Across every line of business, there are hundreds of quiet multi-million dollar companies that stay out of the limelight and serve their customer bases with dedication. They may not be as well-known as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, or Peter Thiel, but they have lessons to impart nonetheless.
These entrepreneurs are smart, resilient types who aren’t afraid of the hard work that it takes to build a thriving business. More than the glamorous and famous business people that we all know, the real lessons are in these ordinary, hard-working people who made their way in the world and created empires that people hardly notice.
Tips from Successful Entrepreneurs
Here are a few of the things you can learn from them:
Focus On Recurring Sales From Good Customers
One of the biggest wastes in business is leaving money on the table by serving clients in a one-off format. Ideally, your customers should be buying from you again and again. You want to build a close relationship with your customers. This is what drives many businesses, including the multi-million dollar Stave Puzzles company. This brain teaser factory focuses on high-paying customers that will buy their tough (and expensive) hand-made puzzles again and again.
“If you have everything, you could always use another Stave puzzle. That’s the beauty of this business,” CEO Steve Richardson says. Their first customer resulted in thousands of dollars per year in sales. If you focus on building brand loyalty by forming a connection with your clients, you will earn more repeat business.
Find Something Unique and You’ll Have Few Competitors
This is what Rick Platt, founder of Sky Zone did back in 2009. The company created the very first trampoline park. While Platt was taking a risk, it paid off when it became popular.
“Some people thought the idea was ridiculous,” he says. “I thought if I could pull it off, I would have something unique.” He was right. This risk paid off, and SkyZone now makes millions of dollars per year. If you can, try to bring something different to the table. Do things in a way that your competition doesn’t. This will enable you to stand out from the rest of the companies in your industry.
Make Sure You Have a Good Support System
Entrepreneurs are often fiercely independent people, so they might be tempted to believe that they can push ahead all on their own, but this can be a severe handicap. The attitude of the people around you can greatly influence your success or failure. Take it from the founder of Mabel’s Labels, Julie Cole: “You better make sure your spouse or partner is 100% on board with you starting a business. If not, you will not succeed.”
No entrepreneur can succeed if they fail to surround themselves with the right types of people. You must be careful about who you allow into your inner circle; it is important to make sure you are only interacting with people who are invested in your success.
Embrace Your Niche
David Heacock of the air filter company FilterBuy.com knows how to serve his customer base well with a tightly focused, niche business. They stock hundreds of different filter types and have a strong sense of customer service; clients are almost guaranteed to get exactly what they need. This is what keeps them coming back. “With our large stock of different filter types, we made ourselves into a low-cost, one-stop-shop,” Heacock says. “By solving one problem well, we keep our customers for life.”
If you’re having trouble reaching your audience you may want to consider narrowing your target market. Sometimes, business owners make the mistake of trying to be everything to everyone. In some cases, this approach can make sense. However, in many cases, it is best to market to a particular niche. Instead of trying to do it all, do one or two things better than everyone else. It might seem counterintuitive because you might feel as if you’re turning away potential business. But you’re not. You’re just making your company more attractive to people who need what you have to offer.
What other lessons can be learned from multi-million dollar companies that float just under the radar? Probably the most important lesson is this: Anyone with enough drive can do it. All that it takes is finding a burning need in the market and filling it better than anybody ever has.
Lessons Photo via Shutterstock
I think it is time to stop looking at people as customers and to see them as real people. Make real relationships and you’ll have customers for a lifetime.