man sitting at a table with a laptop and four restaurant workers standing around him

Organize: Even if you thrive on chaos, it’s not good for business. Set up systems and habits that dovetail with your individual preferences to keep you organized at all times. For short-term tasks, make and follow a to-do list every day. For medium and long-term goals, keep a running list—with deadlines. If you’re a morning person, batch your daily to-dos into a concentrated period before lunch. Know what information you always want at your fingertips (perhaps sales figures, expenses, progress against milestones) and update those numbers routinely, so you can refer to it whenever you need it. Create realistic goals: For sales, expenses, production and other operational activities, it’s critical to develop specific goals, with milestones based on realistic appraisals of your capacity, your market and existing demand for your product or service. Just as important: compare your results against your goals at regular intervals. So you’ll know at any given time how your business is performing and where you need to improve. Keep up with external info: Put out feelers and develop contacts in your community and your industry. Make time to join and participate in local business organizations. Pay attention to trends, developments and other factors that could affect your business in the near-term. Keep an eye on the competitive landscape. If you plan to hire a key employee eventually, start identifying viable candidates now. If your business is seasonal, anticipate and plan for ways to ramp up and back down. The point here is to make a habit of noting potentially impactful developments, so you can take steps proactively without having to scramble. Know your competitors: They probably know you. Study their websites, workplaces, client lists, marketing materials and pricing—not to steal from them but to learn from them. Be attuned to what they’re doing right—and wrong. Explore opportunities to work cooperatively and create win-wins. Differentiate your business: Take an impartial look at your business and identify the qualities that make it different. Those are the ones you’ll want to emphasize as you build your client base and establish your brand. See your business through your prospects’ eyes to identify opportunities to improve. You may even want to have a sit-down with a few established customers and ask them directly what steps you can take to keep them coming back. Always deliver excellent customer service: With every customer encounter you should be able to check off this box. When an issue arises, fix it immediately, eagerly and completely—even if you don’t necessarily agree that it should be an issue. That doesn’t mean being servile. It means taking responsibility for excellence. People will notice and reward you. Provide consistency: Well-run businesses don’t have bad days. Do what you do best, every time, so customers can learn to expect a high level of quality each time they come to you. This applies to attitude and behavior (yours and those who work for you) as well as the product or service itself. There’s no greater goal than for customers to know they can rely on your business.   Sources:    ]]>