November 1, 2014

10 Tips for Being More Independent With Your Small Business

You may think you won your independence from the workforce when you quit your job, but the truth is: running your own business sometimes means you’re dependent on many factors. You may depend solely on the revenue produced by just a handful of clients.You may depend on your vendors to produce products and services to you in a timely manner. Are you really as independent as you think?

business independence

Here are tips to help you get your independence back as a business owner:

1. Diversify Your Client List

A co-dependent small business owner gets their income from just a few clients. If one of those clients should leave, that business owner is in trouble. They’ll scramble to generate enough business to replace that single client.  Instead, work to score a few key clients, as well as smaller ones, and become an independent business so that you’re not dependent on the money you generate with one or two clients. This way, you diversify your client list and if one client should stop needing your services, you won’t be desperate to pay your expenses.

2. Get a Backup Vendor

A co-dependent business produces great products…only because their vendors are cheap, on time, make great materials, etc. But what happens if the vendor is late one time, or goes out of business? Your reputation is at stake.  Become an independent business by finding a few other vendors you can turn to in a pinch or if your current supplier raises your rates.

3. Don’t Put all Your Marketing Eggs in One Basket

If you’ve invested in one or two types of marketing and are waiting for them to pay off, stop being co-dependent, stop waiting and add more tools to the marketing mix. A single strategy won’t net you as great of results as one that plays nicely with others. So yes, take out a banner ad if you think that will work, and become an independent business by also blogging and updating social media so that you diversify how you connect with customers.

4. Get Firm in Your Payment Terms

If your customers are all over the place regarding when they actually pay their invoices, leaving you dependent on their wonky pay schedules to pay your own bills, lay down the law. Independent business owners have their own payment terms and clients who don’t follow them pay late fees. This will keep your cash flowing smoothly and keep you from having gaps in your accounts receivables.

5. Learn to Say No

A co-dependent business owner has trouble saying no to new business, even if it’s not in their primary line of services. All they see is the money, and they ignore the amount of time it will take to get the work done. Become independent and learn to say no to projects outside of your scope of expertise.  This will free you up to take on projects you actually enjoy doing.

6. Be Less Available

We’ve all become dependent on instant access to anyone via email but being so accessible isn’t to your benefit. Instead, become more independent and check your email a handful of times a day.  Don’t respond immediately if you don’t need to and don’t answer your phone after hours. Your customers will learn your parameters of availability.

7. Take Vacations

This ties in to #6. Become more independent, your business will survive without you for a few days or weeks, especially if you set it up to do so. Trust in your staff to handle things while you’re gone. You’ll be better for it.

8. Open Your Mind

Don’t become dependent upon defining your company’s capabilities too narrowly, you’ll miss out on great opportunities. Let new ideas come to you through employees, clients and even your own inspiration. See where they take you.

9. Hire Enough Competent People

When an employee quits, it can be a shock, especially if you don’t have a contingency plan to replace them. Become independent and prevent this by 1.) having processes in place to make it easy to train a replacement and 2.) ensure you have enough employees to get the work done, rather than having extra strain on one person who will soon quit from the pressure.

10. See the Future

Don’t limit yourself by what you want your business to accomplish today.  Instead, keep the bigger picture in your mind. Where do you want to be in five, ten or more years? Use this as inspiration for today.

Business Independence Photo via Shutterstock

12 Comments ▼
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Susan Payton - Awards Communication Mgr.


Susan Payton Susan Payton is the Communications Manager for the Small Business Trends Awards programs. She is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in content marketing, social media management and press releases. She is also the Founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners who want to generate their own PR.

12 Reactions

  1. Hi Susan,

    I would add one important concept that’s missing: customers are precious.

    At the end of the day, customers provide the money that put entrepreneurs in business and keep them in business. Customers lay the foundation for independence.

    – Anita

  2. Thanks Susan for the reminders and tips. These are indeed a very helpful guide to be as stable in this competitive world.

    “Don’t Put all Your Marketing Eggs in One Basket”. Agree to it. Try something new and unique strategies that you think it can attract more customers to get you or buy your products/services. And don’t forget to measure results. Through these, you can track whether your tactic use effectively works.

  3. #2 Get a Backup Vendor is a great idea. This is a must if you are established.

  4. Powerful and mission critical insights. Thank you, Susan.

    I would add another rarely discussed point. Small businesses must have colleagues and relationships with similar companies in place in the event they cannot complete a job for any myriad of reasons. This is especially true when bidding projects against larger companies or with government agencies. One of the criteria they seek is the reliability and ability of the company to complete the job.

    Regards,
    Michelle

  5. Great article. I agree with many points, especially #7 and #3. I have run multiple business’ but find that I am most productive after a good relaxing vacation! I work for a company now that puts small business owners in charge of their own online marketing. We are constantly trying to diversify our client list by dropping our price point and changing our tasks to relate to different small business.

  6. Thanks for a really great article. As a small business owner I do find it difficult to switch off so will take your advice and book my next vacation. I`ve also just looked at your blog and found even more wonderful stuff

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