Running your own business is an unpredictable adventure with highs, lows, twists and turns. And while you'll weather much of what comes along, you will also make mistakes. Why not minimize missteps by listening to the advice of those who have come before you? Here are 15 tips from successful entrepreneurs on being efficient, keeping overhead low and more.
"Always be ready to adapt your needs to match your employees to their strengths, so that they will shine, instead of fitting them to the job description. In other words, the 'round peg versus square hole' concept at its best."
– Christi Lopez, President, Bergerons Flowers, a floral design studio in Springfield, Virginia
"Invest wisely by hiring skilled experts — rather than less expensive novices — who can focus on their areas of expertise (for example, sales, marketing, public relations, graphic design) and can dive into the details so you are able to focus on the big picture and set the overall direction for the company."
– Kelly Carroll Burgin, Owner/Founder of K. Carroll Accessories , a luxury vegan handbag line
"Outsource repetitive and time consuming tasks to a virtual assistant, like Peach Tree Virtual Assistants. If you are organized and have systems in place, they can often accomplish more in 10 hours a month than you could with the same amount of time."
– Kaysha van der Heyden, a modern wedding and lifestyle photographer based in Orange County, California
"Virtual assistants are a great way to get help without a huge cost. They can relieve you of low value tasks and because they're virtual, you don't have any additional costs. I've found my people through Elance (now Upwork)."
– Jamie Chang, Founder, Passport to Joy, an online program that guides couples through planning their own wedding
[Editor's note: If you're starting your own business or thinking about it, your good credit can make it easier. Here are some tips for not letting your business ruin your credit. You can check two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.]
"Business/marketing coaching is everything because I'm not amazing at that stuff, and my business grows so much faster when I invest in a coach."
– Meg Hodge, Owner, Centered: Richmond Acupuncture & Wellness, a well-being facility in Richmond, Virginia
"Amplifying the RestoPresto brand is essential so with a tight PR and marketing budget, I deeply value the affordable (and free) strategies, tips and guidance by PR coach Sabina Hitchen of Sabina Knows. Combining that 'how to' knowledge with free HARO (Help a Reporter Out) media leads has gained amazing press for the RestoPresto wearable blanket including a feature on the TODAY Show!"
– Candi Obrentz, creator of RestoPresto, the lightweight compact pouch that unfolds to a soft, water-repellent, thin layer to sit on or wear
"I use a few filters to determine how to prioritize my time and my business spending. First, I look for things that will help me increase sales, because without sales, your business will fail. Second, I look for things that I spend too much time on that I can automate or outsource. This frees up my time to spend on higher value activities that directly impact revenue and client satisfaction. If more business owners focused on these things first instead of the superficial things that don't immediately drive revenue, we would have fewer business failures. Sales fund everything in your business. Not the other way around."
– Maria Bayer, a consultant who helps experts in creative fields book clients they love and get paid what they're worth
"Schedule, schedule, schedule. Make sure you schedule out your days and times for efficiency while leaving time for emergencies or tasks running over."
– Kim Sayatovic, Belladeux Event Design, an event design and planning firm in New Orleans
"Use technology to your advantage. Take some time and research some apps that will help streamline your day. A few we like are Evernote, Todoist and Acuity. Also, manage your time wisely. Block off time throughout your day to work on projects, but don't forget to schedule some time for yourself!"
– Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ and owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California
"Reduce premises costs. Move to smaller premises or allow staff to work from home to save rent, business rates and utilities. Also, rent rather than buy equipment. Renting reduces capital investment and lets you speedily upgrade equipment, while saving on maintenance and repair."
– Vernic Popat, Co-Founder of PlantOGram.com, which produces sustainable, eco-friendly fruit tree gifts an alternative to traditional gifts.
"Travel cost-effectively. Also, hold teleconferences whenever possible, rather than traveling to meetings," said Popat.
"When it comes to tools and software, keep only what you need, use and like, and dump the rest. This will help reduce your monthly costs," said Jamie Chang.
"Schedule 30 minute 'coffee talks' with your staff in the morning to go over current projects and then monthly brainstorm meetings outside the office — 'wine and brain dump' for future ideas and strategic planning."
– Lynette Lovelace, Creator and CEO of Lifetherapy, a retail site focusing on well-being.
"When launching a new initiative, always test markets first, especially if you're planning to reach a national audience. The cost to launch on a larger scale can be considerable, so best to make sure you have benefited from consumer feedback while also reducing any uncertainties."
– Joanne Jiang, founder, LadyMarry, an app that guides engaged couples through the wedding planning process through an easy-to-use interface.
"For service-based businesses, it can be tempting to say yes to every project and client that comes along, even if you are too busy to handle everything. But one bad client can make you miserable or even hurt your business. Say no to the projects that are not a good fit for you so that you have more space to say yes to your ideal clients and projects."
– Ann Oleinik, Ann & Kam Photography & Cinema, a husband-and-wife wedding photography and cinematography team based in Chicago.
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