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Experts Share Their Top Tips for Starting and Growing Your Own Business

small business-expert-tony robbins-kevin oleary-melinda emerson
small business-expert-tony robbins-kevin oleary-melinda emerson

From refining your business plan to seeking funding to leveraging the latest technology, our panel of experts shared their insights on what today’s entrepreneurs should be doing to succeed in the small business marketplace.

Tony Robbins

Author and Business Coach

What advice do you have for small business owners trying to expand their customer base and reach new markets? 

Small businesses owners that want to expand their market share and reach new markets of potential customers need to have an effective business map that provides them with a clear route to the growth success they envision.

A business map designed to take you from where you are to where you want to be in the shortest amount of time requires small business owners to take more holistic approach than required in the development of a mere business plan. A business map ensures that the big picture of your company is always front and center. It not only helps with your company’s long-term goals, but it also helps you and your team keep the business vision in sight on a day-to-day basis. You don’t just use your business map during the growth phases of your business — you use it for the life of your business.

As I detail in depth during Business Mastery, a powerful five-day experience developed to improve business skills of entrepreneurs, developing a business map for growth and success will allow you and your team to have more certainty about what your business needs to grow now and what needs to happen to better steer your organization in accordance with that vision. Most importantly, you’ll understand what business you need to be in to become the dominant force in your market.

As part of this process, you can explore pursuing a number of strategies to drive the growth you envision. These include:

  1. A market penetration. Focusing on your current product or offering and growing its use within your current market. Because you’re not developing new products or entering new markets, this is the lowest-risk strategy.
  2. A market expansion strategy. Taking one of your current products or offerings into a new market. Businesses often do this when growth opportunities in the current market are limited. Market expansion is eventually required for most businesses — if you don’t find new markets, revenue will always be limited.
  3. A product development strategy. Focusing your business resources on improving current products. This growth strategy is a part of constant and strategic innovation and providing more value than anyone else. Businesses must find new ways to fulfill customer needs and develop better, faster, cheaper technology — or get left behind. You have to always be strategically innovating. You must be constantly looking for ways to create something more, new or better than what currently exists. Consumers are no longer impressed with any one new feature or service for very long — they expect a constant evolution of improvement or they will go elsewhere.
  4. A diversification strategy. Expanding your business product offerings by creating an entirely new product — a dog food company starting to make leashes or a paper company making printers. When the markets are related, it’s called horizontal diversification. If the markets are not related – like an auto manufacturer getting into the telecoms industry — it’s called conglomerate diversification. Of the four market growth strategies this is the riskiest.

Kevin Bryla

CMO and Head of Customer Experience, SpotOn

What are some key qualities that distinguish successful small businesses from those that are struggling right now?

To take back healthy profit margins, restaurants, and small businesses need to take a hard look at their numbers rather than simply relying on their instincts. Technology is a crucial part of that.

A cloud-based point-of-sale (POS) not only speeds up the checkout process but also gathers data, giving businesses real-time insights about their operation. These insights, in turn, can be used to identify areas ripe for cutting costs with tools like inventory management and employee scheduling software. Likewise, data insights can identify increased revenue opportunities with solutions like online ordering, handhelds, QR codes, and reservation and waitlist software.

What were some pivotal moments or lessons that influenced your growth as a business?

All of our big steps forward as a business stemmed from listening to our clients and understanding their challenges. For restaurants, no two operations are the same, so we’ve focused on innovating a flexible ecosystem of solutions that work seamlessly with our POS, while at the same time offering integrations with the third-party software that our clients love.

For small businesses like auto shops, retail boutiques, professional services, and salons, we’ve learned that they don’t want overly complicated tech. They want something that’s fast, easy, and affordable for taking payments, and so we’ve focused on delivering just that.

How can the proper POS system make a business more efficient? 

At the bare minimum, a POS system needs to be fast and easy to learn. But to truly boost efficiency, it also needs to make the people using it faster. So, things like handhelds help servers cover more tables and get food out more quickly. Customizable menu speed screens help bartenders place orders faster. Kitchen display systems speed up ticket times and reduce order mistakes. Automated scheduling, tip management, and payroll prep help managers save hours every week. The proper POS ensures all these tools work seamlessly together to save time and reduce costs.

How does SpotOn specifically cater to the needs of small businesses?

We deliver the same level of hospitality to restaurants and small businesses that they deliver to their customers. That starts with having local representatives who work with our clients to understand their challenges and goals. It means continually developing smarter, better solutions to help our clients tackle their biggest problems. And it means having a 24/7 support team of real humans who can help when something goes wrong.

Whether a small business needs a simple way to accept credit card payments or one that needs an end-to-end restaurant management system, we’re there to help with technology that works the way they work.

What advice would you give to small business owners who are considering implementing a new POS system?

Start by assessing your current POS to determine what’s working for you, what’s not, and where you have “tech gap” opportunities to improve profits. Next, request demos of POS options on the market to see what solutions you like. Lastly, be realistic about whether you want to set up the POS yourself, troubleshoot it, and train your team. If you’re okay with simply getting a box in the mail, there are some really nice options out there. However, if you’re looking for a hands-on POS partner who will be with you every step of the way, check out SpotOn.

Kevin O’Leary

Investor, “Shark Tank”

What advice would you give to small business owners looking to optimize their financial management practices and achieve sustainable growth?

Don’t believe your own forecast. Never ever live and die by every cent you can save, because raising money is very, very hard to do. And get ready to pivot — you’re going to have to pivot so many times during the day. And above all, learn to differentiate the signal from the noise.

So much noise comes at you every day, and yet there’s only one signal. Decide what are the three things you’ve got to get done each day, and don’t lose the signal. Don’t get distracted by something else, because there’s always something that will distract you. You can’t let that happen. You must differentiate the signal from the noise. That’s the key to success.

Are there any specific technologies that new business owners should be investing in to better run their businesses?

You can’t do what we used to do in the old days, which is just blasting messages out there all at the same time with no regard for the nuances of each platform. TikTok is completely different than Instagram, which is completely different than Twitter, which is completely different than Facebook, and of course there’s LinkedIn. And so you have to coordinate and produce a 15-second video for Tiktok, you have to produce a five-minute video for Facebook and Instagram. And the resolution of the piece for Instagram has to be different than the ones for other platforms.

These are all little things you learn that change engagement in a huge way. And we created a tool that handles all your SMS managing, all your email managing, and the deployment and creation of your social media into an AI-based dashboard called Wonder Engine.

Melinda Emerson

Creator, SmallBizLady

Why are branding and marketing important for small businesses?

I teach small businesses that you brand a business and market a product or service. Marketing is essential for small businesses to establish their presence and differentiate themselves from competitors. Branding builds credibility and trust, fosters customer loyalty, and drives growth. A well-defined brand identity helps businesses carve out a distinct niche and attract customers who resonate with their brand values and messaging. By investing in branding and marketing efforts, small businesses can position themselves for long-term success and sustainability in the marketplace.

What strategies do you recommend for small businesses to effectively brand and market themselves?

For small businesses looking to brand themselves, there are several strategies that can help maximize visibility, attract customers, and foster growth. Start by clearly defining your brand identity, including your mission, values, and unique selling proposition for a specific niche target audience. Develop a compelling brand story that resonates with your audience and sets you apart from competitors.

Maintain consistent branding across all brand touchpoints, including your website, social media profiles, marketing materials, and customer interactions. Use a cohesive visual identity, tone of voice, and messaging to reinforce brand recognition and build trust with your audience.

To build a strong online presence, establish a professional website first. Then, create a lead magnet to build an email list. Finally, leverage content marketing and email marketing to engage with your audience and drive brand awareness and sales. When it comes to social media, only focus on one or two platforms at a time.

What advice do you have for small business owners who are looking to access funding or investment to grow their businesses?

Before seeking funding, determine how much capital you need and what you plan to use it for. Most importantly, make sure you have a business plan that explains how you will make money to pay off your loan and grow the business. Explore various funding options, including traditional bank loans, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI loans), grants, crowdfunding, angel investors, venture capital, and friends and family. Research and explore the pros and cons of each option to find the best fit for your business.

Don’t go for funding too early. Hold off on pursuing funding as long as you can.

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