Next to marriage, family and home ownership, the decision to start a business is one of the most demanding undertakings an individual is likely to encounter. The path is littered with obstacles, challenges and ever-evolving goals – the most and least of which is success. Still, if you are able to persevere through difficulties, cyclical changes and lulls in the economy, you will reap the benefits and the rewards not only of building your business, but establishing a brand that can thrive for generations to come.
For minority-owned businesses, in particular, creating a viable position in the marketplace is critical to economic empowerment. The much-discussed rise of black- and other minority-owned businesses is adding significantly to the U.S. economy and creating a base of power from the inside out.
More minorities are seeing themselves as business owners, capable of providing products and services, competing in the marketplace and generating wealth for their families and their communities. That is why MBDA has deemed minority business enterprises as a national priority.
To make that dream a reality, business owners, despite their field or trade are well-advised to follow several guaranteed steps – tricks of the trade, you might say – to ensure a more profitable, more successful enterprise.
Build It and They Will Come
“If you distinguish yourself from the competition and create a service that no one else can, then you’ve separated yourself from the competition,” says Jesse Brown, financial expert, analyst and bestselling author of Investing in the Dream and Pay Yourself First: A Guide to Financial Success and Security “So, certainly there are other businesses that do what you do. There may even be larger businesses that do what you do. But what separates you from them? It’s got to be quality of service. People want service. People follow service. And people spread the word and are loyal when there is exceptional service. Provide that, and people will follow you anywhere.”
Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, grew up poor in rural Missouri during the Great Depression. He became a billionaire in his lifetime and the No.1 retailer in the world. In Running a Successful Company: Ten Rules that Worked for Me, Walton outlined the winning formula for business, which included the art of communication to employees. “The more they know, the more they’ll understand. The more they understand, the more they’ll care. Once they care, there’s no stopping them. If you don’t trust your associates to know what’s going on, they’ll know that you really don’t consider them partners,” instructed Walton. “Information is power, and the gain you get from empowering your associates more than offsets the risk of informing your competitors.”
Be Willing to Change
As much as the business world, the economy, and all things connected to it are in a constant state of fluctuation, your willingness to bend, stretch and adapt to the dynamics of the marketplace must also be at the ready. Whether that means increasing employees to accommodate an additional workload, reducing overhead to compensate for diminishing sales, or adding another market segment to generate additional revenue, a business depends on adaptability to survive.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
With so much volatility in the marketplace, it is key to remain dedicated to one constant: growth. How can you maintain growth while facing a lack of opportunity, resources or capital? Experts say you must maintain your bottom-line or results-oriented approach, rather than being swamped by the pressures of the moment, no matter how great.
Believe in Your Brand
It can be an intensive search to identify, create and market a brand that adequately describes your product or service and also creates a measure of brand loyalty from the customer. What’s even more important than the potential customer, however, is believing in your brand. The belief campaign begins and ends with you — and so you must wholeheartedly be, and remain, committed to your central message, your tone and your theme, and the vision of your company.
Don’t Get Sidetracked
Amid the bells and whistles, the new product offers, the celebratory launches and the gadgets that promise the world and deliver less than a fraction of it – there sits your business. You don’t have to be sucked in by the storm or swayed by the competition, however. Even in light of financial obstacles, the goal of growth and your commitment to it must remain the same. Despite a slew of challenges, minority-owned businesses continue to emerge and to thrive.
Pay Yourself First
Author Jesse Brown, also president of Krystal Investments in Chicago, reminds business owners, large or small, that profitability depends in large part on owner taking care of themselves first. “Too often, owners want to reinvest back into the business, not realizing that a business is a business and that business has to pay the owner a salary, pay overhead and pay health and business insurances as well as payment into a savings vehicle,” Brown says. “You’ve got to have your savings in place, your retirement, and your insurances. If you don’t have all of that, you don’t have a sustainable business yet. Test market your ideas and programs first, before moving into a full-scale production and keep your overhead low. Then, you’re ready for productivity.”
In the end, productivity, branding and exceeding customer expectations are essential to building your business, promoting your brand and maintaining profitability – even within a challenging economy. Agencies such as the Minority Business Development Agency and others provide useful resources and an added incentive to grow your business from the inside out.
“The success or failure of minority-owned businesses will increasingly drive the success or failure of the U.S economy,” Langston of the MBDA says, “We are committed to assisting minority business enterprises in taking charge of their destiny and realizing their dreams.”
Image courtesy of Wall Paper Stock