How to Run a Small Business
Owning a small business definitely has it’s own unique challenges. Small business owners have to handle everything from financing, managing, selling, delivering, marketing, and more with little or no staff. But more importantly, you need to maintain the interest of all of your stakeholders, such as your customers, vendors, suppliers, staff members, and more. Being successful is a combination of knowing what you’re doing and committing to a lot of hard work.
Owning a small business can be extremely rewarding, both personally and financially. To help you succeed, I have compiled a list of tips on how to run a small business. Hopefully these tips help you overcome your obstacles or avoid them all together.
1. Create a business plan.
Having a business plan is crucial to success. In your business plan, you will have your entire business’ future laid out in front of you in detail. You will see where you want your business to be in 3-5 years and you will lay out how you will get there. Read more on business plans.
2. Get your business license.
Make your business legal! Securing a small business license for your industry is key and usually cheap. You can attain one by simply contacting your local city hall or county office. This ensures your business is legal and abides by your industry’s specific laws and regulations. Be sure to register for whatever permits you need to provide the particular items or services you offer. Fictitious Name filing with your local county is good to because it allows you to open a business bank account under your business’ name and take checks in the name of your business. Having these things not only keep you legal, it shows your customers that you are a professional.
3. Make your bank work for you.
One of the first things I did when I decided to start Sky Marketing was to find a business-friendly bank. I looked at over 8 banks and credit unions before finally making my choice. I suggest doing the same. Look at a variety of banks and see what type of credit cards they have, what their rates are, what type of services you need that they provide (such as ACH payments or Payroll services), and what type of incentives they offer. Banking with an institution that’ll give you the absolute best rates, best deals, and most efficient services will help you maximize your every dollar.
Small Business Development Centers can really help a business get of the ground. Most cities have one and their sole purpose is to help local businesses. They can help you create a business plan, they can help with counseling, and they can help you network.
Honestly, you need to network as much as possible. Meeting people, sharing your business, and gaining the support of other local small businesses is a great way to get more business. Join small business associations and participate in the community to raise business awareness.
For example, we at Sky Marketing participated in a local high school internship program a few months ago. The local high school was placing their Juniors into businesses that were in a field the kids were interested in. We signed up and took 2 of the high school kids. We had a blast teaching them about business, graphic design, web design, and some SEO. I got to bring them to meet a client of ours who was the ex-mayor of the town, local small business owner, and currently running for Sonoma County Supervisor. The kids got to learn what business meetings were like and our client liked it as well. The kids then got to even work on his website. It was a great experience for both us and the kids. Not only did we get to do something good, we also got to meet a lot of other businesses that were participating in the program (this is networking).
Local Search Engine Optimization is one of the cheapest and most affordable ways a small business can begin to bring in clients and create an online presence. Local SEO will get your business on multiple business listing platforms such as Google Places, Bing Places, Yahoo Local, Yelp, YellowPages, and more. It also ensures that customers will find your business when they go online and search for the products or services you provide. Better yet, if you don’t have a website yet (which we suggest you get), Local SEO will still work without one. We offer Local SEO services for only $100 a month. It’s affordable, effective, and an absolute must for small businesses that are trying to get off the ground.
7. Know your business.
This is key. Knowing your business before you even start your business is key. This should truly determine whether you even want to start your business or whether you feel you can be successful or not. Make sure to keep up to date on whats new and trendy in your market. Read online articles, subscribe to newsletters or magazines, and stay informed on all current events in your small business’ industry.
8. Stay organized.
My old manager used to always tell me “Organization is the key to success” and you know what, he’s right! Organization of your time, finances, staff members, and inventories are key to running a successful small business. When you have limited resources and multiple things to do (as most small business owners are), you need to stay organized and maximize your time. Developing a spreadsheet or a work-flow plan can help you keep track of the important things you need to do and have a scheduled time to do so. Making a schedule for yourself creates accountability as well.
9. Create a Great Team
Hire employees that have an interest in your business’ field and have certification’s or degrees related to your business’ industry. A business is only as good as the people behind it and finding the right people can be tricky but it’s very important. If your hiring for a position that requires a certification, hire people who already posses that certification to avoid having to put them through the certification program. Ensure your employees are smart, skilled, and people-friendly. I must stress the “people-friendly” trait because many businesses forget they are in the people-pleasing business.
For example: If I asked you what business Starbucks is in, most would say the coffee business. This is actually wrong. You can make a great cup of coffee but if your service is horrible and the customer is unhappy, they won’t return. Having employees who are good at their job (on paper) but lack interpersonal skills are bad employees. Make sure all of your employees have strong interpersonal skills, get along with each other, and get along with your customers.
10. Effectively manage your inventory.
This is more important for certain businesses (such as retail and restaurants) than it is for other (service-based) businesses but it’s still important. Inventory management can literally make or break you. Managing it carefully is extremely important to maximizing your dollar value. Don’t overstock items when you first start your business (especially perishable inventory). You also want to make sure that you are not over-buying items for your inventory. Check a few places on each item to make sure you are getting the best value for your dollar. Also, make sure you know what items are selling and what isn’t. Rotate inventory frequently to remove slow selling items and replace them with new ones.
11. Gather references and testimonials.
Generate a list of satisfied customers that are willing to either write you a testimonial or serve as a reference. Supply this list to your future customers who are on the fence as to whether they should go to you or your competitor. This will give your future customers the ability to confirm that you are the right company to bring their business to.