8 keys to Business Success (or how to stand out in your field)

Photo by Hamed Saber

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about a workshop that I’m pulling together that will help small business owners build on their success.  As you know, running a small business is really complicated.

There are a lot of hats involved.  Marketing, Sales, Finance, Leadership – and that’s just the stuff you focus on in the morning!

So as I was working on the workshop idea, I found myself drifting all over the place in terms of the most important content and decided to pull together a summary of the key points.

1.  Have a vision and goals.

What is it that you want to do?  You have to be specific, you have to be descriptive – the vision should be inspiring (at a minimum inspiring to you, hopefully to your employees as well), the goals should be measurable and realistic.

Vision and goals supply the why and the what.  Do you remember having do things when you were a kid  and the reason was because your mom “said so”?  If you were like most people – that probably didn’t result in your best efforts. 

Compared that to being inspired – and the effort you get from that feeling.

2.  Have a plan.

“A vision without a plan is just a dream. A plan without a vision is just drudgery. But a vision with a plan can change the world.”
~ An Old Proverb

The reality is that you need a lot of plans.  You need a marketing plan that covers a year at a time.  You need a financial plan that you can compare your progress to at least monthly.  You need documented plans for how you’re going to deliver your product or service, how you’re going to respond to your customers, your prospects, people trying to sell you things.

Without plans, you’re winging it and that’s a scary place to be.

3.  Be straightforward.

Keep things as simple as you can, both for your benefit and your customers.  Not only will you get a better response overall, but your prospects will be able to self-select if they clearly understand what you’re offering.

Existing customers will appreciate an honest answer and a genuine effort to help them out.  People like to do business with someone they know, like and Trust.

4.  Deliver value!

This one is pretty obvious.  If your customer isn’t getting the value they expected, then nothing else really matters.  Delivering the end product or service that really benefits the customer (in the way they expect) has to be the focus.

However you should also be delivering value with everything you do. 

If you’re networking with someone, help them out, go the extra mile to make an introduction, give a referral, help solve a problem.  In the long run, you will get back much more than what you give.

On your website offer visitors valuable information or tools – you’re not giving away the store, you’re establishing credibility, you’re demonstrating character, you’re making a positive impact.

5.  Track results.

You’ve got measurable goals and once you’re up and running you’ve got results that you should be tracking.  It’s the only way to evaluate how your strategies are working.

Was that $1000 investment in the phone book worthwhile?  How many calls or visits did you get?  What was the cost per prospect?  How does that cost compare to the cost per prospect for Google Ad words?

Figure out the top 3 – 5 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that really let you track the health of your business.  There are financial metrics, operational metrics, sales metrics – the hard part sometimes is trimming it down to a manageable number.

6.  Have fun.

If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing – at least at a high level, you shouldn’t be doing it.  Life is too short to suffer through something as time consuming as a business that you don’t like.

On top of that, Fun is contagious.  People (employees, customers, people that might be customers) like to be around people that are having fun.

I walked into a Fudge Shop this summer while I was on vacation to get something to drink.  While I was there the staff kept up a continuous performance of different songs.  Some of them were silly spoofs, some of them were obviously inside jokes about their co-workers and some of them were just songs they enjoyed singing.  I ended up hanging out there almost 1/2 an hour – just because they were having fun.

7.  Exceed expectations.

Say what you do and then do what you say, and then some! 

If you tell me you have ‘Great Customer Service’, then you and your employees need to go the extra mile.  Nothing will lose you a customer more quickly than not living up to your promises – and they will tell a lot of people they know what a bad experience it was. 

Studies have shown that it can cost almost 6 times more to get a new customer than keep an existing one.

On the flip side, if you exceed expectations – if you surprise people in a ‘wow’ kind of way, you will get great word of mouth support.  Look at the power Oprah has with the products she likes.  People love to talk about the great new product / service / store that they found – and it really generates business.

8.  Take a Break.

Finally – it’s all too easy to get caught up in the day to day firestorm that is your business.  You’ve got to find a workable balance that allows you to decompress and get away on a regular basis.  Your attitude, your creativity, your relationships and your health will all suffer if you can’t take a break.

Your business is a tool to get what you want out of life.  If it has become an all consuming thing, then something is broken and you will hit a wall sooner rather than later.  Take an extended walk.  Plan a weekend away (and don’t bring your computer).  Start making it a priority to carve out time for yourself.


There are a lot of things you can work on to be more successful, but if you do a good job on this list, then you’re likely well on your way to business success.

What keys to success do you have?  Share them here.

Shawn Kinkade  www.aspirekc.com

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