To be successful as an entrepreneur, always treat your business like a business or you have no business. Maybe you don't take yourself seriously and this may make for a bearable work day on those dreary days but there is a difference between treating your business as one and having a hobby that brings in some cash. Treat your business, however, small from a different mindset even if you are the only employee in the business. The reason for this is that you want your business to have the nature of a successful business for it to be a business. A plant is a plant because of its nature, a man a man because of how he is built. A business will only be a business if it looks and behaves like a business. How it does that is through you. If you build it to be a social club for your friends that is what it will become, a hangout joint. If you build it to be a charity that is what it will be; a place for handouts.What kind of organisation are you building? This is not to say that one cannot be generous and help out friends and family and if you are in the restaurant business or other socialising business, it could be a hangout joint. The idea is that you should decide what kind of business you want, then build and treat your business as that. Though each business is unique depending on its strategy as determined by the owner, there are some common elements of a business, that differentiate a business from other organisations. We discuss these below;
1. Discipline: Businesses run on schedules and if you are not disciplined you will not be able to operate on required schedules and be successful. This is especially difficult for those who go into business expecting to be lazy and do what they want whenever they want; true you can but your chances of succeeding will be slim. Even when you are doing the business part-time, there has to be some discipline in allocating time to do your business, meeting deadlines and serving clients. If there is no discipline your businesses will not thrive and that means no money - which is the measure of success in business.
Schedule time to open shop, this could mean waking up to go to your living room / kitchen table, and work like you would if you were going to the office. You can always make adjustments after you succeed but not before. Develop a routine that you stick to and set rules to operate by even before opening your first store, getting your first client or employee.
2. Strategy; It is important to come up with a business plan, goals, mission, vision and targets; things that give you direction on where you are headed. Things in the business world happen fast and if you have no road map you may find yourself jogging on the spot, doing anything and everything. This is especially important when you start having a team in your small business. If you have no direction strong characters in your team will give it their own direction and this can cause confusion and disharmony as everyone ends up doing whatever they want. Your business plan is crucial to success.
'There is no favourable wind for the sailor with no port' - Unknown
The vision, mission and especially values should be set by you and other board members or with the support of someone who is equally passionate about the business and understands what you want to achieve. The rest should be done with the team if you have one. This ensures everyone is included and committed to the company's mission and objectives.
3. Hire the best you can afford that have similar values. This is important for several reasons. Early in your business, you need to set up systems and processes that will be the backbone of the company. If you do not have the best people, you may not have the best processes for your business. Every business is unique and even when replicating systems like KAIZEN and FIFO, that are working, they have to be tailored to your particular business as a business has a life of it own.
The other reason is that going into business is gruelling and while in the first couple of years you may not be able to take a holiday, you do need occasional breaks to recoup and you do not want to have someone who cannot manage the business for a day or two while you are away. They should be trustworthy, be able to make good decisions and take charge.
The final reason to hire people with expertise and similar values are that they are more likely to fit in into the company culture and flourish than if they do not have similar values. This does not mean hiring someone of the same religious background or tribe. Value is shown by actions and tailoring interview questions to bring this out is one way of knowing what a person values. If you cannot hire them full time bring in the expertise for a period or as required.
4. Document processes as early as possible to help new team members settle in and for you to be able to monitor what is working and what is not. During the start-up and growth phases of a business, things tend to move fast and people just get to do the work they are supposed to and some. If documentation is not done and an employee leaves, there can be a lot of confusion. Documented processes help anyone taking their job or filling the gap know what to do. This is not to be used as a tool to restrict people but as one to improve efficiency and synchronise work. There have been cases where staff are not hired with job descriptions or terms of engagement and in the case of a legal suit, you have very little chance of winning the favour of labour officials or the industrial court.
5. Continuously improve and innovate; Flexibility in implementing innovative procedures and processes is a big advantage a small business has over large businesses. While processes are implemented by people, a culture of continuous improvement and innovation should be encouraged by reviewing processes, technologies and continuously improving methodology. The only way to carry on with an innovative culture as your business grows is to have a method set up right from the beginning to encourage innovation in the processes and procedures.
6. Understand your business in all areas. Most business owners will only be familiar with the technical aspect of their business because that is what they have experience in. They then overlook other areas they are not good at or interested in. While entrepreneurship gives you the opportunity to do what you love doing, it also forces you to learn and improve yourself in areas you do not need to understand as an employee because it is someone else job. You need to understand your financials very well; your costs of business, returns, profit, balance sheet and tax obligations. Understanding this enables you to find ways and reason to cut costs and increase profitability. Even with a good accountant, it is well worth your while to take a business class or, at least, a financial class. The other area that you may have overlooked is the market, market trends and technology innovations in your industry, competitors, possible opportunities for business, collaboration and new markets. Many entrepreneurs make this mistake when they start a 'me-too business', assuming because everyone else is successful they are going to be successful as well.
7. Manage your finance and keep personal costs separate from business costs. The different costs are often intertwined especially in home businesses. How do you separate electricity and water bills for your business from the personal one? Should you allocate rent for the office space in your home business? Drawing from the company finances and not allocating any money for your own income especially where you have no other source of income is the first step in messing up any business. However 'little' you draw from the company this will increase if there is no discipline in separating the two expenses.
Not being able to manage personal finances will also lead to disrespect from your employees. Office gossip often is around the 'boss' and bosses who embezzle funds are bound to be considered weak.
8. Be a good example and do not expect your team to do what you do not do. Like, children, your team will emulate what they see you do not what you say. If you are a worker and arrive early at work; you can be sure your team will arrive early at work and find ways to meet their targets because you do. If you listen and keep your word your team will do the same. You basically set the culture in your organisation in the beginning and this evolves into its own life around your personality as a leader.
'The fish rots from the head' - Unknown
This is almost always true in a business.
9. Respect your people; having dealt with many start-up entrepreneurs one characteristics that continuously seems to come up in the struggling or corrupt ones is the lack of humility and disrespect. However successful you think you are you could be much more successful with respect and humility. No one knows it all and people offer their very best when they feel appreciated and respected. The problem is that most entrepreneurs have either had to defend their decision or have received awards and these give them a mindset that does not encourage humility or others opinions unless they have a very strong mentor or more successful people around them. Accolades do not mean there is no room for improvement and neither does be passionate cancel out a practical evaluation of the reality in the market. Others may see what you do not so be continually humble and ready to learn. You don' know who has the information you need or what will spark the thought for your million dollar business.
'Arrogance and Success are not good bedfellows they tend to separate' - Annabel Onyando
Note that respect and appreciation include offering the best you can afford as a company for different positions, treating workers equally and being fair while respecting the reporting lines you have put in place. Undermining your manager is the worst thing you can do and overlooking mistreatment of your staff by a coworker comes closely second.
10. Be positive and passionate; The attitude in an organisation is passed on to both internal and external clients. Both are equally important and good customer care does not just happen. It is driven by passion. Passion may not be in the product or service you offer but could be in the impact of the product or service. Understanding what this is, for each of your team members, is very crucial for great customer service, motivating your team and your success. Remember passion often goes beyond how you feel to how you make others feel because of your offering. Very few people can continue to be passionate about something that does not spark equal or more passion, peace and joy in others.
As you continue to treat your business as one and not a hobby, you can be sure you will find that your chances of success continually increase. Start immediately with whatever you can apply.