Thursday, September 12, 2013

8 Tips to Running a Successful Business

I've been a consultant for a successful direct sales company for 7 years. Within that time I was fortunate 
enough to reach the top title in the company,  but that wasn't without a lot of hard work or determination. Many may say that when you become successful it's because of luck. "oh, she got lucky she got in on a ground floor opportunity." or "he was at the right place or time." And their hard work is often discounted. Many want a get rich quick idea, but I'm here to tell you that there's no such thing. Even lottery winners have to wait patiently, usually for many years, working jobs they may not like and hoping that one day they will win AND if they do win, it's not always an easy process of holding onto that money. But that's a topic for another day. Back to the main point, today I would like to share with you the top 8 tips I have learned in growing my business and how you can apply these tips into running your own business.

1. Know Your Market
Before starting any business, whether direct sales or your own small business, know the people you are going to sell it too. Really think hard of who you want to target. Say you came up with a fabulous idea for children.  One would assume your target market would be kids but think narrower. Do you want to target children between the ages of 3 and 7 or 15 and 18? Would this idea interest parents of those children?  Knowing your market allows you to know how to spend your time and money on advertising.  If the idea is for younger children, you probably would not want to put an ad in a local magazine that caters to the teenage crowd.  Or if you are into craft shows, know your surroundings.  If your product is pricier, doing a craft show in a city where the median income is lower than $60k might not get you the results you are looking for.

2. Branding
Now that you have decided on your market and your product, you need to start branding. If you are a consultant for a direct sales company, they already have a brand, so this means you must begin branding yourself.  Don't be afraid to be known as the "cooking lady" or the "make up lady." Make sure everyone you know, knows what you do. This is true for a start up business. You are the brand until it grows and becomes a household name. Know your stuff, act professional, and don't be afraid to learn and grow. No one became successful without a learning curve.
    Next on branding, is creating your logo. In creating the Garaging Mavens, we knew it was very important to start off with our brand already in motion. If you are really serious about making your business successful, you must have a logo. If you don't know how to create one yourself, you can usually find someone that can create one for you pretty inexpensively. Then, when labeling any of your products, make sure your logo, or rather your business, is represented. If anyone picks up something that you created or you sell it needs to have your information on it. Very successful companies have a logo and it's all part of their branding. For example, our logo is on EVERYTHING! From the cloth labels we sew into our goodies, sign in the shop, or the price tags on our items. You can be sure that we do not want you to forget our name or logo. Also, be sure that you have your contact information in as many places as you can so that people can find you!

3. Social Media
Whether you want to or not, social media is important in growing your business. Many successful companies I know have exclusively grown their business through social media. It's super cheap, because it's free! It can also target that amazing market of teenagers and mommies! Plus, it allows you to stay in front of your market on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis. Posting tips, tricks, or new fun items you have to offer is a great way to share with your customers and share your brand. Sometimes we may post pictures of our kiddos or what we may be doing, but that adds to the brand in allowing others to get to know us. Also, utilize hash tags. For some, you may be asking, "what the heck is a hash tag and what good is it for?" Well let me tell you that a hash tag can be whatever you want it to be. You can have a hash tag for your business or a random made up one. To me, hash tags are like what parentheses used to be, or even fine print. But the actual pound sign in the hash tag has allowed us to connect to millions of people. For example, on Twitter or Instagram you can find new followers by hash tagging anything and everything. So your product is targeting stay at home moms. Use the hash tag stay at home mom or #sahm after you type the description. When someone wants to view other pictures with that same tag they can then have the possibility of seeing your picture, go to your profile,  learn more and then begin following you. It's really quite ingenious!

4. Work It!
No matter the business, ground floor or not,  you must never discount how hard you need to work to get your business to grow. It's not an easy process, even if others tell you it is, they're lying. Look at anyone you know that is successful, has lots of money and all they could ever dream about.  They had to start somewhere and that means they had to start at the bottom and work hard to get to the top. The grass is always greener so be sure to never discount that they worked their tails off, and probably still are, because to be successful means to work, and work hard. You may have the most amazing products out there but if you don't work to share them with everyone you know, they won't sell. If people don't know who you are or what you do, how will they know that they can buy from you! You don't have to be obnoxious and call people 10 times a day to see if they have changed their minds about purchasing from you, but branding yourself allows them to know that if they ever need anything from you, they know where to get it. Like I said, social media can play a great roll in this, but don't rely too heavily on it. Get outside the house. Learn SEO for your website. Become part of your local chamber of commerce, join networking groups, do as many shows or fairs that your budget will allow. Work hard and you can reap the rewards, later.

5. Budget
I can't tell you how important a budget is to your business. Try to never grow your business with a boat load of debt. Some companies may require you to purchase a kit, but try to have a party or orders ready from the start to make that money back from the beginning. If it's a new start up, you might have to have a loan to get started. Whatever the cost, try to have a plan to make that money back as soon as possible. Then with whatever money you do earn, make sure you know where it needs to go and how it needs to be spent. Many successful companies have failed because they did not manage their money properly.  Use a spread sheet to keep track of your budget or programs like 

6. Have a Business Plan
This leads me into my next step, which is to have a business plan. Know exactly the purpose of your business. Have goals for your first three months, 6 months, first year, where you see the business in 5 years. All of these are super important to help you stay on track. Know how much you want to sell, expand, etc. Let your business plan be your treasure map. If you have a solid plan, it will lead you to your treasure.  It’s also important to have a business plan so that it is a legitimate business in the eyes of the government, if they were to ever ask for your business plan.  You can find an example of a business plan or how to write one by using the wonderful world of Google.  Also, remember to reevaluate your plan once a year to see if any changes need to be made. 

7. Keep Amazing Records
I can't stress to you enough how important it is to keep amazing records. When it comes to taxes, it's even more important. Having amazing records of how much you sell, how much your product costs, how much your shipping charges cost, knowing the exact amount of sales tax your charged, etc. can make it easier to keep track of year over year numbers and it will make tax time super easy.  It’s also important to have a really great CPA.  Make sure you have someone that knows either small business or direct sales.  Some know both, some don’t know either, and some only know one or the other.  For example, direct sales business owners have different tax deductions than small business owners.  So if your CPA does not have a full knowledge of which deductions you can take advantage on, than you my friend will be paying a lot more money OR not receiving as much money back as you should be. 

8.  Know Your Why
Last but not least, know your why.  We use this term a lot in direct sales because it’s super easy to invest $100, forget your why and quit.  However, remembering your why can keep you going year after year.  If you own your own business, it’s really important to remember your why so that when the tough gets going you can easily remember the reason you are working so hard to grow your business.  Have a dream board in an area that you can see everyday.  Put up inspirational quotes around your home or work space.  When those whys change, create new boards and new inspirational signs.  Never forget why you are doing what you are doing.  If you find yourself in a rut then reevaluate your why.  Reevaluate the way you are running your business and figure out what’s working and what isn’t.  Our business will grow and change and so will our whys.  We must be flexible and remember that this will happen and remember to be willing to change. 

Never forget how amazing you are and can be!!  You have an inner strength within you that you made need to draw on from time to time but you can be successful!!  You can work hard!!  And you can have all that you want or need!  Do get out there and get going!
Much love!

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