If your dream has long been to start and manage your own business, there is no time like the present to get started. The cost of entry is at an all-time low, working from home through an Internet website seen globally to turn a hobby or an invention into an online business. But don’t be misled into thinking that long-term business success is assured and low risk.
According to Digital Point and others, there are about a hundred new websites and businesses created every minute somewhere in the world today. Unfortunately, most of these are never able to declare long-term success. Statistics show that the failure rate for new businesses within the first four years is fifty percent or greater, even with companies that have a large startup budget.
In all cases, it pays to understand some proven strategies to increase your chances of success. Here are some key ones that I recommend, based on my experience in business, and my many years as an advisor to entrepreneurs:
- Choose a name that works across the Internet and the world. In addition to legal and local requirements, you need a business name that is available as a website domain name, and a user name on key social media channels, including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Make sure it has no negative implications in any foreign language or culture.
- Provide online content that ranks you ahead of competitors. Having a website won’t help if customers can’t find it. They expect to find you on the first result page from search engines, and position ranking is driven by relevant keywords, new content on a regular basis, and inbound and outbound site links. Focus on usability, layout, sound, and video.
- Expect to spend your limited budget on marketing. Word-of-mouth and minimal marketing does not drive a sustainable business. All marketing costs money, including viral marketing, search engine optimization, click-through, and social media support. You must continually assess cost versus value for the best returns in your case.
- Use social media to actively engage with your customers. Many businesses ignore social media, others listen in on one or more channels, while the best, talk as well as listen to customers and potential customers. Customers today are looking for relationships, not just transactions. They want to know you before they recommend you to their friends.
- Focus on providing memorable total customer experiences. Customer service is not just about fixing problems. It starts when the customer begins his search for a solution, includes the buying and support process, and extends through follow-on transactions. Delighted customers are your best advocates, bringing in more customers than any advertising.
- Manage cash flow personally every day. A big influx of customer orders may feel like success, but can kill your business quickly if you don’t have the cash to manufacture product, deliver on a timely basis, and cover receivables. The best business owners manage cash flow ruthlessly and never delegate decisions about spending money.
- Measure against specific objectives, rather than crises solved. Surviving daily challenges is necessary, but not sufficient, to build a sustainable business. Start by setting some specific growth targets, and implement metrics to chart your progress. Plan to update these objectives and your implementation plan, on at least a quarterly basis.
The next secret is incorporating the ability to adapt quickly to the continuous changes now occurring in the marketplace within your business and management style. Some people call this pivoting, while others call it continuous innovation, or even killing your cash cow before someone else does. If you aren’t making sizable changes every quarter, you are likely falling behind.
So, while the cost of entry into business today is low, that doesn’t mean that business success is easy. Don’t let the low cost of entry lure you into a false sense of security. In my experience, there are only a small number of key principles and strategies that contribute large amounts to long-term sustainability and satisfaction. How many of these strategies are you following today?