 1 in 3 internet users claims to use social media to find more information about a business, product, or service.
- Nearly 90% of marketers say social media increases their exposure and/or traffic
- 44% of small business owners say social media helps generate brand awareness and/or sales revenue.
4. Use video marketing
Video marketing is the biggest thing to hit the marketing sphere since, well, just about anything. Video marketing is incredibly effective on social media as well, whether through organic video posts or paid video ads.
In fact, marketers who use video marketing grow revenue 49% faster than those who don’t. Additionally, more than half of marketers say that video marketing has the best return on investment when compared with other forms of online content.
The good news is that creating high-quality marketing videos is not nearly as expensive as you might think. It can fit into the budget of any small business.
5. Don’t neglect customer service
Going “above and beyond” is the new normal when it comes to customer service. The bar has been raised in recent years by companies like Zappos and Amazon who are taking giant steps forward to blow customers away with their attentive service and attention to detail.
Consider your customer service practices the lifeblood of your small business. Make sure to put procedures in place that will address any customer issues that may arise, such as late payments, late shipments, returns, quality complaints, etc. Customers are the bread and butter of every business so treat them well.
6. Hire pros when possible
Like we said, a small business owner wears many hats, but when possible, try having someone else wear that hat for a while. If you can hire professionals to take care of specialized tasks, go for it.
For example, there are many legal and financial concerns associated with small business ownership. Come tax time, you’ll be glad you hired a tax pro. It may cost a little more than doing it yourself but the last thing you want is to get mixed up in a messy audit or a legal battle. Take your time and invest in doing things right the first time to save yourself headaches later on.
7. Have a system for collecting unpaid invoices
Did you know that the average small business has over $84,000 in unpaid invoices? Small business unpaid invoices amount to over $800 billion each year! This, of course, didn’t happen overnight. As Hemingway once said: “How did you go bankrupt? Two ways. Gradually and then suddenly.”
The problem is that your average small business doesn’t have a reliable method for collecting unpaid invoices. They’ll send a letter or email, maybe a phone call or two, then forget about it or decide it’s not worth it.
Small invoice amounts may make you feel like it’s not worth the effort, but small amounts tend to add up. Create a system for collecting unpaid invoices and follow it to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks. This may include a written notification (email), a phone call, or even sending the debt to a collection agency if necessary.
When all else fails, a small business can sometimes write off unpaid invoices as bad debts come tax time, so remember to keep records of everything.
8. Don’t neglect downtime
The notion of the noble entrepreneur burning the midnight oil is a romanticized one. It’s also an unrealistic one in many circumstances. Sure, running your own business may require you to work odd hours, but there is a limit to how much you can push yourself.
In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, there is a proven link between effective leadership and getting enough sleep. Throwing your sleep cycle off, even a little bit, can lead to lost productivity, poor decision making, and ineffective time management.
According to the research, after 17 hours of staving off sleep, your abilities are impaired almost to the same point as having a blood alcohol level of 0.05% which is near the legal limit in many locations. Push yourself a little further and you’re basically legally drunk!
You wouldn’t go to work drunk (we hope!) so don’t do the same thing with your sleep! Make sure to take time to relax and recharge every once in a while. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it didn’t have to be!
Effective small business management
There is no perfect formula for running a small business. However, the information above can help put you on the right track. You will have ups and downs as any business owner does. However, if you practice effective management techniques you’ll be better equipped to deal with the downs when they do come.