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Free Article – Top 10 Tips for Small Business Success

Learn the secrets to success

Key learning outcomes:

  • Understand that well-established business principles apply to both small and large businesses.
  • Acknowledge that you need to work both in and on your business.
  • Establish a system of regular and positive communication with your team.
  • Identify what is working well in your business and build on this.


One of the greatest things about being in small business is that you have control over your own destiny. To a large degree, the success or failure of the business will come down to you, your efforts and the strategies that you employ. Over the years we have learned why some small businesses succeed and why some fail. Our list of top 10 tips will help to keep you on the path to success.

Small business does not mean thinking small

On the surface it can seem that being a small business has you at a disadvantage, unlike your competitors who seem bigger and better. Yes, a big business does have more money to play with and potentially more resources, but remember that a small business holds the advantage of being agile and has the ability to move quickly. One of the keys to success in small business is borrow some ideas from big business and then use some creative flair and spin to make them your own. It is also important to remember that the business principles big businesses employ are equally applicable to small business. Things like strategic planning, risk analysis and maintaining a strong culture will have a large impact on a small business as even a small percentage performance gain can make a big difference to the bottom-line profit.

Recruit on attitude

In small business, a recruitment error can have a significant impact on your business. Our advice is to recruit on attitude as a priority rather than on skill or experience. So long as the person has the ability to learn, having someone with a great attitude always wins out for us. Remember also that even though you are a small business and may be operating with a tight budget, you want to hire the best possible person that you can afford. Your people will have the biggest impact on the success of your business; therefore, you need to spend time and money ensuring you employ the right ones. Too often we see business owners offering salaries that are below market value and then complaining when staff leave to work elsewhere or when performance is below par. It is essential that you invest in and treat your team as a valuable asset of the business; the rewards will come back to you over and over again.

Spend time working on your business

One of the greatest mistakes we see small business owners make is that they do not spend time working on their business. Rather, they spend their time dealing face to face with customers or doing the things that they have employed others to do. As a business owner you should dedicate some time every week to developing, growing and improving your business and your business skills. Take some time to read our article “Working on versus working in the business” if you are having difficulties in this area.

Work smarter not harder

Small business owners statistically work on average some of the longest hours in the business sector. One of the keys to sustaining a successful business long-term is to ensure that you do not just keep working harder, but that you learn to work smarter. Maximising your time and learning to delegate are two of the keys to creating a healthy work/life balance. Use the articles in our “Personal development” section of the website to ensure that your time management skills are up to scratch and that you are working as productively as possible. We also have a number of articles in our “Leadership” section that will help ensure you are leveraging the resources around you to create efficiency.

Meet with your team

It does not matter if you are a team of 2, 10 or 50, it is important as the leader to communicate effectively. Team meetings are a great opportunity to do this and we recommend you meet with your team on a regular basis. The key to holding a great team meeting is to make it a positive experience and encourage active participation. If your team meetings revolve around what has gone wrong, you will soon find the team becomes less enthusiastic about attending. Instead, focus on updating the team on what is happening to the business at large, celebrate individual employees’ wins and set the direction for the next 30, 60 or 90 days.

Protect your culture

The culture of your business is precious and is something that you need to nurture and protect. The culture drives the behaviour and actions of those working in the business, and while the business leader might set the culture, those working in the business can affect it dramatically. In a small business, one bad apple can very quickly spoil the barrel. If you have someone in your business that is complaining or causing trouble, it is best to free up their future to find employment elsewhere as quickly and efficiently as you can.

Hold true to your values

There is no doubt that in any small business there will be some challenging times. When these come along, it can be tempting to take a few short cuts or to compromise in areas such as service or cost. This may provide a short-term fix, but it will cause long-term damage to the business as customers become dissatisfied or your staff become concerned about the future of the business.

Know your numbers

No matter how big or small your business, you should be up to speed on your numbers. Be clear on where your profit point is and then set targets to reach it. For example, a restaurant might need to take $1,500 per day to break even. This may be risky for the business unless the owner and those working in the business know and are clear on what the target figure is. Finding out 3, 6 or 12 months down the track that you are falling short of your profit point is a recipe for disaster. Other key numbers to keep track of are your market share, cash flow, expenses and income. If you are unsure about your numbers, you should find a good accountant to help you to set up some appropriate targets.

Do more of what is working

Often the greatest opportunity for business growth does not come from diversification but from simply doing more of what you are already doing well. Look for ways to expand your business by doing more of what is successful. Take a look at your market share and market potential and ask yourself if there is an opportunity to capture a larger portion of the market or expand your boundaries by offering your product or service to a wider audience. Once you have explored this fully, you can then move onto thinking about incorporating some new ideas, products or services.

Document from day one

One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make is failing to document or create systems in the early days of the business. Often this can be because when the business started, it consisted of just you, and so much of what is done is in your head. The problem here is that when you do expand and new people come on board, it can be hard for them to get up to speed quickly and efficiently. As a rule, anything that you do more than once should have a system and procedure attached to it. The best way to start is to keep a journal and jot down how you carry out daily, weekly or monthly tasks. Your procedures manual will evolve over time and new employees will benefit from a well-developed set of guidelines.

A final word

The most common difference that we see between successful and struggling business owners is that the successful owners are passionate about what they do and want to do it better. Successful business owners are always on the lookout for better ways of doing things given their mindset of continual improvement. They are always open to new ideas and learning something new, and are never afraid to seek help when they need it.

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