The rules that a successful business operate by today are very different from the rules of 20 to 30 years ago

The rules that a successful business operate by today are very different from the rules of 20 to 30 years ago. The widespread use of technology has dramatically cut response times and elevated customer expectations of service. Competitive advantage is the catch cry, but most business owners struggle to articulate what their point of difference is. The statistics are well known: a staggering 40% of all new businesses fail within the first 12 months. Within 5 years, more than 80% will have failed.  And yet, people are flocking to start up new businesses in ever increasing numbers.

What is it then, that sets apart the successful businesses from the unsuccessful ones? Here are my top ten tips for creating and maintaining a successful business. As you read, think to yourself – how does my business stack up?

1. Successful businesses have repeatable, scalable systems

The processes in the business are clear, usually documented and followed religiously by all. This ensures the customer gets the same experience, every time they deal with the company.

2. They don’t depend on one person

If all the knowledge and skill resides in one person’s hands or head, then the business is in serious trouble when that person wants to take a holiday, has to go to hospital, breaks an arm or leg etc.

3. Successful businesses can articulate what makes them different from others in their field

Businesses that can do this run the risk of competing on price alone, a war that nobody wins (except the customer)

4.  They always add value to the customer’s experience

The customer perceives that value has been added either through service, product features, distribution etc. The customer’s perception is what’s important – find out what’s of value to them

5. Use strategies that recognize and reward their employees

Reward and incentive programs should be based on performance, not just years of service or other demographic criteria. Employees are human; they respond to recognition – both  financial and non-financial

6. Most successful businesses have a powerful vision

They dream and think big, then they share it with their employees to create a uniting purpose

7. Planning – short term, long term, medium term

There’s no escaping it – working out where you want to go and planning to get there, will set you apart from the great majority of businesses that don’t perform this activity well. Doing a plan at business start-up stage and never looking at it again doesn’t really count as planning either. Plans should be reviewed at least twice per year, and done properly, can be your most

powerful business tool

8. Product innovation – re-create or die

The world moves on, people’s needs change, and so must your products or services. If you don’t offer it, no doubt your competitors will. Take time out to develop one or two new offers – road test them with your customers.

9. Surround themselves with the right support

Successful business owners know what their skills are. They also know exactly what skills they don’t have (and probably will never have). They employ or rent the expertise they don’t have – after all, it’s impossible to be an expert at everything

10. Have an exit strategy

Most people don’t plan to be in their business until they reach the end of their lives, but

most people fail to plan how they will exit their business. Successful business owners know this before they start, and this drives the actions and decisions they make during the life of their business.

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