Valuable Insights: Advice from Accomplished Entrepreneurs

For numerous seasoned small business proprietors, the lyrics from Faces' 1970s song resonate deeply: "I wish that I knew what I know now."
Valuable Insights | Amwork

Throughout their years of managing small businesses, these proprietors amass a wealth of knowledge on optimizing business growth and operations. Fortunately, many of them are eager to impart their invaluable business counsel.

Below, we present seven astute pieces of advice from various accomplished small business entrepreneurs that merit your attention:

1. Cultivate a Strong Support Network

Running a business, especially as a solo entrepreneur, can often feel isolating. Laura Kelly, the founder of The Handwork Studio, which operates needlework camps and classes for kids across ten East Coast states, recognizes this challenge. To combat the isolation, Kelly emphasizes the importance of staying connected within the broader business community. She achieves this by meeting with her personal business coach every four weeks, who helps her find solutions to problems and navigate tough decisions. Additionally, she actively networks on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn from the convenience of her own home.

Kelly also highlights the value of visualization exercises facilitated by her coach. These exercises involve stepping back from the business to gain perspective, which, in turn, helps identify and address pressing issues. In just one hour, she gains clarity and an actionable plan for moving forward. Furthermore, Kelly is part of a mastermind group with fellow women service business owners. This group engages in discussions about challenges, solutions, and provides mutual support during challenging times.

While networking can be a challenge for busy business owners, the investment in time and effort can yield substantial dividends in the future.

2. Set Highly Specific Small Business Goals

Laura Kelly underscores the importance of breaking down significant objectives into smaller, more manageable ones. She structures her goals into various timeframes: 10-year goals, 3-year goals, 1-year goals, and quarterly goals for her business. When it comes to revenue targets, Kelly further dissects them into smaller, more achievable numbers. This approach helps her determine the necessary steps to reach these objectives. For instance, if she needs to generate a specific revenue figure within the first quarter, she calculates how many campers she must enroll to attain this goal. This level of specificity empowers her to drive her actions effectively.

At The Handwork Studio, every employee has a dashboard displaying their goals and progress toward them. This system fosters focus and ensures that everyone remains aligned with the company's objectives. Kelly emphasizes that a performance-driven culture begins with setting precise goals for both herself and her team, promoting employee happiness, which in turn leads to superior performance and customer service.

3. Delegate Wisely for Business Growth

Gene Marks, the founder of The Marks Group, a technology consultancy, initially started the business with his father. After his father's passing, Marks realized that he couldn't handle all aspects of the business on his own. He began hiring additional employees, leading to a significant increase in revenue. This growth was attributed to the strategic delegation of tasks to individuals who excelled in areas where Marks himself struggled.

Marks learned the crucial lesson that focusing on one's strengths and delegating tasks that others can perform better is the key to business success. Delegation allows entrepreneurs to concentrate on what they excel at, ultimately contributing to increased productivity and profitability.

Incorporating these insights from experienced entrepreneurs into your business strategy can pave the way for enhanced efficiency, goal achievement, and sustainable growth.

4. Optimize Your Overhead Costs

Gene Marks realized eight years ago that his office space, costing nearly $30,000 annually in rent, was an unnecessary expense. While his employees were actively engaging with clients, he was confined to the office. Marks made a significant decision to transition to a virtual workforce, eliminating the need for physical office space. In this transformation, he replaced the traditional landline with a cost-effective Internet-based phone system, incurring only a monthly expense of around $10. Furthermore, he migrated his data management from on-site servers to cloud-based solutions.

This move not only reduced overhead costs but also provided him with peace of mind, especially during challenging economic times like the Great Recession. Lowering overhead costs allowed Marks to navigate downturns with more ease. He explains, “When things turn bad, you don't have to panic because you can take a cut in revenue. Even in the brunt of the recession, we never lost money. Cutting down overhead really gives you that peace of mind. If your overhead is low, you can make pricing decisions that you otherwise wouldn't be able to make.”

5. Identify and Specialize in Your Ideal Niche

Ace Apparel, a family business with a 78-year history, found success by recognizing and sticking with a niche market. Marc Mathios and his two brothers, the third-generation leaders of the business, discovered their prowess in serving parking garage operators. They designed a specialized line of jackets tailored to the needs of parking garage companies, establishing a strong rapport within this industry.

Through this focused approach, they replicated their success by partnering with 30 different parking garage operators across North America. The lesson here is to find your niche and continuously innovate within that space, creating opportunities for growth and establishing a reputation as a specialist.

6. Delay Quitting Your Day Job

Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, credits part of her success to the fact that she maintained her day job as an office equipment salesperson for two years while developing her shapewear business. This allowed her to ensure the viability of her small business idea before fully committing. Blakely's dedication involved relentless study of pantyhose design and patent research during nights and weekends. She traveled from Atlanta to North Carolina to collaborate with hosiery mills willing to produce her product.

Blakely emphasizes the importance of not leaving your day job until you are confident in your small business's potential. Her journey paid off, and within two and a half weeks of resigning from her day job, she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, marking a significant milestone in her entrepreneurial journey.

7. Minimize Distractions for Maximum Focus

Jayson DeMers, CEO of AudienceBloom, learned a valuable lesson about the dangers of splitting his attention between multiple startups. While his content marketing company was thriving, he diverted his focus to another venture, which ultimately led to a decline in his primary business's growth. DeMers underscores the importance of dedicating 100% attention, focus, and effort to ensure a venture's success. Secondary ventures require full-time management to avoid distractions and setbacks.

In addition to managing external distractions, internal organization and task prioritization are crucial for maintaining productivity. Gene Marks, for instance, recognizes his peak cognitive hours in the morning and allocates them to tackling significant tasks, reserving less demanding activities for later in the day.

By implementing these strategies, small business owners can effectively manage costs, discover their niche, make informed decisions about leaving their day job, and maintain unwavering focus on their entrepreneurial endeavors, ultimately fostering business success.

Benjamin Anderson

Benjamin Anderson

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