ERNEST

There are many people that start businesses. Sadly, there is a good percentage of folks that don't last in business. There are other business owners that survive but don't necessarily thrive. There are many factors that could contribute to a business's shortcomings.

The first thing you need to examine is if you truly enjoy what you do. Do you have a passion for your business, the service it provides to your customers, and the opportunities it offers your employees? This is a driving force in a successful business. if you wake up each day excited at what the day has in store, your enthusiasm will be contagious to those around you, making your staff more productive and your customers more likely to want to do business with you.

An important ingredient in your success is a plan! Do you have one? This seems like a no-brainer, and for those of you that are organized, "A" type personalities, it is. But for those of you that are "fly by the seat of your pants" type personalities, you may need a little work in this area. A person without a plan has no direction, no path to follow, making it difficult to lead others. There's nothing wrong with keeping that impulsive part of yourself in the mix. That's what keeps things exciting for you and those around you. But, know where you want to see your business go. Make short and long term goals and be sure to track your progress. Tracking keeps you accountable. When you meet your goals, celebrate them. If you fall short, you'll know what needs to improve or change.

Time and money management are critical to your success. There are entrepreneurs out there that have great success, but don't manage (or have someone else manage) their money and wind up folding. Time management is also an important factor for a couple of reasons. If you have success but don't take the time to enjoy it (along with your loved ones), what's the point? You also need to be sure you're spending time on the right things. Learn to delegate things you really don't need to do yourself. For you control freaks reading this (I'm not judging), this will mean you have to trust someone else to help you out. Control freaks need help too (I speak from experience here)!

Promote yourself! In the article, "Networking your Business", I touched on ways to do this. If you're not telling people about your business, you can't expect it to grow. On the flip side of that, there is a balance in promoting yourself, particularly when dealing with friends and family. Absolutely make sure they are aware of what you do, but don't become the person that talks about nothing else! People will start avoiding you and nobody wants that!

While fun is important, people also want to deal with someone professional. Professionalism is a broad statement and covers a vast area. You have seconds to make a good first impression and image is a big part of that. How you present yourself and how your place of business looks is the first thing your customers will see and they'll make a decision pretty quickly about you based on that (unless you have an online business where you won't be face to face with your clients). This may seem unfair, but it's reality. Represent yourself well. Being professional also is how you speak to and serve others. Are you prompt with callbacks or return emails? Are you polite, yet concise? Lastly, are you following through with what you said you would do? This will not only obtain customers, but will retain them as well.

Be competitive! Know what others in your field are doing and match or, better yet, surpass them. This will set you apart from those in your line of work. Do you have incentives that would make someone want to do business with you instead of your competition? Loyalty programs, discounts, sales, even donating a portion of your proceeds to a charity or taking part in a community event are all great ways to make you stand out from the others.

Talk to others that have built and maintained successful businesses. They may have some great advice for you, even if it's in a different field. And last but not least, have fun!