Today, I want to share my top 5 business secrets with you. These lessons will benefit any entrepreneur in any industry. These are valuable lessons I have learned during the past 15 years as a successful small business owner. Most of these lessons I have learned from the school of hard knocks. I hope you find the information helpful.
# 1 Build and Maintain a Customer List
Your most valuable business asset will be your customer list. While your location, business name, product or service, and employees are all really important, it’s your customer list that is worth the big bucks. It’s also the relationship you have with your customers that makes a huge difference.
From day one in your business, build and maintain a list of all your current and former customers. Build up a direct mail and email database of all these people and stay in touch at least once a month with them, FOREVER.
Whenever your buyer goes through the checkout process, do everything in your power (legally and ethically of course) to get their email, phone number and address. Bribe them if you need to, by giving them a coupon or incentive to do so.
Collect that information to build up your database and focus most of your marketing efforts and marketing budget on staying in touch with those customers, rather then simply trying to find new ones.
Remember, it’s much easier to make a new sale to an existing customer than it is to go out and find a new customer.
# 2 Learn How to Sell
The word “selling” scares a lot of people. They think of the high pressure, used car salesman trying to make their end of month quota. The truth is, most people salespeople are professionals. Instead of pressure and convincing their prospects, they ask a lot of questions and listen, and then make recommendations. They think of themselves as consultants, rather than as a salesperson.
The fact of the matter is, we are all salespeople, especially if we own a business. Our number one job as an entrepreneur is to make the cash register ring. That is sales, no matter how you look at it.
While you might not think of yourself as a salesperson, hear me out for a second. If you convinced someone to marry you, you pulled off the best sales job ever. If you convinced someone to hire you in a job, you are a salesperson. If you have kids, you are in sales. If you have a boss at your job, you must sell your ideas.
Selling is nothing more than influence. It’s a transfer of ideas. It’s about getting other people to see your point of view. It has nothing to do with high pressure or convincing.
Make sure you spend time studying selling. Read books, listen to tapes, attend events and find a mentor. Work on your personal development as well. Become more likable. Work on your people skills. Learn how to get along with people.
The one book I recommend the most is “How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling” by Frank Bettger. That book taught me most of what I know about selling.
# 3 Develop Systems
All successful businesses have systems. Franchises are popular, and very successful, because they have systems. The systems run the business and the people run the systems.
As Michael Gerber often says, “the system is the solution.” If you don’t know Michael Gerber, he is the author of the best-selling book “The E-Myth Revisited.” Do yourself a favor and study that book.
Most small business owners don’t own a business. Instead, they simply own a job. I say that because in essence, they are their business. If they stop working there is no business.
Your goal is to replace yourself as quickly as possible in your business. You don’t want your business 100% dependent on you. The only way to make that happen is to develop a system for your business.
You want systems for finding customers, running the business on a day-to-day business, and growing the business.
The best way to develop systems is to document each task in your business into some type of operations manual. Take the time and determine each aspect of your business and document it. Once you’ve done that, hire someone to do that task.
Do this for every single aspect of your business and then hire and outsource. Once you do that, you can step back and simply focus on the strategic work in the business.
# 4 Focus on The Main Thing
This lesson is vitally important. I learned this lesson from Michael Gerber, the same gentleman I mentioned earlier in this article.
The technical work of your business is not your real business. For example, if you are a barber, your real job is not cutting hair. If you own a restaurant, your real job is not cooking food. If you run a daycare, your real job is not taking care of kids.
While the technical work of your business is important, and you must be good at it, your real job is MARKETING your business and growing your business.
Anyone can “run” the business, but as the entrepreneur, your real job is finding new customers and doing the strategic work in your business. Everything else should be delegated and outsourced as soon as possible, or done AFTER you do the marketing and strategic work.
A lot of new entrepreneurs spend way too much time on busy work, when they should really be focused on making the cash register ring and growing their business. Don’t make this common mistake.
Spend 80 to 90 percent of your time on the marketing and growing your business and delegate or outsource the rest. This is one of the most important business secrets I have ever learned.
# 5 Take the Long-Term View
We live in a society where most people expect instant gratification. We want it and we want it now. I’ve learned that businesses take time to grow, normally many years.
It’s like having a new born baby. In the beginning, your business will require a TON of time, effort and money. You have to nurture it and grow it. You have to give it a lot of attention.
In the early years, you’ll probably earn less than minimum wage. You might earn nothing at all. I’ve found that most businesses take a year or two to make their first dollar of profit and five to ten years to get established and successful. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Thinking long-term is very difficult for most “employee minded” people who are used to getting paid every two weeks. When you start a new business, I highly suggest you have substantial savings to live off for a few years, or start your business part-time while you keep your day job.
Just remember that you need to keep your vision in front of you at all times. You must see things before they exist. You must realize that your business will probably cost you twice as much and take twice as long as you think it will to become a success.
In a nutshell, successful entrepreneurs are “visionaries.” They see the potential in something when no one else does.
There you have it folks. These are my top 5 business secrets. These are the most valuable business lessons I have learned during the past 15-years of owning my own business. I hope you found the information helpful. I hope you will evaluate yourself in each one of these five areas and look for ways to improve.
What are your thoughts? What are your top 5 business secrets? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.