There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. — Colin Powell
The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense. — Thomas A. Edison
The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. — Vince Lombardi
There is no doubt that if you are going to be an entrepreneur, a small business owner, you will need to work hard, if for no other reason than you will wear a lot of hats: President, VP of Sales, head of Marketing, and probably even shipping and receiving clerk.
It is also true that a new business is sort of like an airplane headed down the runway. It takes a lot of ever-increasing energy and effort to get that plane to go fast enough so that it will take off.
But then what?
Once that plane is in the air, the laws of aerodynamics help it stay aloft. It takes no extra “work” per se for the pilot to keep that plane flying, but what it does take is a lot of smarts, applied properly.
And I would suggest that the same is true for your small business. We often hear that if you will only work harder, you will be more successful (see above). But I don’t think that is always true, especially in this information economy. Oh sure, work – hard work – is necessary. But working hard will only get you so far. At some point, you have to be like the pilot and work smart if you want to keep your small business plane flying.
Get the help you need: My pal Gene Marks is a contributor to Entrepreneur magazine. He recently wrote a piece that explains the concept of working smarter, not harder, vis-à-vis employees. Says Gene:
There was once a time when it was just me. I was providing computer services. I was working a lot of hours. But I wasn’t making any money at it. Today, I’m making money. Why? Because I’m supervising 10 people who are providing computer services for me. I’m making money off of them.
Want to quit your job and be a freelancer, a one-person shop? I have bad news for you, and you need to hear it now, before it’s too late. You won’t be able to make a lot of money if you’re running a one-person business.
Indeed. You will be far more able to grow your business if you let go of some control and hire the help you need.
Get a handle on technology: Whether we like it or not, these days, if you want to be successful in your own business, you need to be part entrepreneur and part cyber-geek. What I mean by that is that technology now plays a huge part in almost every business, and it would therefore behoove you to understand just how many ways it can help your business:
- Software makers put a ton of time, effort, and money into making programs and apps designed specifically to make you, the small business owner, more productive and successful. Learn what they are and how to use them.
- Mobility can be a boon to any business, both in terms of their own workforce, as well as a way to get customers. Learn it, live it, love it.
Get bigger and better customers: Customers with bigger budgets make your job so much easier; they buy more, and more often, and often with less hassle and effort.
Where do you find these bigger fish? Check out these resources:
Search engines: Make a list of companies with whom you might like to work and start searching. Find the right department within those organizations, and the exact right people to pitch, and send them a proposal.
Books: One book I like a lot in this regard is Bag the Elephant: How to Win & Keep BIG Customers.
Corporate supplier programs: Corporations want to hire your small business. They have contracts to give you. If you become certified and learn how to navigate the maze, significant corporate and government contracts can be yours.
To help you with this, I would direct you to a great program offered by Dun & Bradstreet, called Supplier Connect. It takes the mystery out of the corporate supplier process and helps you get started down this lucrative path.
So go ahead, it’s OK. Take flight by working smarter.
Steve Strauss is a senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible.