Surviving the intergalactic game of entrepreneurial businessplay takes guts.  While there are many areas for creative license in business design, these 6 keys are what small businesses literally live and die by.

Have a business plan.

The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make is believing they don’t need a business plan.  Writing a business plan is an investment of time, strategic thinking, research and cost analysis and is best done before you open the doors of your business.  If you don’t know how to write one, learn. 

When you sit down to write your business plan, you are not looking to draft a perfect document.  You are however thinking through the strategic growth, value positioning, competitive analysis, marketing plans and financial landscape of your business endeavour.  If this feels like too much work, it’s nothing compared to the work you will do running a business without one.

Writing a business plan that demonstrates a sound and strategic map for success, is where you will gain the personal conviction you need to succeed.  This is what will allow you to attract investors, partners, recruits, customers, loyalists and social buzz.

Be smart with your money.   

Money is what keeps you in the game and serves as your margin for error.  Your business plan should have a detailed financial map.   Make every decision regarding your finances diligently – every single time.  

Don’t stop paying attention when profits are high.  Things change, customer purchasing patterns evolve.  Constantly identify where you can minimize expenses and increase revenue streams.  

Be strategic and decisive.  Track everything.  Understand where your profit leaders are, and within your available margins, always invest in delivering value. 

Be adaptable and innovative.  

As seasons change, the world evolves and products are outperformed.  Adaptability permits your business to alter it’s course as well.  Being product dependent is the surest way to go down with your own ship.  

The goal should be for your business to flourish.  Understand that what you are truly selling is value, not a particular product.  The product will change as demanded by innovation and progress.  Value answers a need – developments in industry outdate product sets that aren’t evolving. 

The value you deliver can be maintained, if you watch the market and adapt your product line.  Stay current and educated.  Watch your competition.  Don’t necessarily ask your customers what they want because they might not know.  Stick to the value proposition and deliver a product set that answers that need.

Have a portfolio of products that serve your customer at all ends of a budget scale.  Designing your product suite to be one that is affordable in any economy will be one of your reasons for success.  You can grow through a tough economy by positioning affordable products that deliver.  

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Take care of your people.  

Treat people right.  Every person who has any involvement in your business, from sales rep to administrator to delivery person, supplier, vice president or gardener – every single person’s contribution allows the business to succeed.  

Ensure your people feel appreciated and properly rewarded for their investment.  Guarantee your company’s image tells the truth about a business that provides value and takes care of its people by actually running one that does.

Work with the right team of people.  One poorly chosen manager, customer service rep, phone assistant or delivery person can tank your business image.

Having people work for you who are bad at their jobs says that you are bad at yours.  Solicit feedback, incentivize and recognize performance, reward and empower your people and stay in touch with everyone who’s representing your business.   

Treat problems as normal.

Things go wrong.  Issues come up.  Surprises happen.  Don’t lose time because you lose your attitude.  Find a solution.  Seek advice from a business mentor.  Develop a plan and move ahead.

The farther ahead you learn to plan and forecast, the faster you can see a problem developing.  The longer lead time you have to manage a challenge, the more options for solutions you will find.

Lots of people go out of business “for a very good reason”.  Don’t let that be your story.  Don’t let “the reason” win.  Stay calm, find a solution and move forward.  The people who work for you will be inspired by your leadership.

Be completely committed to success.

People generally find it easy to make a commitment financially.  They buy the gym membership and never go.  They purchase the healthy food, but don’t cook it – do not permit this to happen with your business.  

Simply being a “business owner” is not enough.  You need to set the example with your level of commitment and willingness to do whatever it takes to see the business succeed.  

Tasks can be delegated but the success of the business cannot.  Being completely committed means overseeing and assisting in every area possible to ensure a successful outcome.  Outwork your team instead of taking pride in leaving early.

There is no guarantee that even if you follow these 6 keys perfectly, you will succeed.  There is a 100% guarantee that you won’t if you don’t.  

This is the risk of the entrepreneur.

Welcome to the game.