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Essential Lessons for Every Small Business Owner

Updated on October 14, 2012

The number one essential lesson for a small business owner was told by a wonderful friend of mine (who recently passed away at the age of 84). She had told her sons, as they were growing up and wondering if they would make their mom proud, these wise words: I do not care what kind of career you choose to do in life, as long as it is honest.

Every business owner should be honest because not only would that make your mother proud and help you sleep better at night, but also, that is what every customer wants - honesty!

Communicate the Vision

Small business owners are usually great visionaries. You have an idea of where you want your business to go and how you want it to grow. Do not forget to share that vision with your employees and with your associates. They need to able to focus on what is important about your business in order to efficiently help grow your business. You should keep on communicating the vision or course of your business. The mission of your business is like the rudder on a boat. Without a clear picture of the purpose of your business, you may just be floating along easily blown around by whims and easily blown off course.

You should have a simple one or two sentences describing what the mission of your business is. If you keep that in front of you, it will help guide your decisions and those of your employees. Every decision can be measured against it. Figure out your vision, get the mission written down, and share goals to get there with everyone on your team.

The mission statement won't keep the business focused and won't help it be stronger by itself. You have to be the one to explain it and cheer for it and keep the buy in of your employees and your customers. Do not just visit it once a year and expect it to be part of your company's culture. You have to visit it every day.

Too many businesses start growing and pretty soon the owner is distracted by the stress of keeping up with it or is distracted with the excitement of a better lifestyle. The owner forgets what the purpose of starting the business was. Keep that mission statement in mind. Adjust it as the business grows or morphs, if need be. Just don't let your business operate on a whim. Define that mission and use it to keep your business focused and to keep it honest.

Hire Carefully

Take several interviews and do background checks before you hire someone on your team. Hire carefully or you will regret it sooner or later. Be honest with yourself and decide if you are the very rare person who can work successfully with a relative. Many businesses and/or families fall apart when relatives work together. Hire carefully.

Sometimes business grows so fast that you would be willing to hire the first person through the door that's breathing. Not a good idea. Hire carefully. One bad employee can ruin a whole bunch of good ones. If you have a thorn of an employee among the roses, then weed that one out fast.

Be gracious with people but be up front from the get go that they must meet your high expectations or they will not be allowed to stay. Be honest with them. If you communicate with your team regularly about your vision, about the mission of your business, about what you expect from them, and you treat them fairly and appreciate them, then your employees should be able to contribute greatly to the bottom line. If they can't or won't, then cut your losses as soon as possible and find someone else. Hire carefully.

Manage the Money

Successful small business owners take measured risks. Make decisions about money based on facts and real data, not on emotion and shooting in the dark at a target you hope you can meet. If you want to buy bigger equipment, save up for it. Rent it first until you can afford to buy it.

Just as you should do with your personal funds, make a budget for your business and plan for every dollar. Expect that there will be setbacks and breakdowns and set aside money to handle them. Many businesses that did not make it through the recent recession had too much debt and depended too much on credit to meet expenses. Their owners did not own their business, the bank and other lenders did.

Keep your business income and expenses separate from your personal income and expenses. You want a true picture of how your business is doing each month. So does the tax collector. Be honest.


Time and Energy

Essential lessons for small business owners also include the fact that running your own business takes an enormous amount of hard work. The time and energy you can give to make a business successful is huge. Be sure that you take care of yourself and your health, too.

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