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12 Tips and Tricks from Small Business Owners

There’s a lot of people you can talk to if you’re thinking about starting a small business or franchise, from consultants to brokers to small business funding experts (hello!). But it’s active, experienced small business or franchise owners who have some of the strongest insights gained from hard work, failure, success, and determination.

That’s why we went to Reddit and found great small business tips from real small business owners.*

1. Focus on Revenue-Generating Tasks.

“Put your effort into everything that will make you money (getting more clients and testimonials) and outsource all of the miscellaneous tasks that take away time from making money (accounting, record keeping, etc.).” – u/cwoodsofficial

This is a great point: if you’re spending too much time on miscellaneous tasks that aren’t tied directly to revenue, how can you be generating the most revenue possible? Remember, you have options when it comes to tasks such as bookkeeping, marketing, and sales; you can always hire an outside expert. You can’t be amazing at everything, so spend your time being remarkable at starting or leading a successful small business. And outsource to help you with the rest.

2. Sell to a Specific Audience.

“Clear, direct, and consistent focus on a specific, narrow audience is CRITICAL.” – u/CallMeNeil

It can be tempting to try to create a product or service that will appeal to anyone and everyone. But what really happens when you cast your net too wide? Your product or service gets lost. Business owners often discuss niche markets, or subsets of markets, and how focusing on those can help you find success. If you go this route, you’ll likely find less competition, gain expertise and use your resources more wisely.

3. Proceed with Caution when Hiring Family.

“Don’t hire family. I’m three years into my business and have family working for me that is killing our business.” – u/crackedwindows

This Reddit user suggests taking a hard look at your options before hiring your extended family members to work for you. Perceived favoritism can be an issue with other coworkers, as some other team members feel your family members have earned their spot through genetics, instead of through knowledge and hard work. You also want to be wary of putting family relationships in jeopardy if things don’t work out professionally.

However, when you carefully choose a family member to hire, you might do so because you know and value the content of their character. Each case is different, but the key takeaway here is to be thoughtful about whether a family member is a solid hire for reasons other than the family tree. And it’s a good thing to think about when you’re considering starting a business together as a couple, too.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment.

“You may instead have to do something slightly different with a view to pivoting to where you ultimately want to be.” – u/jimicus

Ideally, you could start with an idea of what you want your business to look like, and get it to market quickly and easily. That’s not always reality, however, as this Reddit user noted. They added that you don’t need to be afraid to come up with many ideas and test them out, even though many of them won’t work. But you won’t be able to find the real gems if you don’t brainstorm a bit. It’s okay to experiment until you find what works for you.

5. Always Ask Questions.

“Rather than ignore it, always ask ‘why?’” – u/jimicus

The same commenter and small business owner above also advises staying curious when other business professionals or mentors offer advice. They point out that it may take a minute to find out exactly what the person is trying to tell you, but it is worth your time as you may gain some valuable knowledge related to your business. You should still use your sound sense of judgment to decide if the advice makes sense to you and your situation, but at least you’ll have all of the information upfront.

6. Don’t Partner with a Friend.

“Even better, don’t partner with a friend. It’s terrible for business and a death-sentence for the friendship. And you can’t fire them; you have to go through the long, painful headache of buying them out.” – u/Wowbaggerrr

Just as it can be difficult to navigate business terms with a family member, it’s the same with a friend. Plus, if the business relationship doesn’t work out, you may lose the friendship too. In other words, it’s a “lose-lose situation” that can result in resentment in the long run. Your safest bet is to stay away and keep your friendships separate from your work relationships.

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7. Set Goals.

“SERIOUSLY. HAVE GOALS.” – u/appyofficial

u/appyofficial believes in the power of goal-setting. They add that doing business can be hectic, and you need to know what to do and when to do it. The user cautions against getting lost otherwise, and suggests grabbing a pen and paper and writing down your goals. If you’re looking for inspiration or a place to start, The Balance defines short-term goals and long-term goals in its Ultimate Guide to Goal-Setting.

8. Keep Your Financials (and CPA) Close.

“Keep all of your receipts and hire a CPA before you need one.” – u/Sherlocked_

This is great advice to ensure you always have what you need for taxes or in the case of an audit. If a paper-based tracking system isn’t right for you, you can use one of several business apps or software solutions, such as Wave Invoicing, to help you keep track of your finances. If you can hire a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), that’s also a smart move. It’s often safer to have a financial expert on board before you need one.

9. Surround Yourself with Intellect.

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’ve hired the wrong people. A great leader surrounds themselves with greater people. Put your ego aside, accept that you may be wrong, or you may not have the best idea. Make your vision flexible.” – u/Reddevil313

It sounds funny, but you really don’t want to be the most intelligent person sitting at the conference table or brainstorming via webcast. There’s a difference between the smartest person and the most effective leader – and the latter is more important for you as a small business owner.

10. Remember, it’s Your Dream.

“No one cares about your business as much as you do.” – u/Buffa-loBill

Of course, it would be optimal if all your team members cared about the success of your small business as much as you do. But that’s not entirely realistic. Remember, while you may have hired stellar employees who are skilled in their areas of expertise, this is your dream business, and you have the most invested – mentally and financially.

11. Get in Shape.

“Make sure to get healthy both mentally and physically before opening your business.” – u/Buffa-loBill

This one might seem to have nothing to do with small business on the surface, but it makes complete sense once you’re in the hectic journey of starting and running a business. Once you get busy and are working long hours each week, you won’t have time to introduce a fitness routine. So, plan ahead and get your routine in place before you take on the responsibility of a new business. You can be sure stress will arise while you’re in the process of starting a new small business, so fight back against that mental stress with a healthy body and mind.

12. Cheaper isn’t Always Better.

“Cheaper can be appealing, but it is not usually worth it.” – u/Sly_Wood

Choosing a service provider, product, or employee because you’re intrigued by the lower cost is a common occurrence, but one that this Reddit user cautions against. u/Sly_Wood points to two examples to make this point: switching to a cheaper phone provider that ended up costing more in the long run due to early termination fees and letting go of a reliable employee for one that cost less but was also less dependable. There are times that cheaper is better, but don’t forget that there are times when it makes sense to pay full price.

Putting the Tips into Practice

From focusing on revenue-generating tasks to incorporating a fitness plan into your daily routine before you start your small business, small business owners share their excellent advice every day to help others. Check out small business communities to learn even more and interact with other current and aspiring entrepreneurs, franchise owners, and small business people:

And if you’re ready to fund your small business or franchise, Guidant is also here to help. Pre-qualify now to learn more about the best business financing methods for you and how to get started following your dreams.

*Quotes have been edited for grammar and length.

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