lemonadestandGrowing a successful small business requires much more than just coming up with a good idea. It demands staying dedicated to following a set of best practices that fall into three distinct categories – planning, finances and service.

Go into Business for the Right Reason
Too many people go into business simply because they are searching for an alternative to their current employment situation. Unfortunately, most of these individuals quickly find out that running a business requires far more time and effort than they had expected. Successful entrepreneurs start businesses because they have passion for what they do, not because they are simply trying to escape a less-than-desirable job.

Understand Your Market
Having a good grasp of who you’re selling to is absolutely essential. This research needs to be accomplished before you launch a business and must continue as your business grows and customers’ needs evolve.

Set a Schedule
It’s easy to get into the trap of working around the clock – particularly if you have a home-based business. There is life besides your business, and if there isn’t a balance, burnout is a distinct possibility. Long-term success is contingent on developing a schedule for work and finding the time for the other important pieces of your life.

Get Pricing Right
Pricing that’s either too low or too high will ultimately drive you out of business. A well-thought-out and -researched pricing strategy will keep the customers coming while enabling you to make a profit.

Invest in Quality Marketing
Yes, it does take money to make money. While you don’t need to go broke investing in a website or brochure, it’s always smart to spend as much as needed for your business to succeed. Don-t be penny-wise and pound-foolish – particularly with the tools that are being used to sell your products or services.

Be Careful with Your Cash Flow
Poor cash flow management is amongst the most common reasons for a business’ failure. Success is contingent on being able to pay yourself and your suppliers. Therefore, keeping a close eye on how long it takes to generate a sale and also get paid is something that should remain a constant focus.

Simplify and Improve Your Processes
A successful business is always streamlining and improving processes for both cost savings and improved customer service best practices. Whether it’s finding a better supplier or using new software that provides more insight into sales, process improvement should be ongoing.

Present a Professional Image
When first impressions matter so much, you can’t afford to present anything but professionalism in every aspect of your business. From your phone system and website to your salespeople and marketing collateral, you need to consistently project a polished image.

Know When to Say No
Not every customer will be right for your business, and this can be a hard lesson to learn. Instinctively, most business owners don’t want to turn down a potential sale. However, there are business opportunities that may end up wasting your time while offering little value. Just as potential customers size up your business, it’s important to vet them to ensure that the relationship will also work for you.