Hard work is important, but your skills, experience and effort aren’t the only factors that go into the success or failure of your small business.
Small businesses and new entrepreneurial ventures are delicate. Their size makes them nimble and better able to take advantage of opportunities and changes in the market, but it also makes them vulnerable. A streak of bad luck; a surge in taxes, fees or supply costs; or a change in the social, political or economic climate could result in your business being in jeopardy through no fault of your own, and despite your best efforts. You need the right conditions, the right opportunity and the right connections to survive and thrive as a small business.
Here are some of the things that help create a successful climate for your small business. Pursuing these opportunities, connections and even locations to do business in can dramatically improve your odds and support your dreams of success.
The first, and perhaps most obvious, contributor to small business success is the complex web of market forces. This could include consumer trends and tastes, public opinion and social movements, competition and regional variation.
While you can’t control the direction of the market, there are a few things that you can do to monitor it and have a chance to adjust and work it in your favor. Formal or informal market research is important whenever launching a new location or product. Investigate customers in your area, and honestly assess their capacity and likelihood of supporting your venture. Is your style, brand and marketing a good fit for the target market? Do your customers have the capacity to pay your prices, and have they shown a need or desire for products or services like yours?
You should also build in a monitoring system going forward. This could involve spending time among your local customer base, monitoring local, regional, national and international news and consumer trends, or otherwise keeping track of things as they develop, with an eye toward how they could impact your business. A high-publicity scandal, popular protest, natural disaster or other development could create challenges or opportunities, and if you’re tracking the news, then you’ll be better positioned to pivot your products or services to weather storms and make the most of changes.
Even if you provide products or services that are sold outside of your local market, you need to be aware of your regional policy and how it impacts your financial wellbeing as a small business. Small business policies in your town, county, state and across the US can have a real bearing on the success of your entrepreneurial ventures.
If you’re just considering starting a new venture or opening a new location, then you should include policy research when you make up your list of potential areas. You’re looking for things such as tax rates, grants or other funding availability, and any other benefits or challenges. In some places, preparing and processing even just the business registration documents is expensive and challenging. Other places explicitly encourage small businesses and entrepreneurship, and may offer a variety of real benefits, including subsidized spaces to operate in, tax breaks, and free coaching, support or mentoring.
If you’re already settled, then it’s in your best interest to monitor and even influence policy development in your area. You can connect with business councils and the politicians running or currently providing for your area, from a township right up to the Senate.
Mark Green, a US politician with a background in the military, medicine and entrepreneurship, is one of the higher-level leaders with beneficial policies. His small business and entrepreneurship platform could benefit a wider range of businesses than your local town counselor, but ideally, of course, you want to have elected officials working on improving the business climate at all levels.
Building on that last point, your network can have real effects on improving the business climate and your situation. As noted above, connecting with people in positions of power and influence could result in policies that favor small business, and by extension, your business. However, there are other network effects. A strong network helps you stay connected and aware of changes and developments in your area, so you can pivot products or services at the right time to take advantage of those changes, instead of being caught off guard.
Relationships with more experienced entrepreneurs and leaders can improve your knowledge and skills. Relationships with other entrepreneurs, especially ones in related sectors or in your region, can lead to mutually beneficial partnerships. Your network can also lead to greater visibility and appeal to customers or clients.
Finding a successful climate for your small business takes real effort. You need to know what to look for and watch what’s coming down the pipeline. You can conduct market research and location-based research, and connect with others to find, influence or improve financial and administrative policies to create an environment that’s conducive to success.