Sure, you know the essential components of operating a business: market research, customer service, sales, marketing and performance analysis. They’re all critical elements when you’re running a company. But what else could make or break your venture?
We tapped the minds of various business owners and executives to get their top entrepreneur tips. Here’s some of the best business advice they offered.
1. Be Clear on Your Purpose
Jeff Parke, owner of Top Fitness Magazine, shares this small business tip:
While you should have a solid business plan in place, it’s also important to keep your company’s sense of “why” in mind.
“When anyone is looking to start a business, they should always understand their reason, their mission, their purpose. Without those, when things get tough, it’s easy to quit,” Parke says.
“If you know why you started and who you’re helping, tough times aren’t so hard to get through.”
“Your ideas need to align with your mission statement, and if they don’t, move on, says Lim.
2. Surround Yourself With the Right Team
John Ross, CEO of online education company Test Prep Insight, shares this great business tip: “Hire smart, dedicated employees and put your faith in them. You can only micromanage and control the details for so long before your business gets too big and there is not enough time in the day.”
“Letting go of that control can be the hardest part for some business owners, especially those that are detail-oriented and need to oversee every minute aspect of their company,” he says. “Allow yourself to hire intelligent and committed employees, and put your faith in them to do the right thing.”
“When you empower your team and show them that you have faith in them, they won’t let you down. It’s only through building a strong core team and surrounding yourself with talented people that you’ll really grow your company.”
Also, be sure to foster a positive team environment by supporting your staff. When you demonstrate you value your employees, their loyalty is inevitable. What’s more, committed employees often have a stronger work ethic and are more dedicated to keeping the company’s best interest at heart.
Sebastian Schaeffer, chief technology officer and co-founder of digital marketing agency Dofollow.io, adds this tip: “Having a constructive, critical voice on your team is another prerequisite for long-term success.”
“There have been a number of pivotal moments in various businesses I have been a part of where I have been so married to an idea that I failed to see its shortcomings,” he says. “Having a thoughtful, trusted, well-meaning person on your team, whether a co-owner or a manager, to stress test your ideas, is absolutely crucial.”
3. Find a Mentor
Andrew Taylor, director of legal document template platform Net Lawman, shares this business advice for entrepreneurs: “Invest in a mentor.”
“This is perhaps the biggest positive impact I have had in my personal and professional growth and suggest others who are looking to do good business to find someone who can either teach them the ropes, or guide them in other ways to keep them focused, on track and feeling good,” Taylor says.
“It is a lonely journey being an entrepreneur and one you do not want to burden friends and family with,” he says.
He notes that a mentor can provide solid financial advice, help with business plan development and more.
The U.S. nonprofit organization SCORE is dedicated to helping small business owners and offers free 1-on-1 mentorship sessions as well as networking opportunities.
Your local Small Business Development Center, sponsored in part by the Small Business Administration, is another go-to source to locate a mentor or connect with like-minded business professionals.
4. Get a Process in Place
The best entrepreneur advice from Krista Neher, CEO of Boot Camp Digital, a provider of marketing training, is this: “Have a process for everything and execute with excellence. Process can be your secret weapon. Figure out the best way to do something once, and replicate it.”
“Early in my business I invested in a great proposal template,” she says. “I only had to update a few slides for each proposal and it looked 10 times better than my competitors’. I could create a proposal in only 30 minutes and it had a high close rate.”
“I now invest the time and effort up front to create systems and processes for everything,” Neher says. “We discover the best way to do something and then execute consistently. This allows work to seamlessly transition across the team and gets us better results.”
5. Leverage Technology and Automation
Schaeffer of Dofollow.io recommends that businesses embrace technology and automation.
“It is easy to get bogged down in tedious administrative work, which comes with enormous opportunity costs,” he says.
That’s why harnessing automation and technology is “especially important during the scale-up stage when you want the bulk of your time available for big-picture tasks and thinking, such as risk management, relationship building and networking and client prospecting,” he says.
6. Keep Financials in Check
David Baddeley, director at debt adviser Scottish Trust Deed, shares the importance of keeping up with invoicing and payments: “Always take down payment where possible, and invoice and chase as much as you need to to be able to be paid for work you have completed.”
“You need to be able to receive payments from clients and also be paid for all work that you do in order to be able to use this as your only income,” Baddeley says.
He also suggests starting early on your small business taxes.
7. Stay Cash-Flow Positive
Karriem Kanston, owner of management consulting firm Kanston Development, shares this small business management tip to be profitable:
“Many businesses look to have the best revenues they can possibly have. Their profit and loss statement looks very strong, monthly, quarterly and annually.”
However, Kanston says the most important financial report is actually a business’s cash-flow statement.
“Without cash, you cannot operate your business,” he says. “Cash in a business is like blood flowing through the veins.”
8. Take Advantage of Promotional Offers
Calloway Cook, president of Illuminate Labs, offers this business startup tip: “When you’re just launching your business, every thousand dollars can make a big difference. “
There are a lot of business banking promotions available, from checking account to credit card bonuses, that entrepreneurs can use to help jumpstart their business,” he says. “Often you just have to sign up and use the bank’s service for a fixed amount of time.”
Cook says he’s earned thousands of dollars for his business using this strategy. He also says that leveraging business checking and credit card bonuses have helped his company weather through the pandemic.
9. Tap Into Influencers
Brandon Brown, the CEO at GRIN, an influencer marketing software provider, shares how, increasingly, brands are using social media influencers and authentic content and engagement as part of their digital marketing strategy.
“Brands can utilize influencers to gauge how well a campaign performed compared to previous campaigns” as well as generate authentic content and engagement, he says.
“Strong relationships between businesses, influencers and their followers increase the chances for more conversions during a campaign,” Brown adds.
10. Continually Test to Improve
Ray Blakney, CEO and co-founder of the Live Lingua, an online language learning company, shares this tip for running a small business:
“To increase conversion rates, it is essential to A/B test faster than all your competitors. Constantly be testing and improving every step of your sales funnel,” says Blakney.
“Test and tweak your marketing emails to improve open and click-through rates,” he says. “In addition, your call center scripts should be tweaked constantly to see if you could raise the conversion by even a fraction of a percent.”
“The faster you can test, the faster you will find the best results, and the faster your business will grow,” he adds.
11. Be a Lifelong Learner
Christian Eilers, the entrepreneurship, education and career advice writer for professional development network Goodwall, shares this top tip, fitting for startups as well as veteran business owners:
“As an entrepreneur, especially in the earlier stages, it’s important to remember to soak up everything you can whenever you get the chance,” he says. “Though you may have the knowledge to make your vision a successful reality, you don’t know it all yet.”
“Treat every mistake, each piece of critical feedback and all complaints you receive as learning experiences, as these real-life lessons can be far more valuable than academic instruction imparted during an MBA program,” he says. “Use them to locate any inconsistencies in your idea or critical areas in which to immediately improve.”
“And, continue soaking up knowledge even when things look as if they’re going perfectly, as you’ll stay on top of industry changes, new technologies and business best practices to keep you navigating successfully,” Eilers adds.
12. Invest Profit Back Into the Business
Alex Thompson, director of LED lighting business Festoon House, says it’s important to have realistic first-year expectations when you’re starting a new venture.
He also offers this business advice: “Never take any more profits than are necessary outside of the business. Instead, invest as much of the profits back into your business, hire professionals, consult with experts and begin delegating your tasks with those profits.”
In addition to his work with Festoon House, Thompson has grown several businesses across industries over the past 12 years.
13. Keep Accessibility in Mind
In the U.S. alone, millions of individuals face visual or hearing accessibility issues. Dale Reardon, lawyer, experienced business operator and co-founder of Travel for All, stresses the importance of inclusion when operating a business. Reardon, blind since 17, is an advocate for individuals with disabilities.
“It is better to be imperfect rather than indifferent to accessibility,” he says.
He says individuals with disabilities are loyal customers, adding that “the accessibility sector has a lot of purchasing power and not just in relation to specific disability products and services but all products and services.”
He adds many individuals with disabilities are baby boomers who have purchasing power.
Reardon advises business owners to “start learning about accessibility and inclusion, training your staff and improving the accessibility of your website.”
In addition to taking accessibility into consideration with brick-and-mortar store layouts, “make your website accessible, mention access features of your products and services, be flexible with inquiries, etc.,” he says.
Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of marketing consultancy Mavens & Moguls shares this suggestion for improving website accessibility: “Voice user interface allows users to interact with websites through voice commands so it adds usability and functionality to your site making it more accessible to all users, including those with limitations and disabilities.”
“It is not just about complying with the ADA, responsible web design and corporate social responsibility goals, but it is also good for the bottom line by reaching a broader audience,” she says. “Inclusion is the right thing to do and it is good for business.”
14. Raise Capital to Grow
Olivier Momma, co-founder of wallet maker Ekster, shares this business startup tip: “Don’t get discouraged if you have a low budget and little to no experience. Crowdfunding can be powerful towards making your idea come to life, so take advantage of every avenue you can to gain those funds.”
It should come as no surprise to learn that Ekster’s first campaign was actually launched on Kickstarter and received a significant amount of startup funding.