Secrets to Success from Small-Business Owners

13 entrepreneurs share their single best piece of advice for budding small-business owners.
August 02, 2012

Small business is the lifeblood of the economy because it adds passion and enthusiasm to all it touches. Sure, the money is nice, too, but that’s not the ultimate value provided to a community.

One of the most gratifying parts of my 25 years of working with small-business owners and entrepreneurs is the conversations I’ve had. So I asked for ideas on growing a business, making better decisions and for tips to help budding entrepreneurs stay focused and succeed. Here are just a handful of the many responses that I received on Twitter, Facebook and e-mail. 

Eric Shannon, OhMyDogSupply
"Avoid your employees. Your own employees are the No. 1 reason why you never get anything done. They’re productivity vampires. Spend at least two hours per day with a closed door, no phone, no e-mail and no IM and you’ll be able to 'take care of business' like no other."

Alexandra Golaszewska, AlexandraGo
"Narrow your focus. There are a lot of people out there doing what you do, and if you’re a generalist it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. The more tightly you focus, the more perfect a fit you become for your category. This can be based on your services or on the type of client. For example, if you’re a writer, maybe you only write new business proposals or LinkedIn bios or online dating profiles. Or maybe you offer a wider range of services, but only to restaurants or lawyers or ski resorts."

Rick Potvin, Science in Vision
"Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated, but if you aren’t getting the work done, your business is not advancing. 'Would I have paid me for the work I did today?' That puts the onus on your performance."

Greg Rudolph, BoardBlazers 
"It’s better to be simple than smart."

Shelley Hall, Catalytic Management
"Burn your Superman suit! Forget you ever heard the words 'I am woman hear me roar.' Male or female, as a business owner, you need help. Subdue the ego that says you must do it all. Ask for help, for ideas, for expertise. Successful businesses are built on the work of many. It took more than one smart engineer to build the pyramids, why should your business be any different?"

Erica Duran, Certified Professional Organizer CPO and Productivity Coach
"The biggest decision an entrepreneur can make is getting help such as a virtual assistant or personal assistant. This one task will give you so much clarity on what the important tasks are to move your business forward. You stop treating your business like a hobby, eliminate all useless tasks, free yourself from busy work and only work on higher level tasks only you can do."

Annette d. Giacomazzi, CastCoverz
"Train your employees (and children) that when there is a problem or a complaint, bring three suggestions to fix or remedy it. The focus will be on the solution, rather than the problem."

Bill Corbett, Corbett Public Relations
"Stop using social media now for your business…unless you have a plan. Without a plan your social media efforts will waste time and energy. Activities will not be effective and will not attract business. Create a plan with goals and limit your time exposure."

Bryan Silverman, Star Toilet Paper
"Every Friday we stop working one hour early and turn our computers and phones off. We go day-by-day and see what we did well and what worked. This way we are able to know what we should do more of in the future."

Eden Rudin, The Social Garden
"Enter your business through the same door as your customers do, not the back door, and do it regularly. I can’t believe how many business owners don’t know there is a phone book sitting outside the door their customers have to use, a door hanger on the door for weeks at a time."

Neen James, Productivity Expert and Speaker
"Listen with your eyes. Stop having half conversations while you listen with your email voice and give someone your undivided attention."

Richard Gardner, Modulus Financial Engineering
"Patents are like landmines. They only help you if you have a lot of them."

Jana Francis,
On social media: "Don’t get caught up in the never-ending leaderboard of online popularity. Before your day is over you’ll have spent the whole day tweeting, Facebooking, responding, pinning, posting, focusing on a number. The next thing you know, you actually accomplished nothing. Social procrastination is nothing but busywork. Defend your time and attention to get important work done."

TJ McCue runs TechBizTalk, a review, how-to, and tutorial site to help you discover the top new Web-based applications and services for your growing company.