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The Number 1 Secret of Business Survival

In the course of day-to-day business operations, you’re dealing with things like keeping the cash flow coming in, keeping your employees and customers happy, running ads to bring in new customers and new business from your existing customers — things you do daily and in the moment. But your ultimate goal is survival; you want your business to last. And the odds are against you.

The percentage of businesses that fail within a short time is ridiculously high. Many don’t even make it through their first year, and if a business makes it to five years, that’s really something. It’s got a good chance of continuing indefinitely at that point. And a five-year business venture really isn’t that long, considering how time flies.

All the things you do, including good advertising, should work toward business survival. The #1 secret of achieving this is flexibility. Inflexibility — brittleness, if you will — is often our undoing. So while focusing on survival as your ultimate goal, be willing to adopt a flexible strategy and use tactics that come to hand. Try things out of the ordinary to avoid being shot out of the water by market forces. Adaptability to any environment will save you when things are looking bleak.

Businesses that can’t adapt just die. You could be outplayed in your marketplace by those who are hungrier or who adjust to marketplace changes better than you do. Maybe you’re using old methods, or you react to change like Henry Ford, who wasn’t willing to adjust to the fact that people wanted cars in other colors than black. (Obviously, he eventually changed his mind about that). You have to be flexible in your business, and you have to be willing to do things that move your business forward. That means being able to change, grow and adapt as you focus on your customers. When you focus on your customers, you’re able to more accurately give them what they want and provide better service.

That, in turn, helps you grow your business. When you get right down to it, flexibility is about finding out what the customers want and then discovering creative ways to give it to them. Rigidity will kill you in the end. You have to give them what they want, not what you want — and you have constantly keep yourself visible to them.

Here’s an example of how rigidity can kill a business. My mentor once tried to help an excellent printer attract more business, because he was moaning about not making enough money. When Russ gave him the solution — to market himself widely and effectively using some simple, cheap tactics — he looked at Russ and said, “I’ve got a sign out front. They know where I am. If they want printing, they can find me.” Russ argued that his sign was barely visible and his shop was tucked in the back of a strip mall, but the printer was too inflexible to change and soon went under.

I’ve met people all over the country with similar attitudes. What it really comes down to is this: are you willing to do what you need to do to get more business? Are you willing to do the one thing that many people in business don’t want to do? That one thing is thinking about their customers first. Not what they want, but what the customers want.

Many people get so entwined in operating their businesses that they never work on their business; they work in it. You have to be flexible. You can’t decide that people will come to you. Some people have been foolishly led to believe this by that old saying, “Build a better mousetrap and people will beat a path to your door.” Well, folks, people have to know about the mousetrap before they can beat that path to your door.

I believe Benjamin Franklin said that, and admittedly, he was a brilliant man. But he was living in small world where the word got out quickly about anything, and maybe people would beat a path to your door if you had a new product they wanted. But that doesn’t work anymore in today’s complex business world. We can’t expect people just to come to us; we have to go to them with our message.

Another of my business mentors once told me something that I believe in fully, and would now like to share with you: he said that you have to work on yourself harder than you work on your business. Running a business is a tough road, much more challenging than just punching a time clock, putting in your 40 or 50 hours, and going home. You have the weight of the world on your shoulders. There are great benefits to being in business, don’t get me wrong; I love it, and I’m willing to bet that you do too. But you do have all kinds of tremendous pressures, obligations, responsibilities, commitments, setbacks and adversities to deal with. Whenever you solve one problem, a new one pops up. It just never ends.

But it helps to constantly work on yourself at least as hard as you work on your business. Keep your attitude strong. Continue to face all the things that you have to face head-on, and keep grappling with them. Don’t let things wear you down; bend rather than break. That’s what flexibility is all about.

In the building where I do all my creative work, I have a big, thick piece of leather hanging on my wall. I keep that leather there to remind myself that you can take a sledgehammer to the hardest rock you can find, and it doesn’t take much to smash that rock into a million pieces. Even a diamond will break if treated that way. But you can take that piece of leather and beat the crap out of it with a sledgehammer, and barely even do any damage to it. You have to be more like the leather than the rock; flexible and pliable, willing to take a licking and keep on moving forward.

At Last, Find Out How to Get Help With The Right Home Business Model

Establishing your home based business can seem a daunting task. But it is such an important part business ownership that you may need to source outside help when preparing your business plan.

There is an abundance of resources available to help you, and a great many experts who can work with you to create a plan for a fee, but before you hand over cash to a business coach, accountant, lawyer etc, you should first consider paying a visit to your local Small Business Association (SBA).

SBA’s are wonderful. They have a number of free services on offer and can give you advice and guidance. Many have courses you can take (for a fee) to get you started. Here in Australia we also have government funding that provides people access to business mentoring and small business management qualifications.

SBA’s are independent of the federal government but usually linked to state government. They are dedicated to the development of small business sectors which is typically a portfolio of the state government.

Their work involves championing for small business, developing programs to meet the needs of small business owners and strengthening relationships between public and private sectors. In essence they help start, build and grow businesses.

Small businesses are critical to any countries economic strength and typically make up the bulk of “actually” businesses in operation. There are much fewer larger and corporate businesses in existence.

The SBA have specialists who are well trained in writing up and creating home business models. Successfully written home business models can mean the difference in making or breaking your business.

You can expect help in the following areas:

  • Planning: SBA provide assistance in creating your business plan which is a document that describes your business, its aims, strategies, target market and financial forecasts. It’s the blueprint to your business’s future.
  • Marketing: researching your market and creating a plan.
  • Insurance: Sourcing insurance options, arranging insurance and completing a risk assessment.
  • Intellectual Property (IP): This includes advice on patents, trademarks, registered designs, copyright and deciding on strategies to protect your IP.
  • Premises and site: Advice on locating your business at home (yes you do actually need to know what the laws are in your local area), leasing or buying a commercial property.
  • Taxation: Tax and your business structure, registering for tax, obligations, record keeping, deductions and concessions.

Many SBA’s also have networking opportunities and hold workshops, presentations, seminars etc so you can get to know other business owners who are in the same position as you. This will help you to share knowledge and build connections.

An Introduction to Locating Your Business Model At Home

The home based business model is a popular option for many people who are starting out in business. Your home is a great place to start and may be a viable option for you, until you become more established, especially if you provide a service.

But there are some important things you should realize before beginning a business at home. Firstly there is a difference between operating a business “from” home and “at” home.

A business that operates “from” home means the owner does most of their work away from the home office and at a clients premises. Think of plumbers, electricians, consultants as examples.

A business that operates “at” home means the owner does most of their work in the home office. Think of computer programmers, freelancer writers, internet marketers as examples.

When locating your business at home, regardless of whether you work “at” or “from” home you’ll need to consider the following advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of a home based business model include: saving money on commuting, more control of the hours you work and the environment you work in, low start-up cost and risk, freedom to grow your business slowly (so you can still work even part-time to have income coming through), rent and expenses are tax deductions.

The downsides to working from home include: distraction during the day from family and friends, your business activity may conflict with home life (in other words you might not switch off from work and this causes problems at home).

You may also need to find out whether you need a licence or permit to conduct a business from your home. In addition you will need to look into the types of insurance needed such as contents insurance, public liability etc.

Finally there is the equipment and space. You need to assess whether you home is right for running a business. A spare room allows you to switch easily from work to home simply by closing the door or leaving the shed. Your separate room should be big enough to have equipment, furniture and stationary.

Your business may need a phone line and will definitely need internet connection. So a second line may need to be installed. Plus like any workplace you need to assess your business for hazards and make sure you provide a safe working environment, even if it is just for yourself.

If you follow the above then you will have your home based business off and running in no time.