by Henry Ma, CEO of Ricoma

Starting a business is challenging, exciting, and for some, a little scary. You get to call the shots, watch your business grow, and feel the satisfaction of creating and building something of your own. But it’s sink or swim, and being prepared can help you when the challenges inevitably start mounting up.

Here are the five key steps to success I wish I knew before starting my business. 

1. Focus On One Thing and Do It Well.

It’s not a bad thing to have a grand vision for your business. Most businesses start with tons of epic ideas for the empire they want to build. However, when you’re first starting, focus on one thing- whether it’s a product or service- and be great at it. If you try to carry out too many ideas at once, you and your business will be spread too thin. Your quality will suffer, and customers will notice. 

Once you’ve perfected that one thing and are known for it, only then should you start thinking about expanding. Just look at Crocs. They started out making unique-looking, comfortable foam shoes and continued to refine that one product. After years, they still only make one product but offer variations just as significant and successful as the original. 

2. Network and Build Great Relationships.

Building relationships and growing your network is a solid foundation of business. Remember the old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know?” That’s only half right. What you know can get you far, but if you have a reliable network of fellow business owners, vendors, talent, and communities, they can help open doors and grease the wheels of success. 

In the job market, referrals are five times more effective than other means of hiring. Your relationships can get you the job or, in the case of running your business, can refer you to potential clients in their network. Organize or join existing meet-ups where you can mingle with other industry professionals or use the power of social media, like LinkedIn, to build these relationships.

3. Adapt or Die.

Ever-changing market conditions will force your business to evolve. Humans and technology are constantly changing. A progressive approach to your business model will allow you to keep a competitive edge and survive when competitors don’t adapt to the changing environment. 

Not long ago, grocery stores only accepted cash or checks. Now imagine if one of those stores refused to accept credit cards after the mainstream adopted them. Odds are, that grocery store is not around anymore. Eventually, mobile payment services will become the primary method of payment, and the retail industry will once again have to adapt or die.

4. Engage With Your Audience. 

Social engagement is critical to the success of your business. Being a faceless, shadowy figure behind the scenes doesn’t help your company. When your audience feels connected to the person who represents a brand, they’re more likely to become a customer. 

Oprah Winfrey talks about her personal life, creates clubs and programs that involve her customers and fans, and shares stories that engage and inspire. Her brand is wildly popular and constantly grows because people buy from her, not a random product label.   

You don’t have to create a book club to engage with your customers. Do check out blog posts and respond to comments personally. Use social media channels to talk about yourself and your journey, as well as your business. Put yourself out there because when people feel like they know you, they are more likely to choose your business over others.

5. Be Your Boss and Your Employee.

When you start your own business, you make the rules. You make all the important decisions and decide your own hours. To be successful, you will need to shed the habits from your time as an employee and create a mindset where you are your boss and your employee. Hold yourself accountable to stay consistent, focused and maximize your time, as if you are working for an employer. Each day at Ricoma, I try to approach my role with this perspective.

Sometimes with your own business, working only from 9 to 5 won’t cut it. If you start late, stay later to get the job done. But don’t forget to have fun, too. Take time away from work, so you don’t burn out. Organize happy hours with employees or friends. Be the employee you want to manage and be the boss you always wanted to have. Finding that balance will be critical to the success of your business.

Let’s Get Started.

Being a business owner is a whole new world of challenges, excitement, and satisfaction. Enjoy the process and learn from your mistakes. Now that you know these five critical steps to reach success that I wish I knew before starting my business, you can hit the ground running.

 

Henry Ma began his career in the finance industry with Investment Banking at Goldman Sachs. Joining the Ricoma team in 2015, Ma recently grew into the CEO role after helping the company quintuple its revenue in five years as COO. Ma hosts the Apparel Academy show on YouTube and is continuously striving to be a thought leader on entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and social media.

 

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