9 Essential Small Business Tips

Seventy five percent of start-ups fail, according to a Harvard Business School study. Before you shun the idea of being an entrepreneur, read over our 9 steps that can help set you up for success.

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Find Your Passion

What is your business going to be? Do you have a product you’re crazy about? Perhaps you enjoy providing a service to help customers and make them happy. Whatever the product or service you’re offering, it’s important to be excited about it and ready to succeed.

Inc. has an article covering this very subject: 3 Ways to Find Your Passion and Make It Your Business

Ask for Help

You might have passion, the perfect product and the infrastructure needed to run a business. No matter what your skill set, you’ll probably come across an issue or new situation that is outside of your area of expertise.

These days there is a wealth of information out there specifically tailored for the small business owner. Start with the SBA office in your area here. They offer:

  • Free counseling, advice and information on starting a business through SCORE.
  • Free consulting services through the network of Small Business Development Centers. SBDCs also conduct training events throughout the district - some require a nominal registration fee.
  • Assistance to businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals through the Minority Enterprise Development Program.
  • Women's Business Ownership Representatives are available to advise women business owners.

Another way to get business assistance is by hiring an outside freelancer or contract employee to handle legal, financial, marketing or other tasks that might be outside of your area of expertise.

Create a Business Plan

Business plans can be very helpful as you establish and run your enterprise. A business plan is a formal statement of goals, reasons they are attainable, and plans for reaching them. Often, a business plan is required when applying for a small business loan. (Note: SmartBiz does not require a business plan when seeking an SBA loan.)

A business plan doesn’t have to be a complicated document. The SmartBiz Small Business Blog outlines the elements you need to create a working roadmap: How to Write a Business Plan for Your Small Business (Without Going to Business School)

Secure Your Data

Cybersecurity concerns aren’t just for big companies. Security problems plague small businesses as well. According to Wikipedia, computer security, also known as cybersecurity or IT security, is the protection of information systems from theft or damage to the hardware, the software and to the information on them. This hot topic has been covered in depth on the SmartBiz Small Business Blog.

Cybersecurity for Small Businesses gives an overall view of how a security breech can be avoided. This guest post from an expert in online security dives deeper into security best practices for a small business: Are You Doing Enough to Protect Your Small Business from Hackers?

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Hire the Best

SmartBiz recently conducted a poll asking small business owners “What keeps you up at night?” The number one answer was “Employee Retention”. For the full poll results, check out our infographic: What Small Business Owners are Thinking

Before you worry about keeping employees, take steps to hire the best fit for your team. When you determine the employee needed, write a detailed job description to attract the right candidates.

Monster.com outlines the best way to vet potential employees here: Three Ways to Hire Great People. The authors outline an easy-to-implement strategy called the SWAN formula: Smart, Works hard, Ambitious, and Nice.

Once you’ve hired, review this article to help you manage and retain great employees: Strategies to Retain Your Small Business Employees

Follow Website Best Practices

A Stanford University study showed that 75 percent of users admit to making judgments about a company’s credibility based on their website’s design.

To help you craft your own website best practices including effective navigation, visually appealing design and how to implement SEO strategy, read this article from the Overit Blog, a resource from a full-service creative agency in New York: 10 Best Practices for Small Business Websites

Keep Your Business Credit Scores High

SmartBiz has created a short quiz to assess how much you know about business credit scores. Answer these 5 questions to test your knowledge: Test Your Business Credit Score IQ

Do you need to learn more about your scores and how they impact your business? Visit the SmartBiz Small Business Blog for lots of information.

Seek Low Cost Funds

You might think that taking on debt is counterproductive when running a business. Actually, taking out a low-cost loan can be a great choice for companies who are in good shape financially.

This blog post from SmartBiz Loans outlines how outside funds can help you grow and save money: The Benefits of Long-Term Debt for Your Small Business

Wondering where to turn for low-cost funds? SBA loans are generally known as the “gold standard” in small business funding due to low rates, long terms and very low monthly payments.

To determine if you’re prequalified before you apply, try out SmartBiz Advisor. This easy-to-use online tool generates your unique “Loan Ready Score” and offers suggestions to improve your numbers, if needed. Get started here.

Strive for Work/Life Balance

Business burnout can appear even if you are passionately pursuing your entrepreneurial dream. Letting it smolder can affect both your personal and professional life.

Review this post for more information to help you strike a healthy balance: 5 Ways to Avoid Business Burnout. Suggested strategies include exercise, regularly taking time off and learning how to delegate.

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