Things you can learn as a small business owner

I have written about the joys and challenges of starting and running a small business before, but I thought of a few more points to share with those of you who are employed by others and are longing to set up a business of your own.

Running your own business takes a different mindset than being a successful employee. Primarily, it involves being responsible for everything that you do and being willing to follow through to ensure customer satisfaction.

These same characteristics in an employee, although they are prized by employers, will often get you in trouble because they will lead you to get involved in areas where you have no jurisdiction. In fact, if you have been having difficulty working for others, because your conscientiousness gets you in trouble, you should consider starting your own company.

Here are some things to consider:

You will become one of “them”, the people whose insanity you have been complaining about for years – an employer.

Your past experience may help you more than you think

Right answers are the ones that work

Becoming one of them – an employer

Most of the new jobs created in the past few years have been created by small businesses. With any luck, you will be creating jobs for yourself and others in the years to come.

Almost immediately, you will be faced with the task of making decisions about employees. Some of these decisions will be the same ones which caused you grief as an employee. You may have even said to yourself, “If I ever get to be a boss, I will never…” Well, that was then and this is now. Try not to repeat the insanities of the past, but make your decisions based on what will keep your new organization thriving.

Remember, keeping employees happy is a good thing, but keeping the company in business is vital. Learn to understand the relative priorities involved. Similarly, satisfying customer needs profitably is more important than making customers grateful. If you can achieve both, you are on the right track.

Also remember that laws regarding businesses were enacted for a reason. Don’t set yourself up for a fall by being ignorant of these laws. If you are trying to produce a quality product or service for your customers and are keeping in your exchange with your employees and subcontractors, you will find a way to comply with the laws regarding your business. Doing so ensures that you will be able to continue doing business.

Your past experience may help you more than you think

You will have to learn the skill of being able to make business decisions with insufficient and imprecise data. Purportedly, that is one of the skills one acquires in the process of securing an MBA. While setting up and running a small business, you will get the golden opportunity to develop this skill on your own. This is where you can cash in on all of the observations you have made as a customer and as an employee.

If you draw upon your own experiences as a customer and as an employee, you may be able to make better decisions than you think. After all, you are going to get almost instant feedback on what you do and this is a great incentive for self-improvement. You should survey customers whenever possible to see what their attitudes are about your company and its products.

If you watch customer and employee responses, you will find you can develop sales approaches, pricing strategies and company policies that really work for you. Instant feedback, although sometimes upsetting, will often save you from larger mistakes. This is one of the elements that is sadly missing from corporate conference rooms where decisions are often made by people who have never spoken to customers and never will.

Right answers are the ones that work

Countless books are being written about starting your own business. Some of them may even be useful. You will be very fortunate if you find one that applies to the business you are starting. Read all that seem to apply, but you will have to use your own judgement, and that is what a small business is all about.

Here are some guidelines I have found useful:

1. Keeping your exchange in with customers is vital. When customers get a little more than they expected, the word of mouth advertising is immediately apparent.

2. Getting product out into people’s hands can be an inexpensive form of advertising. If you can’t provide free samples, find a way to create irresistable introductory prices that cover your material costs.

3. Branding, positioning and promotional activities require constant attention, especially when you are selling a product or a service that is difficult to categorize.

Promote your product and company constantly. If you are meeting or talking with someone new, the conversation should not end until that person knows what you do and how it might apply to their lives. This not a sales pitch, it is more like a corporate image thing. If you do it well and gracefully, you will find that people introduce you as, “that fellow who has that interesting company which makes…”

Wishing you success.

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