It's common to hear entrepreneurs gripe about the ample challenges that come with starting your own business, but you rarely hear them speak about what it takes to accomplish long-term success. The startup phase gets all the attention, but there's something a lot harder than starting a company: staying in business.
We've all read those scary statistics that tell us nearly every new business is bound to fail, even if they can make it through the first rocky years. The trick is to not let this discourage you. It may sound cliché, but some of the most accomplished entrepreneurs, from Steve Jobs to Ariana Huffington, didn't get it right the first time around.
I've been running my company, Creative Niche, for the past 17 years and in that time I've developed a handful of actionable insights into how to sustain a company in the long term. Here are four things you should keep in mind if you want to grow a long-lasting business.
1. Never break a promise.
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of promising their customers the world, and not being able to deliver on it. Trust me when I tell you, word of mouth is a powerful force. Once it gets around that your product isn't as good as you say or your services fail to meet expectations, it's hard to backpedal.
False promises do more than just frustrate and disappoint people, they break trust. Business relationships, along with many other relationships in life, are based on trust. So be very careful what you promise, and make sure you can deliver on it.
2. Appreciate your good employees.
If you really want your business to last, put the effort into hiring and retaining good talent. Your employees could mean the difference between long-term success and a short-lived dream. For me, finding the right partner at the start and staff that could handle the day-to-day gave me the time I needed to focus on growth and expansion.
Despite the high unemployment rate, the talented are not going to work for free or at a discounted rate. When you find the right employees, pay them fairly and show your appreciation.
3. Keep a stiff upper-lip.
Entrepreneurship is hard, and it's no secret that it comes with many challenges. Just when you think you have everything in place, a setback comes your way. If you want your company to last, you can't get discouraged when the small fires start to pile up.
I can think of a hundred times when I wanted to throw my hands up and quit. But instead of giving up on the spot, I took a moment to reflect on why I started the business in the first place, and carried on utilizing the strength of my team and finding one solution at a time.
You're going to make mistakes, especially at the beginning. All you can do is learn from them and continue to make the changes that are necessary to grow as an entrepreneur.
4. Always keep in touch.
A lot of business owners go awry by only keeping in touch with their clients while acquiring them. Once they sign the contract or make the purchase, they forget about the niceties and move on in search of new ones.
Instead, keep the lines of communication open, even with your former clients. Do the occasional check-in and ask for honest feedback. While it may be hard to hear the real reason why a client left, it will improve your business and your relationship with them, and next time someone is looking for a recommendation you'll be top of mind.