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Time and time again, I watch new businesses open and close! It recently dawned on me that there are several "classic" mistakes that business owners are making. I have compiled a short list of tips that I hope you will find helpful!
- Do not open a business if you don't have your finances in place.
- Know your demographic, and structure your business around it.
- Have a user-friendly website that is easy to find and that includes a company email address.
- Advertise your business through social media to create a strong online presence.
- Post your hours of operation in a visible spot. Customers need to know this very basic, but crucial information.
- Respond to your customers' comments, e-mails, and phone calls. Remember that essentially, these are the people who are paying your bills.
- Research the industry before diving in head first – know your stuff!
- You don’t necessarily need a business degree to be successful. However, do the required bookkeeping! Keep track of how much money you are making and spending. You will need this information, in case you get audited.
- Get the proper licensing and registration, and always keep it legal, folks!
- Location, location, location, I can’t stress this enough! Yes, prime commercial real estate is expensive. However, if you opt for the cheapest spot, you most likely won't make enough money to survive. If you pay a little bit more, you're far more likely to get the foot traffic that you need in order to survive.
- Don’t expect to open your business, hire some employees and then walk away. Starting a business is hard work! Therefore, consider running it yourself for the first year (or more) to make sure that it is run properly.
- Before renting commercial property, shop around before making a decision. Always negotiate with the rental agent, you should never pay full price for a space. Do not sign any paperwork during your initial viewing.
- When renting a property, do not sign a long-term lease if you are unsure of your business's profitability. You do not want to end up being boxed into a lease that you come to realize you can't afford!
- Starting ANY business comes with its own set of risks. Know what they are and take only well-calculated risks. Also, make sure that you have a “safety net” in place to fall back on!
- Pick a name for your business that is pronounceable, catchy and that best represents your business and brand.
- When you own a business, people will assume that you have a lot of money. Either way, keep your finances private. People might be jealous, and no one needs to know how much moolah you are bringing in.
- If you are going to open an ice cream shop (for example), make sure that there are not already 5 ice cream shops on the same block. This should be common sense…. but sadly, it isn’t.
- Don’t follow fads – they die out! Make sure that there is a long-term need for your products and/or service!
- When renting a spot for your business, make sure that there is parking available for your customers and, preferably, street accessibility.
- Have proper signage for your business. If potential customers don’t know you exist, how will you make money?
- If you are opening a store, have your return policy posted and easily accessible to customers to avoid chaos!
- Make sure that your hours of operation suit your demographic! For example, if your primary customers are businessmen - you will want to consider staying open past 5 pm. This includes being open on weekends because not everyone is available to visit your business during weekdays.
- When you open a business, everyone under the moon and stars will want to offer you their opinions and advice, about what you should sell or how you should run your business. Be gracious when accepting their advice, but a word to the wise - you can’t please everyone! If you try to, you will very likely drive your business into the ground. Be open to advice from others, but ultimately do your own research and be confident in your decisions!
- Do not expect to be an overnight success! Running a business is hard, so give yourself some time to grow, learn and expand. If you can manage to stay open and profit within the first year, you are doing better than most!
- Always expect the unexpected and be prepared to face daily challenges. Being prepared is an essential part of running a successful business!
- Good luck!