16 Tips from Successful Business Owners for 2022
Thinking of starting your own business? Check out the tips we received from accomplished business owners to help set your new venture up for success.
If you’re considering starting a small business, it might terrify you to hear that you have about one out of every five new small businesses shutter their doors within the first year. Half of small businesses only survive about five years, while less than a third of the small businesses in operation survive to reach their tenth year of business. These are daunting numbers, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but your business doesn’t have to be another statistic.
We reached out to business leaders from our community of successful business-to-business service providers, asking them what business ideas and business tips they might have for aspiring new business owners and what dangers new owners should be on the lookout for as they build up their brand. We also asked them to share any advice or insight they might have received in their own journeys that ultimately set them up for future success. We’ve gathered those responses here, in the hopes of providing insight for our readers on how to seek the consultants and guidance necessary to successfully keep their businesses afloat in these uncertain economic waters.
Top Tips for Starting or Maintaining Your Small Business
While the economic landscape might necessitate maintaining a level of competitive advantage, entrepreneurs and small business owners are notoriously helpful and forthcoming with best practices and advice for new business owners working to get their doors open. A competitive niche is one that drives innovation and advice given by a successful owner can mean all of the difference to a new owner’s ability to stay in the game and bring fresh strategies into the mix. In this first section, we cover four primary strategies a new business owner should implement in the beginning to set the tone for the journey ahead.
1. As A Business Owner, You Set the Tone of the Business
Every ship needs a captain, and as the entrepreneur or business owner, you are the captain of the shiny new vessel you’ve launched into the dangerous seas of commerce. It’s crucial that you’ve got a passion for the business and that you have an understanding of the niche you’ve set out to dominate. Much of this necessitates understanding your own “why” and putting yourself as an owner in the right headspace to tackle the challenges ahead so that you’re able to act as the stable foundation upon which your team and customers will rely.
“There are no tools to describe the most important aspect of starting a new business, which is you. Determining what business you’re passionate about and Googling anything you don’t understand about it is the first and most crucial step to starting a successful small business.” —Miguel Cairo, CEO, Unique Web Designer
A depth of knowledge and true mastery of your niche is vital from the start so that you’re acquiring the right tools in order to best address the specific business challenges and needs of your target audience. As you educate yourself, you’ll be able to better determine your “blindspots” and skill gaps, so that you can then build out a team and organization that maximize your strengths and support where you’re weakest.
“With starting any sort of small business, always start with your strengths and weaknesses. What are things you really like doing and that you are good at doing and try to avoid the things you don’t have strong skills in or you absolutely just don’t like doing. Running a small business takes a lot of time and dedication to get things up and going, so you want to make sure you’re going to enjoy it.” —Alexandra Van Doren, Co-Founder & Senior Dynamic Social and Content Integrator, Agency onethree LLC
One of the things many business owners will learn at the outset is that much of running a business can either be outsourced or learned with some attention and dedication. What truly drives successful entrepreneurs and profitable businesses is passionate leadership. It’s crucial that before you open your doors, that you first know why you’re getting into business in that specific niche.
“Know your ‘why’ before you get started as it will be the driving force to your success. Through the years, I have witnessed entrepreneurs come and go. Many were left behind due to their reasons for starting in the first place (need to make rent quickly, boss made them angry so they quit, working from home just seemed easier, etc). They failed to realize that a successful business takes time, effort, commitment, patience, and drive. This is fueled by knowing your ‘why,’ your reason to keep searching for the light at the end of the tunnel when every part of your body tells you to turn back, that it isn’t worth it. Your ‘why’ is what helps you navigate rejections, pivot to new ideas, work 80+ hours for the satisfaction of not working for someone else, and most of all—it helps you ignore the nay-sayers who believe you are wasting your time. By holding onto your ‘why,’ success is inevitable.” —LaKenya Kopf, Virtual Tech Assistant, Kopf Consulting Virtual Assistance
With your “why” established, you’ll be able to take more confident steps in structuring and laying the foundations for your business. Motivation and passion can be powerful drivers of innovation and problem-solving.
“It’s important to be confident and passionate about your product or service. There will always be competition, people who don’t like what you do, and problems that crop up along the way, but if you’re passionate, motivated, and committed then these won’t hold you back too much! Finally, be prepared to be flexible. Your plans will change, whether it’s weather that is beyond your control, supply and stock issues, or just things that crop up in day-to-day life. Always plan for adversity and have a plan B for every business initiative you implement.” —John Hofmann, Operations Manager, Fusion Marketing
2. Understand Your Target Audience and Ideal Customer Persona
Having identified your own strengths, weaknesses, and driving passion, it’s necessary to then translate that vision into a product or service that best meets the needs of a target customer niche. You’re going to be engaging potential leads from various demographics and backgrounds across social media channels and professional platforms like LinkedIn, so understanding who you’re creating content for in your digital marketing strategy can help better craft each channel associated with your content marketing strategy.
“It’s important from the start to know your identity so you can target your audience properly in order to fulfill their needs. A clear understanding of your audience will ensure you are crafting and delivering your message to them in their language.” —Brandon Forschino, President & CEO, Out of Dust Marketing
Once you’ve identified your ideal customer, you’re going to be able to create sustainable and profitable relationships, which in turn will lead to long-term, sustainable growth. Combined with an effective SEO strategy, you’ll see the lead growth in the early days of your business that will set the tone for future success.
“The best lead is a referral from a happy customer. I’d strive to make all of your customers happy so they will tell their friends about you. The next best lead is when they don’t have anyone to ask besides Google. Learn the basics of SEO and make your business more visible in Google search results.” —Bruce Jones, CEO, Bruce Jones SEO Consulting
3. Growth is Good But Must Be Healthy and Sustainable
Of course, the ultimate goal in starting a business is to see it catch on and grow like wildfire with the customer base. However, you don’t want uncontrolled or unplanned growth early in the business, as this can lead to poor customer service and an inability to fulfill service contracts or orders. Maintaining a clear focus from the start can help you anticipate growth and have a solution in place.
“When starting a small business, go for sustainable growth. Running a business is not a race—trying to accomplish too much too fast is a sure-fire way to burn out. Start with one area of focus and put your time and energy into making that successful, rather than jumping from task to task.” —Meg Mothershed, Co-Owner, Mothershed Design Co.
4. Integrate Analytics to Make Informed Business Decisions
Long gone are the days when you can go into a business venture blind and rely on your instincts to succeed. The competition is leveraging big data streaming in from the Internet of Things, devices, and every customer interaction on your website and eCommerce platforms, and you’ll be left dead in the water if you aren’t doing the same as you get your business up and running.
“Don’t underestimate the power of financial forecasting. Find a forecasting tool that integrates with your accounting software and utilize it to model the potential financial impacts of all of your major decisions. Gut feelings can only get you so far when starting or running a small business.” —Tim Hebel, Founder & Owner, Beanstalk Web Solutions
Hear From Industry Experts
Read the latest tips, research, best practices, and insights from our community of expert B2B service providers.
Mistakes to Avoid When Starting or Maintaining Your Small Business
Advice from business professionals comes in many forms and angles, and it’s not always tips for success. Sometimes, the best advice comes in the form of warnings against common missteps. From our respondents, we’ve gathered six best practices for avoiding some of the most dangerous challenges faced by new business owners.
5. Embrace Agility to Remain Responsive to Client Demands
You need to leave room in your business model and budget for taking risks and possible failure but offset those costs with a highly flexible and agile project management model that can help your organization quickly assess the problem and pivot to the right solution.
“Avoid business structures that prevent your organization from remaining agile. You need to be able to fail fast. Ventures need to be able to pivot quickly, but how? Failing fast is a great example of using the scientific method to build off of a hypothesis, and determine the direction you need to move based on market and growth needs.” —Jeremy Imlach, CEO, Argona Partners
“Avoid being ‘perfect’ before launch. No one and nothing is perfect at all times in E-commerce. There are bugs, there are things that just don’t seem to work. That’s ok, as long as you have a system in place to pivot away from what caused the failure. Use this to adapt your approach and continue building customer relations and a great product. The small mistakes won’t shut down your business—only you have the power to do that.” —Chris Machetto, CEO & President, Frenchy Digital LLC
6. Don’t Try to Open a Business Without a Plan That Integrates Marketing
You should never enter into any business venture without some form of plan in place that outlines the path you intend to follow as you scale and grow in response to consumer behaviors. Whether you have team members skilled in modern marketing techniques and technologies or you plan to outsource, it’s crucial that marketing is part of your plan from the start.
“When starting a small business, you need to avoid certain mistakes. First, don’t get too deep without a strategic business plan. What’s your vision? What’s your unique value proposition? What do you do well? Who’s your target market? Who’s your competition? And why should they buy from you? Second, don’t spend all of your money on upfront costs. In this era of Google, it’s often the best marketer that wins. This means that after you invest in a business plan and a brand strategy and development, you need the means to invest in marketing.” —Paul Bies, President, Mystique Brand Communications
7. A Solid Business Plan Includes Understanding Your Financials
While we addressed integrating data analytics in the first section of tips for small business owners, a common misstep many business owners warn against is failing to integrate data analytics into the business model from the start. You can’t have an agile and responsive operation if you don’t have access to the data to make informed decisions.
“Not knowing your numbers, this lack of clarity leaves you feeling frustrated, and confused not knowing where the money is going and not knowing how to fix your business.” —Ron Allen, Founder & CEO, Exigo Business Solutions
8. Embrace Business Process Outsourcing
We read constantly about the genius and innovation entrepreneurs bring to the table, and it’s true that new business owners must have a fairly wide skill set and wear a lot of hats in launching their business. However, the truly gifted business minds accept at some point in the ramp-up stage that they can’t do everything themselves and must leverage their team and resources such as outsourced business process service providers in order to generate and maintain forward momentum.
“When starting a small business, it’s important to remember that you’re not an expert at all things that are needed to run a business successfully. Get assistance with things like legal, taxes, insurance, licensing, and accounting.” —Diana Bianchini, Founder, Di Moda Public Relations
“As a small business with limited resources and staff from the start, you can’t do everything yourself. Do your research and learn to let go of the reins in the right way at the right time. Don’t assume outsourcing is a bad thing. You can find a solution that will fill in your skills gaps and support your business where it needs it the most.” —Gabriella Sannino, Owner & International SEO Consultant, Level343 LLC
9. Basic Business Acumen Shouldn’t Be Discounted
Operations and Facilities management cannot be overlooked when establishing a new business startup. There are many modern pitfalls an inexperienced team can fall into when identifying brick-and-mortar workspace, and if not properly navigated, a fledgling business can lose large portions of its startup capital securing a workspace.
“Avoid getting caught up in overpaying for a commercial space, or a commercial space with too high of rent, spending all of your start-up capital on a buildout of a commercial space. Rent for businesses is a relatively new phenomenon and kills more businesses than anything else.” —Tim VanDerKamp, Co-Owner, Stay Wild Digital LLC
10. Anticipate Problems and Know Your Organization’s Limitations
Combined, these warnings paint a picture of a complicated and extremely challenging journey for business owners who come to the table unprepared. For modern entrepreneurs, success comes from the ability to anticipate and navigate challenges that might arise.
“In a general sense, there are a lot of pitfalls you have to navigate when starting a business. At the start, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to find bankers and investors right away. Navigating client interactions, remember that nothing happens until a sale is made. But don’t be scared of failure. You shouldn’t do everything yourself, and take the time to move through all of the steps of properly structuring and growing your business without expanding too quickly, as this could lead to you over-promising and under-delivering.” —Mehran Chowdhury, Senior Managing Partner, Chowdhury Aktar & Associates
What Advice Were You Given Before Opening Your Business That You Would Share With New Business Owners?
Just as each of our respondents weighed in to give tips for success and warnings of the pitfalls that come along with ownership, they themselves received guidance early in their journey. We’ve asked our community to provide some of the best advice they received before opening their own doors, with the hopes that it will help our readership build their own vehicles to navigate the complicated and dangerous waters of modern entrepreneurship. These six insights into ensuring success stand on their own but also support previous points or expand upon the warnings of challenges that might arise that we’ve talked about above.
11. You Can’t Overstate the Importance of Identifying the Proper Audience
It’s not possible to build an effective marketing strategy or long-term campaigns and business strategies around a poorly constructed template for your ideal client persona. You can’t build brand identity or plan out a content marketing approach without a proper understanding of what potential customers might need from your brand. One of the most important things a business can do in the early stages is to create a very clearly defined image of what the perfect client looks like.
“Your audience isn’t ‘everyone’, even though we may think that at first! There is a clear benefit to defining your customer segments early, even if they change down the road. Take the time to learn, understand, and speak to your potential audience so you can make the best decisions about how you want to pursue marketing and sales.” —Kathryn Taccone, Co-Founder, Open Pixel Studios
12. Don’t Let Initial Lack of Progress Discourage You from Future Success
Success in business is a process and a journey, not a foregone conclusion. There will be many ups and downs, and challenges that must be overcome. One of the key pieces of advice that came through the pipeline encourages new business owners to remain focused on their goals.
“Stay on course. Know what you want to do and stick with the process and the plan. Too often business owners run after every shiny new idea and abandon the last before it has had a chance to be successful. You can’t do it all and be everything, so know which lane you want to be in, stay in that lane, and work towards dominating it before you expand into a new lane.” —Shannon Peel, Creative Entrepreneurial Owner, MarketAPeel
In addition to remaining focused on progress, it’s important for business owners to remain focused and positive. A positive mindset is one that is able to remain solution-focused rather than mired in the challenges and missteps your business is sure to encounter.
“One of the most helpful pieces of advice we received when starting our business was to always keep your head up. At the time, that didn’t make a lot of sense to my wife and I, but over time, you realize the struggles, stress, and frustrations that happen with owning a business and it is easy to get overwhelmed. When times get tough, we focus on positive affirmations to remind us that this is only temporary and there are far more positive benefits to owning your own business than negative ones!.” —Christopher Amos, Owner & Chief Digital Architect, No Boundaries Marketing Group
13. Don’t Let an Overly Complicated Business Plan Prevent Your Ability to Innovate and Pivot
An interesting bit of advice that surfaced from our survey warned against allowing complex and overly thought-out business plans to prevent future owners from getting the ball rolling. While those complex plans might be necessary for long-term success, a simple “blueprint” in the beginning will often suffice in setting the stage, laying the proper groundwork, and allowing the team to get started.
“Unless you are looking for venture capital or angel investors, you probably won’t need an in-depth business plan to get going, but you will need a “business blueprint.” This is a three- to four-page document that serves as a personal guide to navigating the road ahead. Here’s what I suggest you include in your business blueprint:
1) A clear description of what the business does, what problems it solves, why it’s needed, and who it serves.
2) A description of how the business will run on a day-to-day basis.
3) A list of your responsibilities.
4) A list of what you will do, what other people will do, and who you need to add to your team.
5) An estimate of what it will cost to run the business for the first year.
6) An estimate of how you will cover these first-year expenses, either through sales or from some other source.”
—Jane Wesman, President, Jane Wesman Public Relations, Inc.
14. Don’t Be Afraid of Innovation
Competitors aren’t always focused on solutions and often will abandon innovation and turn to tried-and-true methods in the face of failure. Many business owners who have survived the challenges of the modern economy have done so because they aren’t afraid to take risks and try new approaches when challenges arise.
“Don’t be afraid to try new things. I was told to think outside of the box and try ideas that other people in the industry are not doing. If something did not work for your competitor, does not mean it will not work for you.” —Arman Tale, Marketing Specialist, Brand Vision Marketing
Innovation isn’t only about trying new ideas your competitors won’t, but also exploring and understanding where the competition has fallen short so that you can develop a process or procedure that addresses the shortcomings of others and keeps your business on the cutting edge.
“Learn from those that came before you, but keep your mind open enough to illuminate their advice in areas where they may have fallen short. You can only drive innovation by falling short in new areas, and using what you learn from failure to improve your processes.” —Adam Fausey, Director, WDEVS
15. Create Your Own Processes and Build for Future Success
One of the most important pieces of advice revealed by our inquiry is for new business owners to leverage the systems and automation in business tasks made possible by outsourcing and modern technology. By remaining unfettered by the daily processes and demands of running the business, entrepreneurs can avoid the feeling of the 9-5 grind many are seeking to escape.
“Solopreneurship can feel like you’re on an island and it’s hard and there are a lot of days you’ll find yourself looking for a 9-5 hourly job. The best way to alleviate these feelings is through processes. Create your processes!” —Heather Eakins, Owner, Matador Digi
16. Run Your Business with Success in Mind
In the end, we are creating businesses designed to profit and succeed. This can be hard to remember throughout the ramp-up stage and growth of the brand, but if you approach every business decision as if you’re expecting an investor to buy you out, you’ll ensure that you’re making the best decision possible for the long-term profitability of your business.
“Find an opportunity that your competition is not serving and own it. Know it inside and out. Credentialize yourself through publishings and lectures. Become the local subject master, but do so with humility, grace, generosity, and humor.
‘Run your business today, like you’re going to sell it tomorrow’ was such a powerful concept for me when I first heard it, that I can remember not only who shared this wisdom, but what the room looked like on that sunny day. I live it every day.” —Chris Sheehy, President, Sidewalk Branding Co.
Small Business Success Isn’t A Given, It Takes Strategy and Planning
Small business owners might understand their business niche, but the finer points of succeeding in this challenging economic landscape require the ability to understand and navigate complex challenges. Only through agility and solid business acumen that comes from the insights of peers and competitors can modern entrepreneurs establish a pathway that avoids the pitfalls of modern business and leads to success.
Not every business owner has the luxury of the network of peers and professionals that we leveraged in this survey. For owners looking for small business consultants to help them get their concept off the ground or maintain forward momentum, the UpCity marketplace is a great starting point to identify potential service providers or learn more about how to best navigate the challenges of owning and operating a modern business.
About the author
David J. Brin
Having recently escaped a 20-year career in Food & Beverage operations management, David is now a Facility Director for a Code Ninjas franchise, a STEM-education concept that uses game development to teach children how to code in various programming languages. David got his start writing professionally as a communications assistant for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, and has been a freelance copywriter providing white-label services to clients since 2016. His clients operate in industries ranging from managed IT services and software development to marketing and advertising.