By Al Lopez, EGBI Executive Director
For small business owners and entrepreneurs, one of the keys to success is staying focused. That may sound obvious, but too often, small business owners get so many new ideas and opportunities early in the life of their business that they lose their original intent or business plan target. With that in mind, here are three ways to stay super-focused during your first 12 months as a new business owner:
TIP #1: Start small and start slow
Yes, everything’s bigger in Texas, but that doesn’t mean your business is going to become a giant overnight. In fact, there is no such thing as an “overnight success” in business. The path to future success is filled with many mini-steps along the way.
One big reason why you want to start small and start slow is because growth requires capital, and that’s something most new business owners don’t have. That’s why you’ll hear about startups “bootstrapping” their way to success, by being very careful about how much cash they are spending before they make their first sales. When you stay focused, you’ll be able to control how much cash you’re spending.
One way to bootstrap your new venture is to consider a co-working environment. Instead of splurging for an expensive 12-month lease, you can often rent a co-working space on a month-to-month basis. Plus, as an added bonus, you get to network with similar types of entrepreneurs in an incubator-like environment.
TIP #2: Put your business plan in writing
One way to stay focused is by putting down your business plan in writing. Most business plans include discussion of topics like: market opportunity, finance and operations and marketing strategy. By carefully thinking about what market niche you are going after, how you are going to fund your ongoing operations and how you plan to reach your target consumer, you will be in a much better position to evaluate new offers and opportunities as they arise.
For example, say you are a Latina entrepreneur who would like to open a nail salon business in downtown Austin. Your business plan would include details about what part of the nail salon market you are trying to reach, some information about pricing, and some details about how you plan to reach women within certain neighborhoods within Austin (e.g. via social media, print ads, billboards). Then, when someone proposes a new idea to you, you will be able to see how it matches up with your own vision for the business.
TIP #3: Create a mission statement
Too often, small business owners come up with a great business concept but don’t have a way of communicating what makes the business special to other people. One way to do that is by crafting a mission statement that you can share with other stakeholders in your business – employees, partners, vendors and investors. The most effective and exciting mission statements are those that explain how you plan to change the world with your new business.
Maybe you’re thinking of opening a store selling clothes for women. Your mission statement might include a description of some under-served market that you are reaching (e.g. “single moms who want fashionable but low-cost clothing for the workplace”), or some description of what makes your product different from every other product (e.g. “all clothes made from 100 percent locally-sourced, natural materials”). Then, when you get a new offer or opportunity, you’ll be able to see how well that opportunity fits in with your unique vision or goal for your company.
Being a small business owner is challenging enough without being caught up in lots of new ideas too fast. Start small, map out your business plan, and come up with a mission statement. By doing so, you will prepare your new business for future success.