There are generally only three reasons to start your own business: one, you've got a great idea and want to be your own boss; two, you feel you can do what you do better than anyone else, especially your boss; or three, you have to. And it no matter which way you do it, most of us start off without enough money, without enough people or time, and without enough knowledge to turn our thoughts into profitable and thriving companies.
Yet somehow we get past those hurdles and get our ideas off the ground. Perseverance is one thing, but staying focused on what counts in the short term is absolutely vital. To make sure you launch a stable, growing business, here are my top seven tips to help you get your business off the ground:
- Focus on profitable customers.
Bringing in new customers is vital to a new business, but keeping the ones you've already worked hard to get is even more important. Ultimately, your company will become profitable based on how many repeat customers you have. Also, focus on customers who will spend a lot. Too often, new entrepreneurs chase any business they can get, rather than "ideal" customers and clients.
- Focus on cash flow.
Cash flow statements should be done weekly, and in the smallest of new companies, they should be done daily. Work out how much revenue you need to bank every day to make a profit right from the start. Then you can really manage your sales and income budgets.
- Focus on productive time.
In the beginning, you need to be investing at least 80 percent of your day in the making-money end of the business. Selling, marketing and delivering are where you make money. In other words, sitting behind a desk or a counter is a killer for startups.
- Focus on what's working and selling.
As the owner of a startup, it's easy to focus on everything that doesn't work. However, you should really be looking at what the marketplace tells you is working. Stop trying to sell or do things the market doesn't want. Startups need to be truly flexible about moving to what works and what makes the most money.
- Focus on customer service.
Certainly you want customers to come back, but more important, you want positive word-of-mouth. Serve your customers well, and make it easy for them to refer their friends to you. But remember, great service only works when you give it to people who appreciate it (refer to point #1).
- Focus on hiring only the best team members.
Don't ever settle for the best of a bad bunch. Always look for someone great. It may cost you 10 to 20 percent more, but such individuals will be well worth their price by helping you build a successful company.
- Focus on quality, not quantity.
At startup, entrepreneurs often fall into the "bigger is better" trap. Sometimes smaller quantity and higher quality--and thus a higher price and a higher profit margin--is better. Same goes for the number of customers and staff you have. I'd rather have 10 great customers than 100 average ones.
During startup, stay focused on what delivers revenue, profits and results right now. You have a lot of momentum to build, and just like getting an old steam locomotive going, the first part of your journey is the hardest.