If you’re a current business owner or you are interested in starting a new venture, chances are you want to make sure your business does not fail. Forming a company, creating new products or services, bringing them to market, and sharing your skills with the world is an incredible experience. But unfortunately, finding business success is never usually simple and straightforward.
The survival rate of UK start-ups is pretty low, and success and failure are typically divided by a very thin line. As a serial entrepreneur, I know that better than most – which is why I’ve already shared in this earlier post: If you are starting a business – here’s how NOT to fail, which includes 10 real-world tips on how to ensure your business has the best possible chance of success.
But the truth is, it takes a lot more than 10 tips to steer your company in the right direction. So on that note, here are some more key pieces of advice that apply to all new business owners. If you want to make sure your business does not fail, you absolutely need to follow these tips.
6 more top tips to make sure your business succeeds
1. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer!
Al Pacino’s astute business advice in the 1972 movie, ‘The Godfather,’ still holds strong today – it is crucially important to know what your competitors are up to in the marketplace. It doesn’t matter what your company does, what you sell or what industry you’re operating in – you will have competition. To survive, you’ll need to do everything within your power to ensure you are standing out from your competition and demonstrating to consumers what sets you apart. This requires a hefty bit of market research to get started.
If market research sounds difficult, don’t panic. It’s simply a fancy term used to describe the process of getting information together about your business, what you’re offering and how those offerings compare to what the competition is bringing to the marketplace. To get started you should get online (or even get out there onto the street) and learn everything there is to know about your competition.
Find the companies selling the same sort of products you’re offering, the companies operating nearby and pay them a visit. Engage in the consumer experience at those businesses, and sample the products and services. Afterwards, you need to conduct a methodical analysis to assess what those companies are doing well and where they’re falling short. Make a chart documenting your competitors’ price points, key offerings, specials and their unique selling points (USPs).
After you’ve carried out your research, it’s time to sit down and apply what you have learnt, to improve your own business model. Can you beat your competitors on price, or do you want to position your brand as a superior product worth paying more money for? Can you stand apart from your competitors with later opening hours, better in-store customer service, or useful live chat functions on your website?
A lot of this is going to be trial and error at first, and it may take some time to find the perfect set of offerings that will help your company stand apart from the competition. But once you’ve found the sweet spot, it will pay huge dividends.
That being said, it’s crucial you do not get too comfortable. Market research on your competition and the implementation of new ideas isn’t a one-off thing. You should be following your competitors on social media, bookmarking their websites and visiting their brick-and-mortar locations on a regular basis to ensure you’re always up-to-date on what they’re offering. That way, you can always make sure your company is doing a better job.
2. Provide a consistent and great service
You can never, ever discount the importance of providing fantastic customer service. The success of your business absolutely depends on it – and in this day and age, your customers and clients have come to expect it.
According to researchers at Lithium, 76% of adult shoppers in the UK say a positive customer experience is more important to them than the product or service they’re actually purchasing. What’s more, 70% of customers now say their buying experiences are totally based on how they are being treated by the company and its employees.
Bearing that in mind, conversions, sales and customer retention are incredibly reliant on how you treat your customers. Yet great customer service goes well beyond that old adage about ‘the customer always being right’ (which is true). In most sectors, offering great service is about added value.
Again, you should take a look at the sort of customer service, support and aftercare your competitors are offering clients – and then think about what they’re doing well, and how you could do better. Another excellent way of figuring out what your customers want, is to ask them.
By conducting short email or in-store surveys with existing or potential customers, you can get first-hand accounts of the sort of service they want to receive from your company. Take on board as many suggestions as you possibly can and implement those suggestions.
Then, implement some quality control measures and staff training to ensure the level of customer service you want to provide, is consistent across all elements of your business. After all, there’s no point giving customers a great service one day, and then treating them differently the next day. If you want to retain customers and keep them coming back for more, maintain a consistent level of customer service excellence.
3. Adopt a never say die attitude
Why? It doesn’t matter how often you are knocked onto the canvas – it’s how many times you get up and carry on the fight that counts.
Failure is an important part of the business process. Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson has started more than 400 companies under the Virgin brand, and they’ve not all been winners. Virgin Cola, Virgin Cosmetics, Virgin Cars and Virginware certainly didn’t pan out. But Branson learns from his failures and persists.
And how has this ‘never say die’ attitude worked out for Richard Branson? Forbes values him at $5.1bn, and his network of companies employs 71,000 people all across the world.
If you want to succeed in business, you can’t despair and lose confidence when something did not become an instant success. Figure out what went wrong, think about how to prevent it from happening again and get back out there and try again. You can never quit, and you can never stop trying. Around 90% of start-ups fail in their first few years of trading. Don’t let that be your company – and if it does turn out to be your company, don’t be afraid to pick up the pieces and start again with a new project.
4. Be prepared to sacrifice – your life is now your work
Your business will not succeed overnight. It takes a lot of hard work and determination to drive your new company forward – and like it or not, that determination needs to start with the realisation, your life is now your business.
A lot of people fantasise about starting their own business because they crave the freedom it will bring. As a business owner, you can make your own hours, make executive decisions about your products and choose how to drive your business forward. But with that freedom comes an incredible amount of responsibility.
The decisions and choices you make, alongside the amount of hours you are prepared to devote to your business, will ultimately dictate how your business is able to develop and succeed. You may need to sacrifice free time and personal luxuries to spend more time working. If you are prepared to make that sacrifice, and do not relent, your company is already on its way to being a success.
5. When you start making big bucks – invest it in your business, not a new car
This one is crucial, and it starts with asking yourself a very important question: are you building a strong and robust business that can realise its potential, or are you building a lifestyle business that exists to service a comfortable standard of living?
There’s nothing wrong with either choice, but it’s a choice you need to make from the start of your company’s life. That’s because more often than not, the development of a strong business needs every penny it generates pumped back into it, for a considerable period of time. You cannot afford to fall into the trap of starving your business with a lack of investment because you are indulging yourself.
The rewards of success should wait until your business is established with strong foundations. So, what does that mean in practice? First and foremost, it means you need to exercise self-control. Most entrepreneurs are tempted to upgrade their lifestyle the moment they begin to receive income or turn a profit, but you need to think about long-term sustainability. Create yourself a realistic, personal budget – and then pair that budget to the strategic needs of your business.
From there, it should be easier to decide what’s more important in the grand scheme of things. For example, it might not be critical to your comfort to buy a new 50-inch 3D television for your apartment – but it very well could be critical to your company’s success to buy a new point-of-sale terminal. Resist temptation and choose your business.
6. Read the book The E Myth Revisited
We’ve all got a picture in our heads of what entrepreneurs look like, what they do and the skills they’ve got. But the truth is, there is a whole lot more to successful entrepreneurs than meets the eye – and to establish a good balance and lead your company, you’ve got to develop the rights skills.
One of the best places to learn about those skills is the book The E-Myth Revisited, which was published by small business guru and author Michael Gerber in 2009. According to Gerber, all entrepreneurs need to fill three crucial roles.
The first of those three roles is the technician, which is ‘someone who does’. A technician is somebody who is excellent at their craft. Technicians are fantastic at their job and they know it – which is why technicians often assume they can turn their incredible skills into a successful business.
The second, is the entrepreneur, which is someone who is constantly trying to innovate. Entrepreneurs are always reaching for the stars and are trying to stay five steps ahead of the competition by coming up with the next big thing to help catapult their business to the top.
The third, is the manager, who craves order and “compulsively clings to the status quo”. The manager is detail-oriented, pragmatic and responsible for planning and predictability.
This sounds like you need three very different people, right? Wrong. Gerber points out, they are three distinct aspects of your own personality, and to master how to effectively lead a business, you must learn to fulfil all three roles. Only then will you develop an equilibrium to become a well-balanced entrepreneur.