Management and Marketing Tip #1 for Small Business Owners

Making that decision to go into business – to be your own boss, and have your name on your very own company – has invited all types of people to quit their jobs and follow their passions.  Who hasn’t dreamed of basking in the sun on an exotic beach, sipping on that perfectly chilled piña colada, while your “successful” business runs on its own?  As wonderful as it may sound, of the 500,000+ new businesses that sprawl each year in the US, less than a majority of them will survive the next three years.  The number becomes even more depressing when we pan out the statistics to five years.  Then, why do some businesses take off, while others fall into the pit?  That is the main question that this series of blog posts (100 Management and Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners) aims to answer, and ultimately, help small business owners to build sustainable and successful businesses.

#1 Become a Student of Your Own Business

In a world of small business owners, the spectrum of education levels is vast.  From self-made high school dropouts (such as Tumblr founder David Karp, who sold his company at $1.1 billion to Yahoo) to private practitioners of law, medicine, and business, a wide variety of professions with different degrees fuel the US economy.  While academic accomplishment is not a requisite for commercial achievement, the best general managers of small to mid-sized businesses are avid students of their own business.  Those who never cease to learn about every part of their trade on a regular basis, even if they are not true experts of that particular field, often taste success.  As Benjamin Franklin (known for his apt for learning) said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Michael and Bonnie, an average young business couple who were interested in starting their own business, opened up a small winery at a rented farm house in Sonoma County hills.  With barely any experience in the wine industry, they had to learn everything from scratch.  While it seemed imprudent to go into business with little familiarity about the industry, their lack of knowledge actually motivated them to learn every aspect of their business by asking anyone who interacted with their product.  In fact, they sought out opinions from customers, distributors, clerks, and even fork lift operators!  Though many other factors influenced Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey’s entrepreneurial success, their humble attitude as learning stewards of their own business played a significant role in building one of world’s largest wine brands, Barefoot Wines.

More often than not, I’ve seen small business owners who were great specialists of their expertise (amazing bakers, salesmen, and even dentists) but could not grow their entity to the next level.  In many of such instances, owners either lacked the motivation or did not feel the need (they “knew it all”) to learn about certain details within their business.  Even with capable employees and access to third party outsourcing, the most successful small business owners show modesty when it comes to learning new AND old tricks of the trade.  Always embracing a true spirit of the student is, therefore, the #1 tip for managing a successful small business.

By: Charles Barr
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