Set Your Business Up For Success

There are no guarantees in the world of entrepreneurship, but there certainly are ways to be responsible and professional as you approach a sea of unknowns. As you grow in knowledge and experience, you'll find many different ways to protect yourself and your business ventures from the ups and downs of the world of business.

Learn through mentoring classes and college courses
One of the best things you can do to help your business succeed is to learn about how to run a business. As a start-up business owner, you may wear many hats simultaneously - bookkeeper, programmer, and even a salesperson. There are many ways to do this: courses at a local community college or committing to an MBA are just two. Many business owners succeed with the help of mentors that they contact through their local SBA or Chamber of Commerce. If you don't have access to such an organization, there are also online mentoring classes that will teach you everything from building a website to creating a social media presence.

Be realistic about your cash flow needs
Many experts translate this as overestimating your expenses and underestimating your incomes. After all, it's easier to decide where to spend a surplus of cash than it is to sort out an unanticipated shortfall.

Understand how to make social media work for you
Social media, if you can make it work for your business, will be one of your greatest tools for success. The catch is that using social media as a business is more complicated than using it as a private individual. You need to carefully consider:

• What do you want from your social media accounts (to build awareness of your business, communicate with customers, make sales, build thought leadership for your brand)?
• What platforms do your customers currently use (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter)? It's vastly easier to approach your customer on the platform they use than it is to try and convince them to migrate to something new.
• Are you a good enough writer to create the kind of ongoing content that helps make websites more desirable and interesting to search engines? If not, how will you go about creating this content? Hire a freelancer, contract it out to someone on your team?

Protect your investments with loss relief
Whenever you're considering a large investment, loss relief is something that should be on the table. It's worth noting that different countries approach this in different ways; in the United States, often losses are reported through the tax code. Basically, know that if your investments go south, there might be ways to recover some of that money, but look into the process early and often.

How developed is your marketing plan?
In the beginning of your business, your absolute top priority is to build your first 100 customers, which you can only do through marketing. Word of mouth, advertisements, trade organizations, business expositions, and social media are all ways to get your name out there and start building the loyal customer base that will see you both through both good times and bad.

Track how you're doing
It is possible to track too many metrics that aren't meaningful, but in the early months, as you experiment, you should keep a close eye on what you're doing, and what seems to help bring in new customers. Discounts? Word of mouth? Referral bonuses? When you find the things that work for your business, you can build and develop from that. If you don't keep honest numbers of sales, statistics, and referrals, you won't know what you're measuring.

Whenever possible, add value instead of discounts
When you regularly discount your products, you teach your customers to wait for sales and discounts before they buy. Instead, add value to your sales. That can come as great customer services, add-on products, or exclusive samples. It seems like a small difference, but in terms of how customers view your business, you want to be the company that sends something extra, not the company that offers deep discounts. Race to the top, not the bottom.

Sometimes it seems like everyone around you is starting a business, and you may wonder why all the extra work is necessary. After all, isn't entrepreneurship just about making a quick investment or selling an idea, and then watching the cash flow in?

Of course it isn't. While there are a few rare cases of folks who are that lucky, entrepreneurship is work, just like any other job. Its rewards come in the way it encourages people to use the full spectrum of their talents, build creativity, and influence the outcome of their industry.