Do a Google search for “advice for small business.” You’ll probably be overwhelmed by the number of results. Small business owners can find hundreds, if not thousands, of articles how to succeed in the business world.
This is another one. Based on my experiences working for big and small corporations, including BlueVine, a startup that is working directly with small business owners, I’d urge you to do these three things:
1. Hire for weakness
No, not their weaknesses – yours.
If you’ve got the imagination and courage to start a company, you obviously have skills to make it thrive and succeed. But are there skills that you don’t have? If you’re honest with yourself, you’re probably not equally strong across the board. You may be great on vision, but short on execution. That’s actually why many founders end up hiring “operational CEOs.” You may be a great salesperson, or you may be more effective and happier coding in the background.
Some small business advice sites will tell you to address weaknesses by acquiring new skills. You’d be encouraged to take coding classes, for example. This may be good advice for some entrepreneurs. If you’re a small business owner, you really do need to know a little bit about everything, enough to at least ask informed questions and know when someone’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes. But with most areas where subject matter is specialized, you’re better off hiring someone whose expertise complements yours.
2. Prioritize the client experience
This is an important tip that many other blog posts would highlight. In many cases, providing an amazing end-to-end client experience is the key to success for any small business. That’s certainly been our experience at BlueVine as we try to become a truly trusted ally of small and medium-sized businesses. We’ve done that by making sure that all the teams that work with customers — from business development and marketing to sales, account management and support — are aligned and moving forward based on a common approach.
With these departments all in sync, we’ve launched new products, increased the amount of credit we can offer small and medium-sized businesses, and recently hit the milestone of $1 billion in credit provided after only four years.
At BlueVine, we accomplished this by creating the position of chief revenue officer (CRO) and centralizing all customer focused functions together under that position. Whether or not you’re at the stage where you need a CRO, putting all your customer-facing and –facilitation functions in one place is key, because in the end, that’s where you’ll succeed (or not).
3. Make time for what matters
Small business owners work long hours. In many cases, you simply have to especially when you’re just getting started. But while “work-life balance” is an important policy for big corporations or organizations, it is probably even more critical for small businesses where it typically ignored.
I grew up in Germany which is known for its strong, and some say, rigid work ethic. And I am German about my schedule — that is, I stick to it. This allows me to be very efficient when at work and also ensures I have the time to spend with my family.
With very rare exceptions, I work out one hour per day during the week and do two activities each day on the weekend. This helps me stay fit, stay focused, and remember that there’s more to life than my job.
I love introducing my kids to bread with pflaumenmus (plum jam) and quark (German cream cheese) in the morning. On weekends, I enjoy hiking at Land’s End, cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge and riding scooters with my son along the Embarcadero.
To succeed as an entrepreneur, make sure to have time every week to stop worrying about your 5 or 10 year plans and focus instead on the amazing opportunities to learn, develop friendships, have fun and make an impact right now.
Authored by: Eric Sager
Eric Sager is Chief Revenue Officer of BlueVine, a Silicon Valley-based fintech startup that offers online working capital financing to small and medium-sized businesses.