10 tips for starting your own small business

10 min read
Art Martori

Many things go into starting and running a successful business. This post provides actionable tips for just getting started with your own businesses.

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1. Start talking to your potential customers — ASAP

As a new business owner, your primary focus may be to buy stock or build a product or a service. 

However, before you put all your efforts into this area, speak with potential customers as soon as possible.

Remember, your goal as an entrepreneur is to cater to your customers' needs. Immediately after you plan to start a new business, start talking to potential customers to ensure that your product/service meets their needs.

Starting a new business takes work. However, the process can be less stressful if you gather the correct information from the start. In the first days of your business, aim to listen more and honestly analyze what potential customers say instead of trying to sell.

Doing this will not only provide an opportunity to learn but also help build trust. To get the most from your conversation, ask the right questions and be ready to learn.

Some of the ways you can interact with potential customers include: 

  • Observation: Observe the problems that your potential customers face and how they are currently solving them
  • Customer discovery interviews: This involves interviewing people with problems that your product/service can help solve. Of course, don't talk about your idea at this stage — just ask the right questions and take notes.
  • Focus groups: Gather people with similar challenges and talk with them about their problems
  • Research: Use data mining and research to understand the problems of your potential customers

Talking to potential customers is the best way to understand the people you target with your product/service and develop the best solution to their problem.

2. Make sure your business model prioritizes revenue-generating activities

The primary goal of running your own business is to make more money. However, starting and running a new business come with many challenges, including cost and time management.

In most cases, you can find yourself doing human resource work, accounting, sales management, marketing, and content creation. While there's nothing wrong with this, you need to rethink your strategy if your model doesn't prioritize income-generating activities.

Business activities are categorized into three:

  • Activities that impact revenue directly, like sales calls, hosting a workshop, marketing, follow-ups, pitching, etc.
  • Activities with an indirect relationship to revenue, like creating social media posts, revamping your business website, and distributing flyers.
  • Activities that have no relationship to revenue, like reading finance sales books, thinking about how you can improve your marketing and sales, etc.

As you can see from the examples above, some activities are important for your business and can help increase revenue in the long run. Still, you need to set a model that allows you to concentrate on revenue-generating activities when starting your business.

Here are tips to help free up your time to ensure you prioritize revenue-generating activities:

  • Don't accept activities that don't generate more revenue
  • Delegate tasks that don't lead to more in your bank account.
  • Invest in automation tools to free up your time
  • Only work with clients who pay well and are easy to work with

By taking the above steps, you'll have more time to prioritize tasks that directly impact your revenue.

3. Make sure customers are willing to pay for the solution you offer with your business idea

One of the biggest challenges for new business owners is figuring out what business ideas to pursue and which ones to let go of. And as you know, a business is as good as the ideas it implements.

Before you spend money on any idea, ensure that people are willing to pay for it. If you ignore this part, achieving high-level success will be impossible.

To avoid spending your hard-earned money on guesses, spend your time figuring out what product/service your customers want. Below are questions to help you figure out whether your business idea is worth investing in:

  • What's your mission for starting a business?
  • What problem will your idea solve?
  • What category of people are you targeting?
  • What solutions are your potential customers currently using?
  • Are people willing to spend money on your idea?

Answer these questions honestly to get insights on whether your idea is worth spending time and money on. Also, talk to your potential customers to get an idea of the type of problems they face and the type of solution they want.

4. Focus on one thing at a time. It's easy to get overwhelmed with so many things to do at a new business

Your responsibilities as a new entrepreneur will increase as your business grows. When this happens, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and lose focus.

The best way to avoid this is to focus on one thing at a time. Feeling overwhelmed and burnout is caused by not only the number of hours you work but also the number of tasks you handle in a day. 

For example, you may be trying to answer business calls when driving, replying to emails during meetings, or even eating at your working desk.

Such a habit will impact your health and affect your productivity significantly. The best way to avoid being overwhelmed and get more done is to focus on one thing at a time. 

As a rule of thumb, establish a regular schedule to help reduce stress and find time to relax.

5. Scared, nervous, or anxious about a task? That's probably the task small business owners need to do first

Have you heard the term, "Eat the frog first thing in the morning?" The word "frog" from this phrase by a French writer, Nicolas Chamfort, symbolizes the most challenging task.

When you have many tasks to handle in a day, you're likely to start with those that seem easy and more appealing than those that scare you or make you nervous.

However, if you do the easier tasks first thing in the morning when your motivation and energy are higher, you may procrastinate when it's time to handle the more challenging tasks.

But handling the most difficult tasks first sets the mood of the day. It also means you're less likely to procrastinate when handling more appealing tasks later in the day. This will help you stay motivated throughout the day and set you up for more productivity and efficiency. 

6. Find entrepreneurs who are doing what you are trying to do and pick their brain

Even if you have brilliant business ideas and the best strategy to execute them, sometimes you may feel unsure about what to do next. In such moments, you need a role model to remind you that your success goals are achievable.

Success is not a straight line, and sometimes the challenges you face when running your business can make you give up. 

You can avoid this path by tapping into the strategies of successful entrepreneurs in your industry.

Look for entrepreneurs who are good at what you're trying to do and analyze how they smash barriers to ensure their businesses remain on the path to success.

7. Find out what numbers matter most in your business plan and monitor them

Starting a new business is a great step but not enough. To know how your business is progressing, you must continuously monitor your key metrics. 

A business's key metrics are elements of a company that help understand the targets you have achieved and those you haven't.

Regular monitoring and maintenance are a crucial part of a successful business. 

Set up the key metrics in your business to ensure you're tracking relevant data to help identify potential problems and develop the best solutions possible.

Depending on your business, here are vital metrics to include in your business plan:

  • Sales revenue
  • Gross margin
  • Net profit margin
  • Website traffic
  • Lead conversion rate
  • Customer acquisition cost
  • Retention rate
  • Monthly recurring revenue (MRR)

The best approach is to set simple metrics that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely (SMART).

8. The good ol' SWOT analysis is still valuable in entrepreneurship

New business owners can still benefit from the SWOT analysis technique. SWOT is an acronym for strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. 

It's an excellent analysis that can help analyze the areas your business is doing poorly now and develop a better strategy for the future.

Use a SWOT analysis to examine your company's internal and external factors. 

It is a great way to identify your strengths and weaknesses and the strategies of your competitors.

With this strategy, you can get new insights into the current position of your business so you can initiate the best tactics for that specific situation. It can also help see previously overlooked opportunities with great potential for success.

9. Don't compare your own business to other businesses that have been around longer

A major mistake you can make with your startup is comparing it to other businesses running for many years.

Many successful businesses you see have gone through many obstacles to be where they are today. Don't expect your business to achieve certain levels of success that have taken other companies many years within a few weeks or months.

Comparing your business with companies running for a long time can make you depressed and lose the motivation to get going. This can make you judge yourself and significantly slow your progress.

Your business situation is unique from other businesses in your industry. 

Comparing yourself with successful companies you know nothing about can make you obsessed with your failures and set unrealistic standards for your business.

Yes, looking at other businesses that have been around for a long time is okay. But you should see them as a role model instead of comparing their level of success to yours.

10. Make sure you treat your startup as a business and not a hobby

Creating a successful business takes hard work and determination. If you treat your business as a hobby, you won't get the desired results.

But to take your startup to the next level, give it the seriousness it deserves. This can mean waking up as early as 3 a.m. and getting dressed to plan how to handle your business.

Here are tips to ensure you treat your business as a business and not as a hobby:

  • Be committed
  • Set realistic goals
  • Work hard to achieve your set goals
  • Be profit-oriented
  • Focus on what you're good at

Most often, people focus on what they love doing. However, to be a successful entrepreneur, you should find the right balance between what you love, what you're good at, and the solution people seek.

Put these tips to work building your successful business!

The above tips will come in handy when building your new startup. In addition to the above strategies, set realistic goals and develop the best marketing techniques to navigate the challenging business environment.

Interested in taking the next step for your business? Check out our handy guides below.