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The Top 10 Keys to Building a Successful Business

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Building a business is both challenging and rewarding. It takes great ideas, resources, technical expertise and a lot of hard work to create a thriving enterprise. You can increase your chances for success by taking 10 key steps.

1. Honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses. Your first step in building a successful business is to take a look at yourself. Are you cut out to be an entrepreneur? Many of us are attracted to the glamorous aspects of business ownership, but it is very hard work. Successful entrepreneurs are resourceful, committed, objective and dependable. They also have a positive attitude, excellent communication skills and the requisite technical knowledge to succeed in their chosen field. Most significantly, successful entrepreneurs persevere during times of great difficulty.

2. Develop a comprehensive business plan. A business plan is your road map to profitability and success. One of the primary reasons for new business failure is inadequate planning. A well-conceived business plan describes the vision you have for your business, and the path you will take to achieve that vision.

3. Create an effective marketing strategy. Perhaps the single most important step you can take as an entrepreneur is to effectively market your goods and services. You can have the best products in the world, but if no one knows about them, your business will fail!

4. Develop a strong image package. Your image package is the physical manifestation of your brand and includes three elements: business name, tagline (your business motto or catchphrase) and logo. Your image package speaks to the vision you are trying to create for your business.

5. Select an appropriate business structure. A business can be operated through a variety of legal structures. A specific structure is generally chosen for liability and tax reasons. The most common types are sole proprietorships, partnerships and corporations. Each has inherent strengths and weaknesses, and you must determine which structure will work best for your business.

6. Begin with adequate working capital. The single biggest reason for new business failure is undercapitalization. Many entrepreneurs have failed with potentially successful businesses because of a lack of capital. Smart entrepreneurs make sure they have cash reserves to dip into for unique opportunities or for a rainy day.

7. Learn to network effectively. Networking is the proactive process of developing mutually beneficial professional relationships designed to increase each person’s circle of associates. Effective networking will increase your customer base, communicate your brand and demonstrate your expertise to potential customers. It can also help you identify leads and improve your reputation. Because of its simplicity and ease of application, networking is one of the most cost-effective forms of marketing for your business.

8. Provide quality goods and services that meet customer’s needs. Simply stated, if you provide a high quality product that helps customers achieve their goals, you are much more likely to develop a successful business.

9. Develop a winning team. It is very hard to build a successful business on your own. You are going to need help. Two of the most important sources for this help should come from an accountant and an attorney. You may also want to create an advisory board to assist you with the decision-making process.

10. Use technology wisely. As an aspiring entrepreneur, you need to think about how you can use technology to increase sales, decrease costs and better communicate with customers. Some examples of technology that can result in improved quality and productivity include application software (e.g., accounting, data management), videoconferencing (e.g., virtual meetings, webinars and teleseminars) and internet marketing (e.g., e-mail marketing, social media marketing).

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