7 Steps for Sustained Business Success

As a business owner, it is great to make a big splash and lots of sales on opening day. But it’s far better to build a business that succeeds over the long term.

The techniques that you used to start your business are not the same as those that will sustain it over time. As an owner of multiple businesses, I found these actions, after making plenty of mistakes, to be the most effective for my sustained business success.

1. Take Care of the Entrepreneur 

The #1 most valuable asset in your small business is YOU — the entrepreneur. If you are not feeling well, physically, emotionally, or spiritually, your life and your business will suffer.

As a business owner, it is easy to overwork, skip exercise, and forget to take time for fun. If you do this, eventually you will become short-tempered with people, causing strained relationships — both at work and home.

Instead, keep a reasonable schedule and add leisure activities to your week. I found that once I made a few adjustments my attitude dramatically improved, along with my happiness level that of my family and work team, too.

2. Stay Current and Skill Build

Continue to learn new things and sharpen your skills. Business is moving forward faster everyday and smart business owners must keep up.  The options and prices of education have never been better.

Online sites such as Lynda or Udemy offer thousands of courses to learn new software and business skills for as low as $10. Most entrepreneurs are naturally curious and love to learn. Cultivate the lifelong learner in you for your success.

3. Get Involved in Your Industry

Becoming involved in your industry is extremely valuable, for networking, competitive research, and to spot emerging trends. Join industry associations, subscribe and read your industry publications, attend trade shows and participate in events.

4. ABS: Always be Selling

Alec Baldwin’s speech in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross popularized this sales slogan, “Always be Closing – ABC.” I modified it for business owners into “Always be Selling.”

To me, this means when I meet new people, I tell them about my products and give them my business card. No hard sell just information and a smile. It is funny how many times those casual encounters have led to new orders and profitable connections.  

5. Know Your Numbers 

Ask billionaire business owners and most will tell you their secret to success is keeping an eye on their numbers. They mean having up to the minute knowledge of key metrics for your business type.

Every type of business is different, manufacturers watch inventory turnover, retailers track average unit sale, and e-commerce sites measure click-through rates. Know what your key business indicator numbers are and watch them daily. 

6. Get Organized 

A business owner’s time is limited and precious. The best way to maximize its value is to become and stay organized so you can be more productive. Every minute you spend looking for things or information is wasted time that could be spent building your business instead.

One of my favorite productivity tools is Evernote (referral link). From my phone, iPad, or desktop computer, I can save information and easily retrieve it at any time. Recently I donated my file cabinets to a local school because I had so few papers to file thanks to Evernote.

7. Expand and Innovate Constantly

This is the best tip on the list.  I sold my first business for over a million dollars due to building in innovation and expansion. My business was built quickly and strongly because I was always creating new products, opening new markets, and expanding into new geographic regions. I was always devising new ways to use my products.

Thus, my company was also protected from the inevitable loss of customers, economic downturns, industry changes, and failed products that every business faces. When a customer asked me, “What’s new?,” I always had something to tell, and sell, them.

If you want to build a great business for today and tomorrow, take care of yourself, keep learning, be an active industry member, watch your numbers, get organized, and always be expanding and selling.

Marsha Kelly sold her first business for more than a million dollars. She has shared hard-won experiences as a successful serial entrepreneur on her blog, Best 4 Businesses. Marsha also regularly shares business tips, ideas, suggestions, and product reviews for business readers. As a serial entrepreneur who has done “time” in corporate America, Marsha has learned what products and services really work well in business today.

Comments ( 10 )
  • Seana Turner says:

    I remember someone telling me when I started my business to talk a lot about what I did, including in social settings. As you say, not in a “hard sell” way, but just to bring it up and let people know. That really got me started. Now that I’m established, and someone known for being an organizer around my community, I find that others bring it up and want to talk about it. Fortunately, I love what I do and helping people, so I could talk about organizing all day long. Thanks for these tips!

    • Deb Lee says:

      If you don’t talk about what you do — especially if you love what you do — how will people know? I also think that Marsha’s tips are on point (#1 is super important!) Thanks for stopping by, Seana. =)

  • Marsha Kelly says:

    Seana, great to hear about your success. Often marketing clients ask me how to increase their “word of mouth” advertising. I tell them to start with their own mouth and that of their employees 🙂

    Here are some ways to start a conversation about your business, answer What’s New? with news about your business. Topics could include funny stories, new products, upcoming sales, awards won, solutions to problems, exhibits at trade shows and fun facts.

  • Erika Taylor says:

    #5 is so true. Even (or especially?) if you’re a small business owner, you should know your numbers like the back of your hand. It’s inevitable, no matter if you talk with business partners or investors.

    • Marsha Kelly says:

      Yes, Erika, the numbers don’t lie. The key is to find the exact set of “numbers” that are your business type and industry metrics. When I owned a manufacturing firm I watched my stock levels, supplies and orders vs last year. Now that I run an online business the numbers I watch are traffic, clicks and ranking positions in Google.
      Find your magic numbers and watch them like a hawk for success in 2018. Good luck.

      • Erika Taylor says:

        You’re absolutely right. Each business comes along with a specific pair of metrics, you have to track. I do also work in the online business and it turned out to be the case that the CTR (Click Through Rate) is very important, too. If we publish an article with a low CTR (so, few to none people convert into customers), we know that the blog post wasn’t clear, motivating or informative enough. On the other hand, articles with a higher conversion function as best practice examples. 🙂

        • Marsha Kelly says:

          Smart Cookie You are Erica. Sounds like you are using the free tool Google Analytics to study your reader’s engagement with your site.
          I also review the column – Average Time on Page in the PAGE report in analytics. It tells me which articles are the most interesting to my audience. Usually, it shows a theme and indicates the reasons why people come to my site. Today my report showed that How To articles and Lists are read 4X longer than my site average.

  • Janet Barclay says:

    I’m the worst at #4. I’ll head out to a business event with a great elevator pitch prepared, and then when someone asks me what I do, I just say, “I’m a web designer.” How boring! I need to remember to say “I make your business shine with a website that shows the world how fabulous you are and attracts new clients!”

  • Marsha Kelly says:

    Janet, you are actually good at the hardest part of #4 – Always be Selling – Since you already crafted a great value statement/elevator pitch!
    Now you have to do what all great actresses do, practice, practice, and practice.

    In fact, I used to write mine on an index card and study it daily so that I had it memorized. I even did the corny mirror trick, practice saying it to myself when imaginary people asked me, So what do you do? Once I had it memorized and had spoken it out loud, lots of times, even though it was just my mirror, it was easier to use in real life. Good luck.

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