Small Business Owners Share Their #1 Secret to Success
Aspiring self-made bosses, listen up. We all know that hustle and hard work are steadfast requirements for making a go of it with your very own business venture, but what else? Today’s entrepreneurial environment means that anything is possible with the right vision, team, strategy, and, yes, mysterious X factor. We tapped eight of our favorite small businesses to get a better understanding of their secrets to success. Read on.
The power of networking is undeniable in today’s small business environment. And more than anything, it’s how you network that makes all the difference. Jeanne Chen of lifestyle blog and e-store Shop Sweet Things told us that her top secret to success is networking online and in person. "Build good relationships with people in your field, be a good connector, and be generous in helping others without expecting anything back. It’s important to build respect and trust no matter what field and title you hold.”
Audrey Woollen of Los Angeles–based stationery boutique Urbanic believes in a good sweets-fueled brainstorm. “Hands down one of the greatest assets of our success is maintaining a tight-knit team. We meet together at least one morning a month (with doughnuts, of course) and spend time brainstorming creative ideas, discussing the latest, and catching up with each other.” The Urbanic team also stays in the loop of all business happenings: “We keep a web-based ‘daily store log,’ which everyone contributes to. … We record things such as new product arrivals, customer interactions, store events, custom order details, pretty much anything and everything that we want to communicate with each other to stay connected. This log is our sacred source of team communication!”
Keeping up with a constant rush of emails and other forms of communication can be a huge challenge for any team, but it’s of huge importance. To make sure they are always on top of correspondences, Erica Cerulo and Claire Mazur of online indie fashion, home, and jewelry boutique Of a Kind keep each other in the loop: “This might seem very counterintuitive, but my business partner, Claire [Mazur], and I are huge into the [email] cc. Looping each other in on any and all emails means we need to have way fewer status meetings—the updates are right in our inboxes. And even if we don't fully read all of the notes we're cc'ed on, this habit means that when one of us wakes up in the middle of the night worrying about a project, she can get to the bottom of it without drawing anyone else into her 2 a.m. crazies.”
Persistence is key when building a small business. Luxury gifting guru Simone LeBlanc knows this: “Be resilient enough to get up each day ready to fall, get back up, and learn from those bumps in the road. Be flexible enough to weather the storms and put your ego to the side when needed. Stay focused on the big picture and use that resilience and flexibility to guide you through the inevitable ups and downs that go hand in hand with running a business!” LeBlanc’s other secret to building a successful small business? “LOVE, absolutely LOVE what you do.”
Interior designer and entrepreneur Amber Lewis of Los Angeles–based Amber Interiors believes in the power of intuition tempered by humility: "My secret to success is trusting your gut instincts, and never getting so complacent in your business that you feel you are above learning a lesson. Making mistakes and learning from them is really great for growth.”
For small businesses, the tools are readily available to reach your potential audience. But what about standing out from the crowd? Jen Gotch of the infectiously cheeky accessories brand Ban.do tells us, “Building a strong brand is the smartest thing you can do. … It’s such an easy, cost-effective action that you can take to set yourself apart from everyone else who’s running businesses similar to yours. It gives your customers/audience something to sink their teeth into, and it gives you context for creating products, storytelling, and social media.”
Though these days it can be tempting to dabble in numerous ventures and explore varied projects, such wide-ranging efforts can, if you’re not careful, dilute your mastery of them. David Bladow, co-founder and CEO of floral delivery company BloomThat, which recently received a Series A funding round of $5.5 million and expanded to New York (in addition to L.A. and the Bay Area), avers that his secret to success is focus: "Do a few things but do them very well." Multitaskers, take note!
We all know it’s important to work hard. But Ashley Rose of DIY blog and shop Sugar & Cloth thinks the other side of the equation is just as important: “I think knowing when to give yourself a break is not only the sign of an experienced leader, but also one of the best ways to help keep yourself motivated, passionate, and creative for the long haul.” Take note, and book yourself that spa visit or weekend getaway once you’ve completed your to-do list.
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