By William Buist, CEO of Abelard and Founder of xTEN Club
There are 10 key strategic imperatives every business needs to understand if it’s to be successful. Here is a solid outline of how best to approach your career as an entrepreneur:
1. Be Clear
In all of your marketing material, emails, and social media, clarity is the foundation of selling. Avoid jargon, speak in simple language and don't assume that your prospects have an encyclopaedic knowledge of industry terms. Be concise, get to the point, and be relevant; speak in terms of the prospect's needs.
2. Share Where You're Needed
To people who find your message relevant, you can be a godsend. They need you, and they want what you're offering. To everyone else, you're spam.
For example; if you're selling car wax, people who own luxury cars will probably be glad to hear from you, but minimum wagers who drive junk cars just to get to work probably don't spend a lot of time waxing them. Know your market and where to find them.
3. Sell to Buyers
The best salesmen qualify their prospects and only sell to people who are ready to buy. This is more specific than just finding the right market. You're looking for people within that market who need precisely what you're offering.
4. Make Realistic Promises
Make promises that you can actually deliver on more often than not, and...
5. Deliver on Your Promises
A company that delivers on its promises will thrive without having to spend millions on advertising. Playing it straight with your customers' expectations isn't just ethical, it's profitable.
6. Document Your Methods of Operation
This will allow you to find out what you're doing right so that you can keep doing it, and what you're doing wrong so that you can make changes where appropriate.
However, if you're not going to make the necessary changes, don't bother gathering data in the first place.
7. Understand What the Numbers Mean, and Grow (In the Right Ways)
Growing as a small business doesn't mean opening a franchise you can't afford. Growing means improving profitability. For example; exploring an untapped market, or discontinuing unpopular products. When you think of growth, think strictly in terms of things like profit margins and customer satisfaction.
8. Keep the Cash Flowing
If your business is costing you more than it earns, or if it's just breaking even, then it's not a business, it's a hobby. Taking out a second business loan and maxing out your credit cards is not cash flow. Be realistic about how much you need to stay in the black, and how you're going to keep that money coming in.
9. Bridge Your Gaps
Where are your shortcomings in terms of skill level, experience, customer service, marketing, etc.? Spend some time thinking about what you could be doing better, and how to improve on it. That could mean studying more on your off time, and if it's in the budget, hiring someone who can bridge that gap for you while you get up to speed.
10. Plan Your Getaway
A successful entrepreneur builds something bigger than themselves. Building a business takes a lot of work, it can be exhilarating and exhausting. Almost nobody has the energy to work years on end without a day off, so one of your goals, something that you should write into the business plan itself, is an opportunity to take some time to yourself.
Whether your aim is a month long vacation or selling the business, you need your company to be able to run without you.
Putting These Imperatives to Work
Whenever you're faced with a decision in your business, double check all 10 points. With enough experience and education, you'll absorb these imperatives, they'll become second nature. Until then, whenever you feel uncertain about a business decision, check back and make sure that your ideas are financially and strategically sound.