4 business survival tips for running a small business

Running a small business can feel like a race against time. A never ending series of sprints. Payroll comes every two weeks whether you are ready for it or not. Customers come and go, some pay on time, some don’t. Sometimes it feels like there’s no time to catch your breath before you have to start running again. The sprint is for survival.

But that “sprint to survive” is can be a trap.

The way we get beyond survival is not to work harder, but to work smarter. We’ve heard it before, but what does that mean? How do we suit up to really go the distance? How do we develop a capacity for a more measured pace and greater distance? How do we build endurance?

running a small business

Just like training for a sprint is not the same as training for a marathon, we need to do different things to running a small business with long-term value; if we want to see beyond just trying to survive or make it to payroll. Here are 3 areas to focus on that will build the long-term value of your business (even if you feel like you are caught in a “sprint” cycle for survival):

Build your LIST: your fan base, the group people you have permission to educate (and sell to)

Your most valuable long-term asset is a permission based marketing list. With a list of people who know you, like what you are saying and doing, and who trust your recommendations and referrals, you have a long-term asset that you can use to make money lots of different ways. The bigger this list is, the more money it can make you — but only as long as the people on it continue to know, like and trust you.

  • Do you have a way to capture your business contacts to continue to build a relationship with them?
  • Are you sending out regular messages to them that build trust?
  • What are you asking of them? Referrals, purchases of information products, and affiliate sales are all ways to develop an income stream from that list.

Build your TEAM

You are an amazingly hard worker, and smart too. I know you are. But you alone can never work as hard, or be as smart, as a team of people can. Building your team is a long-term investment. It actually takes more time, and costs you more money now — but builds the capacity for running a small business business over the long-term.

  • How are you investing in your team members right now?
  • What are they learning that is making them more valuable?
  • Do they see how they can grow, learn more and make more money here?

Build SYSTEMS and automate them where possible

Since you are going to be doing this for a while, it’s worth it to create systems and processes — a standard way we do things — that’s written down, not handed down through an oral tradition. Once you have a system that’s written down, and you know it works, then it’s worth trying to automate it. There are thousands of online tools that you could use to improve and automate bits of your processes that would yield not just efficiency gains, but also improve quality and consistency of your end product.

  • Where are there patterns that you have confidence in? What “just works”?
  • How can you build that into a process? (Don’t make this your task, make it something that those who are doing that task can be responsible for!)
  • What part of that can be automated to make it more consistent and provide some better monitoring and reporting of progress and quality?

If you build it, they will come: goodwill

Goodwill is an accounting term that places a value on the intangible value of your brand name, regular customer base, and positive “vibes” that you have with your customers, community and employees. Goodwill is created when you do things that make people know, like, and trust your company. Investing in your team — equipping them to do their jobs, recognizing they have a life outside of work and giving them slack when they really need it, giving them a stake in what happens in the company — these are all ways to grow goodwill within. When you create systems that endure even if you are out of the picture, this builds goodwill, too. Your customers and community learn that they are not simply counting on you, but they can count on your organization, your brand. All of this goodwill you are generating can help you to realize a premium value for your company.

So you see how building a customer list, a developing your team, *and* creating more consistent processes aren’t just good for running a small business today — all of these things together will build your long-term value for tomorrow. Get off the treadmill. If you want to endure, if you want to go the distance, start investing in these three areas now. You may find you need to sprint now and then, but it won’t be a sprint to survive.

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