There are numerous qualities that will help a prospective entrepreneur get a small business up and running. Some may come naturally, and others may require focus, experimentation and learning from others.
Here are 10 essential assets that will help put a small business owner on the right track.
- They take risks.
The act of starting a small business is a risk. The decision to go out on your own and make such an investment in yourself and your ambitions takes a certain degree of bravery and confidence. It’s the small business owners that do their homework about the paths they’re taking that may have a better chance of early success. Sujan Patel writes about this in a story for entrepreneur.com.
“People have an image of entrepreneurs as those who take crazy risks just for fun,” he says. “But while the risks we take may be crazy to those without an entrepreneurial mind, in reality, they’re calculated. Or, at least, they should be. If you’re the type of business owner who jumps in without knowing the numbers and probabilities behind your course of action, you won’t last long.”
- They have a positive attitude.
No one expects a small business owner to be perpetually chipper. But maintaining a positive outlook and sharing successes with employees can go a long way, as Ron Finklestein writes for entrepreneur.com.
“As the owner of the company, you must have a positive attitude and accept 100 percent of the responsibility for the results of your business,” he says. “When you accept responsibility, you can act to make the necessary changes to accomplish the desired results. Then, when success is achieved, you’re generous in giving credit to others within the organization.”
- They keep up with the competition.
The process of getting a small business up and running should include a thorough analysis of competitors. Who is out there, how successful are they and how did they get to where they are? There may be lessons to learn from those that are already established, and there may be some unexpected competitors as well, as Nancy Wagner writes for Demand Media.
“Your business plan needs to provide full details about your competitors,” Wagner writes. “Every business has competition, even if you’re a small business competing with much larger companies. Even the only bakery in town has competitors, including the local church that holds monthly bake sales, the grocery store and kids selling cookies for fundraisers. A plan suggesting you have no competitors indicates a major weakness in understanding your market. Providing detailed information about each of your competitors in regards to their market position, offerings, strengths and weaknesses shows you’ve thoroughly examined the competition.”
- They are goal-oriented.
It’s not enough to aim for success. Small business owners that take the time to research the market, crunch the numbers and collaborate with their staffs can develop much more specific targets. Those numbers can then be used at the end of the year to evaluate the approach for the following one. Patel writes about this in his entrepreneur.com story.
“Every unstoppable entrepreneur has clear goals,” he says. “Knowing your goals will keep you going when things get tough and give you something to focus on when you’re not sure what to do next. But your goals shouldn’t just focus on the long term. Have long-term, mid-term and short-term goals. Doing so allows you to plan your days and weeks with unmatched focus, knowing exactly what you’re shooting for.”
- They make smart hires.
Small business owners are often only as good as the people around them. When looking for employees, it’s crucial to take the time to consider all that the job will entail, and be consistent in using that as a measuring tool. Max Messmer wrote about this for businessnewsdaily.com.
“Define these needs in a detailed job description that will serve as the foundation for your hiring process,” he wrote. “This set of criteria will allow you to better assess each candidate’s qualifications. Use it with each person you interview. When managers don’t rate every applicant using the same criteria (and record their findings), information or applicants interviewed earlier in the process may inadvertently get overlooked. Occasionally you may have to compromise on your must-haves. For instance, you could realize you were unrealistic with earlier standards and can’t find any suitable applicants. Or perhaps, once you start interviewing candidates, it occurs to you that what you thought you wanted doesn’t adequately address the real challenges of the job.”
- They care about employees.
After focusing on making smart hires, small business owners will need to take the time to get to know them and to guide them along the desired path. Throwing a bunch of new people into new positions can create confusion, so the owner must help to smooth out the edges. Dan Barufaldi writes about this for investopedia.com.
“Although thinking in terms of a ‘relationship’ with employees might seem a little odd for a business owner, that relationship could be the most important of all of the relationships for the owner to cultivate,” he says. “Because good employees represent a major resource in a small business, the time and effort the owner invests in nurturing that relationship has a huge return on investment. Employees who feel seen, respected and appreciated almost always produce more than anticipated.”
- They look for opportunities.
It may be natural for an entrepreneur to consider staying focused when a new startup earns early success. But being on the lookout for a new avenue — a new product, a new market, a new marketing strategy — could propel the business even higher, as Patel writes in his entrepreneur.com story.
“Entrepreneurs who are really successful don’t rest on their current successes,” he says. “They realize that life changes quickly, and that business moves at an even faster pace. To be unstoppable, always be on the lookout for your next opportunity. Spot new trends in your industry, or look for a new application of an old tool. You’ll never get stuck in the old when you make it a priority to watch out for the new.”
- They organize their finances.
With all that goes into starting a small business, it’s easy to get lost in the whirlwind of details. But it’s important to not neglect the finances involved, or let them pile up each month, or wait around for tax season to finally get organized. In a story for smallbiztrends.com, David Cotriss writes that regular analysis will help with year-over-year efforts.
“Figure out how much it costs to deliver specific services to the business such as recruitment, payroll or benefits management,” he says. “Understanding cost-to-serve offers the business great insight into projects and tasks, how long it actually takes to do them, and as a result how much they cost. If you want to pare back on the budget, there are hard numbers to work with that show exactly what the impact on quantity and quality of service will be if resources are reduced.”
- They aim for a work-life balance.
This is tricky, as many of us struggle to balance our work and home lives. As a small business evolves, more clarity should come in how to unplug, and how to separate the office from the house. But for particularly ambitious entrepreneurs, it could also mean a successful blurring of the lines, as Finklestein writes in his entrepreneur.com piece.
“Successful business owners understand that every person has just 1,440 minutes in any given day and how they spend this time directly impacts how effective they’ll be in growing their businesses,” he writes. “Smart entrepreneurs successfully integrate their social lives into their business lives: The client who purchases a product today gets invited to the lakeside cabin the next weekend. Clients become friends, and co-workers become like family. These entrepreneurs build their lives around their business, and it’s almost impossible to distinguish between their social lives and their business lives.”
- They celebrate success.
It’s crucial that a small business owner stops for a moment when things are going well. Acknowledge the team effort that the achievement required and thank everyone that was involved before marching on to the next goal. Todd Vernon examines this for inc.com.
“So many small companies fail to celebrate success,” he says. “It generally happens because the founders see the giant road ahead and feel like celebration is premature and perhaps unwarranted. It’s important to understand that the celebration is not for the founder or the CEO; it’s for the employees who often have a completely different metric of success.”