The 5 Habits of Highly Successful Small-Business Owners

Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a business that consistently grows and another that struggles just to make ends meet? Or why a business that was started in a basement of a home can outperform some of the best-run “big” companies in sales and profits?

Two businesses, operating in the same marketing arena and selling the same products or services, can have extraordinarily different results. How can one business continually grow and prosper, while the other struggles? How can one business owner run a highly successful business while still spending a good portion of his or her time away from the business on trips and vacations with the family, and another owner work day and night only to see his business fail?

Such questions have always intrigued me. In my quest to answer them, I sought input from successful business owners. I became a student of business. I read every business book I could get my hands on. I enrolled in seminars and courses across the country. I listened to audio and videotapes of some of the greatest minds in business.

What I learned has been truly transformational. In this article, I will impart to you some of what I have learned. For the most part, there is no such thing as a successful or unsuccessful business; there are successful or unsuccessful people, entrepreneurs who run businesses. Becoming a successful entrepreneur requires a certain self-image, a certain mindset. I like to refer to this mindset as the

“5 Habits of Highly Successful Small Business Owners.”

Here they are:Habit #1: Have a clear vision of their business, and commit their vision to paper

“A man to carry on a successful business must have imagination. He must see things as in a vision, a dream of the whole thing.”

Charles M Schwab, American stockbroker

The chances of your small business’ success improve substantially if you have a clear vision of what you want your business to look like, and what you want it to accomplish for you in the future. Your vision is your dream for the future of your business and it should delineate the path you will take to turn that dream into reality. You need a crystal-clear vision, one that you can communicate clearly, with vitality and a strong sense of commitment. Everyone involved in your business must comprehend your vision and, even more important, must believe in its success as much as you do.

Setting direction and guiding the business toward reaching your vision will make it successful. Vision is the owner’s business philosophy. It’s his “double vision” – his ability to keep the business’ long-term dream in mind while micro-managing the business on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis.

Successful entrepreneurs commit their vision to paper. In all my years in business, I have found that not doing so is the single most fatal error a business owner can make. There’s a direct correlation between having a well-thought-out, written vision statement and the success of your business.

Your vision should be a written statement of what your business will be when it is complete. It is a detailed picture of the future – what your business will look like, act like, smell like, feel like, and how it will perform when it is fully developed. Some of the things your written vision statement should include are: (1) the line of business you are in, (2) your company size, (3) the markets it will serve – demographics and psychographics, (4) the number of employees you will have, (5) the number of locations that you will operate from, and (6) what competitive advantages will differentiate your business from your competitors’.

Habit #2: Put the proper systems in place

You need systems to be able to deliver a product or service in a predicable and consistent way. All successful businesses have a “how we do it here” manual, also referred to as a “policy and procedures” manual. Standardize your procedures so that everyone knows what they are and how to do them. These procedures involve production systems for your products or services, systems to deliver those products or services, systems to track new customers or clients, systems to help you keep up with your finances, systems to hire and train new employees, and the list goes on.

Look at the systems that operate within the McDonald’s chain. A McDonald’s in the Bronx operates exactly the same way as a McDonald’s in Palm Beach. It runs just as predictably and profitably in either place. Why? Because there is absolutely no area in which procedures are not specifically spelled out through documented systems. Every procedure is outlined so clearly that anyone can be put into the system and taught to function at an extremely efficient level in a very short time.

Documented systems can make a difference to your own time, as a business owner. Without such systems in place, everything depends on you. If something happened to you, even for a short period, the entire business would be thrown into chaos. With properly documented systems of management and organization, a key employee (even you!) could leave suddenly, and the business would not suffer. You could replace the employee with minimal disruption. As new problems come up, you can adjust the systems you have in place to accommodate the needed changes.

If you set up the right systems from the start, they help run the business. You can be free to spend your time however you wish: more personal time for yourself, more time for your family, your community, and more time to enjoy a richer, more balanced life.

Habit #3: Know what they don’t know and then quickly get the help to fill the void

Most small business owners don’t realize that having an occupation or skill does not necessarily equate to building a successful business around it. It takes different skills to build a business. Let me give you an example. A personal friend of mine, John Chang worked as an engineer for 12 years before he started his own engineering firm. He was considered to be one of the best engineers in his firm before he went on to start his own engineering company. But John had never run a business before, and he did not have the knowledge and skill to operate his new company successfully, despite his engineering expertise. There is a lesson to be learned. The sooner you, the business owner, develop entrepreneurial skills, the sooner you will turn your expertise into business success!

You will need a number of different skills; financial, marketing, management, and customer fulfillment skills are among those required if you want your business to run like a finely tuned machine.

Can you imagine an athlete training for the Olympic competition without a coach? Of course not! Nor can you develop these skills without qualified help. A business coach will help you think in a new way, show you how to stay on track with your plans, and ultimately achieve your vision.

Habit #4: Have a mindset of preeminence

Preeminent (adj.): excelling others, outstanding.

The business owner has to have the mindset to view his business as a product – not the product or service he is producing, but his whole business as the product. It’s an entirely new way of thinking, and as soon as such thinking is adopted in any business, the business begins to make massive leaps forward.

As the business owner, you have to learn how you can give your customers or clients the best possible experience; to enable others to see your business as a trusted, valued, respected, and expert advisor. This mindset can be applied to any type of business. You have the responsibility and the obligation to provide guidance and direction to your customers, and to give them the best short-term and long-term outcome.

Many times, I have seen business owners make one simple, but momentous, mistake. Instead of “falling in love” with their customers, they fall in love with the size of the company, growth of the company, number of employees, or the market share. The way to greatness today is to transfer your ultimate passion away from products and services, and toward people! By doing so you will begin to look at your business as a whole, and any interaction that the customers have with any parts of your business, as part of an overall experience. If you as the business owner are focused on making it the best, most rewarding, most fulfilling, most enjoyable experience for the customer or client, you will dominate everyone else in your business sector.

A strategy of preeminence – of excelling – along with the approach of looking at your business as a whole, is truly transforming. If this is the only idea from these 5 habits that you take to heart and adapt and implement, you will see a significant improvement in your business.

Habit #5: Work on their business, not just in it

The successful small business owner understands the real value and reward that is derived from working on the business rather then just working in the business. She understands that working on the business means viewing her business as a whole. She sees her business made up of various parts that integrate seamlessly to function as a whole.

Working on, instead of “in” the business is strategic work. It is the way businesses transform themselves from vision into reality. It requires asking strategic questions and then doing everything to find answers to those questions.

Smart entrepreneurs do the necessary strategic work, and regularly ask the following questions:

What is my market share?

Who is my ideal customer?

Where is my industry headed?

Who are my competitors?

What are my competitive advantages?

What are other successful businesses in my industry doing?

How do they market their product or service?

What are other successful businesses outside my industry doing?

What is the “experience” my customers are having with my business?

What is the “experience” customers are having at my competitor’s place of business?

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” --Albert Einstein

How To Raise Money to Start Business and Where to Get Money for Business

The common questions for anyone who want to start business are: How to raise money to start business, and where to get money for my business?

To raise money to start business is not as difficult as most people seem to think. This is especially true when you have an idea that can make you and your backers rich. Actually, there's more money available for new business ventures than there are good business ideas. We will help you for where you can get money for business.

A very important rule of the game to learn: Any time you want to raise money, your first move should be to put together a proper prospectus.

This prospectus should include a resume of your background, your education, training, experience and any other personal qualities that might be counted as an asset to your potential success. It's also a good idea to list the various loans you've had in the past, what they were for, and your history in paying them off.

You'll have to explain in detail how the money you want is going to be used. If it's for an existing business, you'll need a profit and loss record for at least the preceding six months, and a plan showing how this additional money will produce greater profits. If it's a new business, you'll have to show your proposed business plan, your marketing research and projected costs, as well as anticipated income figures, with a summary for each year, over at least a three year period.

It'll be advantageous to you to base your cost estimates high, and your income projections on minimal returns. This will enable you to "ride through" those extreme "ups and downs" inherent in any beginning business. You should also describe what makes your business unique---how it differs form your competition and the opportunities for expansion or secondary products.

This prospectus will have to state precisely what you're offering the investor in return for the use of his money. He'll want to know the percentage of interest you're willing to pay, and whether monthly, quarterly or on an annual basis. Are you offering a certain percentage of the profits? A percentage of the business? A seat on your board of directories?

An investor uses his money to make more money. He wants to make as much as he can, regardless whether it's short term or long term deal. In order to attract him, interest him, and persuade him to "put up" the money you need, you'll not only have to offer him an opportunity for big profits, but you'll have to spell it out in detail, and further, back up your claims with proof from your marketing research.

Venture investors are usually quite familiar with "high risk" proposals, yet they all want to minimize that risk as much as possible. Therefore, your prospectus should include a listing of your business and personal assets with documentation---usually copies of your tax returns for the past three years or more. Your prospective investor may not know anything about you or your business, but if he wants to know, he can pick up his telephone and know everything there is to know within 24 hours. The point here is, don't ever try to "con" a potential investor. Be honest with him. Lay all the facts on the table for him. In most cases, if you've got a good idea and you've done your homework properly, and "interested investor" will understand your position and offer more help than you dared to ask.

When you have your prospectus prepared, know how much money you want, exactly how it will be used, and how you intend to repay it, you're ready to start looking for investors.

As simple as it seems, one of the easiest ways of raising money is by advertising in a newspaper or a national publication featuring such ads. Your ad should state the amount of money you want--always ask for more money than you have room for negotiating. Your ad should also state the type of business involved ( to separate the curious from the truly interested), and the kind of return you're promising on the investment.

Take a page from the party plan merchandisers. Set up a party and invite your friends over. Explain your business plan, the profit potential, and how much you need. Give them each a copy of your prospectus and ask that they pledge a thousand dollars as a non-participating partner in your business. Check with the current tax regulations. You may be allowed up to 25 partners in Sub Chapter S enterprises, opening the door for anyone to gather a group of friends around himself with something to offer them in return for their assistance in capitalizing his business.

You can also issue and sell up to $300,000 worth of stock in your company without going through the Federal Trade Commission. You'll need the help of an attorney to do this, however, and of course a good tax accountant as well wouldn't hurt.

It's always a good idea to have an attorney and an accountant help you make up your business prospectus. As you explain your plan to them, and ask for their advice, casually ask them if they'd mind letting you know of, or steer your way any potential investors they might happen to meet. Do the same with your banker. Give him a copy of your prospectus and ask him if he'd look it over and offer any suggestions for improving it, and of course, let you know of any potential investors. In either case, it's always a good idea to let them know you're willing to pay a "finder's fee" if you can be directed to the right investor.

Professional people such as doctors and dentists are known to have a tendency to join occupational investment groups. The next time you talk with your doctor or dentist, give him a prospectus and explain your plan. He may want to invest on his own or perhaps set up an appointment for you to talk with the manager of his investment group. Either way, you win because when you're looking for money, it's essential that you get the word out as many potential investors as possible.

Don't overlook the possibilities of the Small Business Investment Companies in your area. Look them up in your telephone book under "Investment Services." These companies exist for the sole purpose of lending money to businesses which they feel have a good chance of making money. In many instances, they trade their help for a small interest in your company.

Many states have Business Development Commissions whose goal is to assist in the establishment and growth of new businesses. Not only do they offer favorable taxes and business expertise, most also offer money or facilities to help a new business get started. Your Chamber of Commerce is the place to check for further information of this idea.

Industrial banks are usually much more amenable to making business loans than regular banks, so be sure to check out these institutions in your area. insurance companies are prime sources of long term business capital, but each company varies its policies regarding the type of business it will consider. Check your local agent for the name and address of the person to contact. It's also quite possible to get the directories of another company to invest in your business. Look for a company that can benefit from your product or service. Also, be sure to check at your public library for available foundation grants. These can be the final answer to all your money needs if your business is perceived to be related to the objectives and activities of the foundation.

Finally, there's the Money broker or Finder. These are the people who take your prospectus and circulate it with various known lenders or investors. They always require an up-front or retainer fee, and there's no way they can guarantee to get you the loan or the money you want.

There are many very good money brokers, and there are some that are not so good. They all take a percentage of the gross amount that's finally procured for your needs. The important thing is to check them out fully; find out about the successful loans or investment plans they're arranged, and what kind of investor contacts they have---all of this before you put up any front money or pay any retainer fees.

There are many ways to raise money---from staging garage sales to selling stocks. Don't make the mistake of thinking that the only place you can find the money you need is through the bank or finance company.

Start thinking about the idea of inviting investors to share in your business as silent partners. Think about the idea of obtaining financing for a primary business by arranging financing for another business that will support the start-up, establishment and developing of the primary business. Consider the feasibility of merging with a company that's already organized, and with facilities that are compatible or related to your needs. Give some thought to the possibilities of getting the people supplying your production equipment to co-sign the loan you need for start-up capital.

Remember, there are thousands upon thousands of ways to obtain business start-up capital. This is truly the age of creative financing.

Disregard the stories you hear of "tight money," and start making phone calls, talking to people, and making appointments to discuss your plans with the people who have money invest. There's more money now than there's ever been for a new business investment. The problem is that most beginning "business builders" don't know what to believe or which way to turn for help. They tend to believe the stories of "tight money," and they set aside their plans for a business of their own until a time when start-up money might be easier to find.

The truth is this: Now is the time to make your move. Now is the time to act. the person with a truly viable business plan, and determination to succeed, will make use of every possible idea that can be imagined. And the ideas I've suggested here should serve as just a few of the unlimited sources of monetary help available and waiting for you!

Now you should get idea for how to raise money to start business, how to get money for business, and where to get money for my business.