Paving the road to success: 7 tips for small business owners

Starting a new business can be a daunting undertaking, even for experienced entrepreneurs.

According to the Small Business Administration, only a third of new businesses survive 10 years or more.  However, with determination, perseverance, and some hard work, your business can thrive. See what several experienced entrepreneurs highlight as keys to success:

1. Love Your Work.
Lisa King, the entrepreneur behind the company Brownie Points Inc., advises small business owners to keep a great attitude in order to make their company succeed. According to King, the secret is loving what you do. “If you don’t [love what you do], it’s hard to be successful,” she says.  Positivity is everything; she adds, “You need to maintain your optimism. Once it’s gone, you’re done.”

2. Find a Core Group of People Who Understand Your Vision. Mike Mondello, the president of SeaBear, a supplier of fresh salmon, recommends that you look for more qualities than just experience in potential employees. A person with a great resumé might not have the passion you need to keep your company running. You need to find team members who embrace your vision, make it their own, and help you improve it.

3. Find Creative Solutions for Problems. When you aren’t sure how to solve a business problem, look for innovative options. Robin Brockles, the owner of Creative Coverings, asked UPS to help find an easier way for her customers to return their rented linens.  Instead of having customers deal with bulky boxes, we helped with specially designed bags that last for about 300 uses. Customers now have a simpler returns process, and the reusable bags deliver savings for the business.

4. Create a Delightful Customer Experience. Customer retention is critical to running a successful small business. You might have an amazing marketing plan, competitive prices, and a well-designed website, but if a customer doesn’t feel good after their experience with you, they won’t come back.

All employees need to understand their part in the customer experience. Mondello relates that each person should have a role that contributes to the success of the business, and they should know how they fit into the big picture. Workers who take ownership of their responsibilities will experience greater job satisfaction, which will, in turn, build a better overall experience for customers.

5. Use Mistakes as a Learning Tool. Mistakes are inevitable. The key is to learn from them–fast. At one point, SeaBear decided to outsource its phone calls to a call center. Customer orders were soon riddled with errors. “When a customer had a need outside the norm, the call center couldn’t handle it with the customer care our own professionals could,” Mondello recalls. The solution? SeaBear immediately stopped outsourcing and personally contacted all the customers who were negatively affected. Also, the company has learned to test any new process during a quiet time of the year.

6. Learn to Depend on Those Who Know More Than You.
You aren’t an expert in everything. Focus on your strengths, and hire others who specialize in areas that you don’t know as much about. You might want to subcontract some services, such as Web design, or seek employees who compensate where you are weak.

7. Never Sacrifice Quality. “The key to the success of any business is to establish a philosophy and have everyone in the business buy into it,” says Larry Sweet, founder and president of Save-A-Load Inc. Because his company puts quality first, it has experienced double-digit revenue increases since launching in 1993. Save-A-Load shows how serious it is about its vision by backing its products with a lifetime warranty and using UPS for effective deliveries across the globe.