Advice for Running a Small Business

A woman and her mother smile while snowshoeing

When I was in middle school, my dad started a small business focusing on energy management for restaurants. My mom started a non-profit language and cultural education program for kids, which in many ways functions as any other small business to stay solvent and available to the public. Like many small family businesses, I was enlisted to help whenever I could be available and for whatever the organization needed. Like my dad says, “Everyone in the family is in the kitchen chopping vegetables!” I am pretty sure he got that proverb from the Chinese side of our family.

For over twenty-five years, I watched (and helped) my parents lift their dreams off the ground. I have seen each organization grow and shrink, and re-grow. This experience, combined with attempting to start a few businesses of my own, leads me to lend the following advice:

Advice When Starting (and Running) a Small Business

  • Spend time to plan.
    • It can be tempting to start on your idea right away. Spend the time to do extensive research and put your plan in writing. Talk with other people first. Get their feedback. The business name and scope that you originally had in mind will likely change. That said, don’t spend too much time in the planning stage. You have to act in order to build your business.
  • Focus.
    • In the early days of your business, your customer list will be small, funding may be low and your excitement will be high. You will get tempting inquiries from potential customers that are outside your planned scope. Unless you have thoroughly researched and planned a pivot, stay focused on your original path. Your brand and budget depend on your ability to focus. Focus becomes even more difficult when the business starts to grow, with more people involved and more funds to play with.
  • Be patient, but not too patient.
    • Success does not come overnight. It might not come within the first few years. If you are thinking about starting a business, make sure the business (and you) are well-funded before you embark on the journey. In most cases, you might be working on your small business while you are employed somewhere else.
    • If you feel the business is stagnant, do something about it. Get on your super-sales hat and make some calls, post an article, or do whatever it takes to let more people know about you and what you are offering.
  • Be confident.
    • The world needs you and your business. You know this because you spent time researching it. There will be times when you will either get anxious or lose confidence in your business. It’s important to always act confident when you are talking about yourself or your business, even if you don’t always feel it.

As a small business owner and manager, you make the ultimate decisions. You have the power to choose your destiny, the destiny of others, and the company’s impact on the planet. If you want to close the office for a month and let everyone take it off to do some soul-searching, you can. Please choose wisely.

If you are thinking about starting a business, stop thinking! Instead, start researching and drafting a business plan. Good luck!

By #CougaMBAssador Karli Barich