"There are no secrets to success," said Colin Powell, "It is the result of preparation, hard work," and, of course "learning from failure." Today, 25% of new businesses fail within their first year, and 50% fail within the first five years, according to research from the University of Tennessee. High failure rates are often the result of poor planning, inconsistency, and failure to adapt to an evolving digital landscape. The tips below can help you avoid some of these common pitfalls, but the rest is up to you.
Plan, Plan, Plan...
If you're not an organized person, change that right now. From the moment you consider opening a business, start making lists. To-do lists, to-buy lists, things to think about, and so on. Then prioritize and make your notes actionable. Create a business plan. Determine your financing needs. Inventors have ideas. Entrepreneurs sell their ideas to financiers. Decide whether to apply for a small business loan, apply for grants, look for investors, or personally fund the venture. Regardless of your funding, choose a small business credit card. Business cards can help you manage your spending and provide financing when you really need it. Most financial institutions provide special programs and incentives for small businesses that use their credit cards.
Get the Word Out
You may have the best product or services available in your field, but you won't get anywhere unless people know that. Networking can help you find quality employees, business partners, and a client base. To that end, you'd better be able to pitch your business to each of those target audiences...on demand. Though there is no substitute for eye contact and a firm handshake, the Internet will become one of your most important tools.
Build a website for your business that uses Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices and don't forget to use social media outlets as well. Forty-seven percent of marketers agree that Facebook is critical for their business, according to State of Inbound Marketing. If you haven't started a Facebook page specifically for your business, it's time to do so. For basic tips on how to optimize your business Facebook page, refer to this guide by the Social Media Examiner.
Record, Analyze, Adjust. Repeat.
If you want to be part of the 45% of businesses that last more than five years, you have to know what you're doing and how you're doing it. Keep accurate, organized, and timely records of everything. Analyze them and identify what you're doing well. Keep doing it. Figure out where you're lacking and fix it. Schedule everything from meetings to process reviews and stick to those schedules.
Jason Womack, productivity expert and columnist for Entrepreneur magazine, says a "sense of incompletion" is the biggest hindrance to productivity. He advises that the best cure for this is to think about your most important tasks in complete thoughts. Instead of putting future tasks on your brain's back burner, think them through to completion, debrief yourself, and then move on to the next thing. An inventory of tasks and your trusted advisors will help you determine which tasks to tackle first.