Succeeding in Small Business is No Small Task

Keep these considerations in mind as you embark on the adventure that is small business

I’m often asked for advice about what it takes to be a successful small business owner. While there is no magic formula or secret sauce, starting a business requires a considerable amount of self-confidence, flexibility and ingenuity, and it offers the opportunity to reap big rewards.

In addition to being your own boss, you can decide where and when to start your business. However, while you may choose your working hours, a small business owner is always working.

Here are a few considerations to keep in mind before embarking on your venture.

Bounce Your Idea Off Others

If you find yourself with a great business idea, the next rational step is to reach out to a small network of trusted friends and colleagues and run the idea by them. It helps if they have knowledge of your intended target audience.

Be sure to ask them: What do you find most appealing about the great idea? What drawbacks come to mind? How would they approach the questions of marketing and product pricing? Getting honest feedback on your business idea from friends and colleagues is crucial to ensuring you have a viable plan. While sometimes difficult, it is a crucial step in ensuring your business can succeed and grow past ideation.

Study the Market

In-depth market research is a necessity for small business owners. Here are some questions you may want to consider depending on the type of business you’re looking to start:

  • What business, if any, currently occupies the market space you wish to claim for your own?
  • Are there niche markets where you can take your new product or service?
  • In what way will your product or service differ from what’s already out there? Speak to prospective clients to determine their expectations and ensure your business can meet them.

Part of the research process includes determining why similar businesses have succeeded, as well as why some have failed.

Incorporate Smart Hiring Into Your Business Plan

Every small business owner needs a plan outlining goals and opportunities in a single document, which can then be used to attract investors and other funding sources. In today’s highly competitive job market, this plan should outline a detailed hiring strategy. This strategy should include:

  • Crafting job descriptions that attract the right type of candidates with prior knowledge of the industry
  • Pursuing individuals whose experience demonstrates the ability to think quickly and make responsible decisions on their own
  • A process for rapid employee onboarding that integrates them into an upbeat, flexible work environment in which these new hires can shine

Above all, do everything you can to hire people with a track record of honesty and integrity. While it can be tempting as a startup to hire anyone who shows passion for your business, it’s important to do your due diligence and perform lawful background checks to promote a healthy workplace environment.

Get Ready to Raise Money

All of the planning and strategizing in the world doesn’t amount to much without the funding to underwrite your venture. Successful small business owners start thinking about funding sources as soon as they embark on their enterprise, whether it’s taking money from their own savings, obtaining bank loans, receiving financial assistance from the Small Business Administration or even appealing to outside investors or crowdfunding options. With a funding commitment in place, it becomes a lot easier to achieve the vision of owning and operating a business.

Acknowledge What You Don’t Know

A successful businessperson is quick to concede gaps in their knowledge base; therefore, hire specifically for the areas in which you lack expertise. Alternatively, seek outside experts and consultants and enlist them in the earliest planning stages as the operation gets underway. Most entrepreneurs understand that it’s impossible to personally do everything that running a startup or small business requires. Hire the right people to handle administrative or operational functions (everything from balancing the books to designing the new company logo), so you can maintain focus on the big picture.

Rarely does anybody do all of this on their own.

October is National Women’s Small Business Month, which makes it the perfect time to appreciate the successes of women in your community that have started businesses. Key4Women is a KeyBank resource to help guide women business owners.

Kevin Davis is the senior vice president and business banking sales leader for KeyBank in Colorado. He can be reached at