You’ve done your homework, evaluated your own strengths and weaknesses and found the industry that’s right for you. You’ve raised the capital, made the investment and hired the employees. You’ve opened your doors.
Here are some tips and techniques to take your enterprise to the next level:
1. Continually improve
Build your own business by building your skills. Make sure you know basic business acumen: how to read a balance sheet, how to create a financial statement, how to hire good employees and how to manage cash flow. If you don’t have these skills, or you could use a boost, take courses at your local college, continuing education center or online. A great online resource is Lynda, which is often available for free through your local library. Ask around!
2. Have a business plan
Write down your goals for sales, cash flow, debt and profits. Learn your market and do a financial projection. Decide where and how often to advertise. Plan, plan, plan!
3. Have a marketing plan
Marketing and promotion are essential to build your own business. Research opportunities to get the word out about your company. This can include ads in local media, giveaways at your location, sponsorship of Little League teams and many other opportunities.
Social media is an increasingly important part of building brand recognition and driving sales. Make sure you incorporate a social media presence into your overall marketing plan. Define a message you want to promote on social media, and make sure your customers—and potential customers—can find you easily on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat (for younger audiences) and LinkedIn. And keep monitoring other social media platforms. It’s not hard to have a presence on any social medium, but you have to make sure it’s up to date.
It never hurts to know what the competition is doing. Join industry and local associations and read the websites and publications. Stay on top of developments so they don’t take you by surprise.
Ask for customer feedback and respond to it in a timely fashion, in every way possible—social media, surveys, contests and giveaways, and good, old-fashioned talking to people. Provide pricing incentives to encourage repeat business and referrals to new customers.