5 Common Traits of Successful Small Businesses

We all have habits, good and bad. In business as in life, these habits can either help you or hinder your success. For fledgling SMEs in particular, bad habits can fester and grow into bigger problems causing major headaches down the road. Good habits can help create the foundations for a successful business and work day full of action and accomplishment.

We often read stories about the habits of successful entrepreneurs, the Bransons, Zuckerbergs and the like. But what about the successful entrepreneur on your doorstep running a thriving local business? Building a SME, growing it online and juggling so many responsibilities can seem like an insurmountable task and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of what you’re trying to accomplish. However, by following good habits, you give your business a better chance at succeeding. Think on these five habits as a starting place to build towards whatever ‘successful’ means to you.


Understand your strengths, weaknesses and figures! This may sound very obvious but it’s worrying how often new companies do not take the time to properly learn and identify key performance metrics for their business. To compound this, in the urgent environment of a startup, burgeoning workplaces sometimes miss the opportunity to identify what individual staff can bring to the table. This makes it impossible for the team to fully exploit its performance capacity. Teams work best when everyone is working to their strengths and an unclear division of responsibilities and lack of clarity in this area can lead to communication problems, stress and more fallout further down the line.


Define your purpose and keep a clear plan for the future. The clearer you can identify your goals and purpose as a business, the more likely your team and ultimately your company is to live up to its performance potential. Team members need to believe in the cause, if they can’t, they won’t be prepared to go the extra mile for you. With the many conflicting demands of setting up and running a new SME, it can become near impossible to find time to step back, re-evaluate and plan for the future. Proper business planning requires evaluating past performance and redistributing resources in order to to drive future growth. Companies that periodically take time out of their normal routine in order to re-calibrate and plan for the future are more likely to identify new growth opportunities and find ways to improve their existing operations.


Share the load and the leadership. Great business people know when to ask for help. It takes a team to build a stable and thriving business and SMEs prosper with a diverse, appreciated workforce aligned with the company’s culture. When building a team, business owners should focus on assembling a group with not just a diverse existing skill set but also recognise the value in training and further education for team members as an unrivalled way to cultivate strong talent and retain it. Leadership is no longer the responsibility of just those at the top and everyone within the enterprise needs to be a leader of sorts, knowing their voice can be heard, offering a fresh perspective on how to improve the business and negotiate obstacles.


Create a routine and plan your time. It’s all too easy to get off track when you don’t have a plan. Without a road map to establish what the day, week or month ahead looks like for you and your business it’s easy to get sidetracked and lose focus on what you want to accomplish. Effectively planning your time and establishing routines helps to minimise distractions and create discipline for both yourself and your team, efficiently moving tasks forward and enabling everyone to get a clear view of their objectives and responsibilities. Moreover, effective planning is crucial in order to break large tasks or projects down into more manageable work streams, helping to make workload achievable and quantifiable.


Be open to new ideas and not afraid of honest conversations. For teams to be effective, everyone needs to feel heard and be free to express an opinion. It is this honest dialogue that helps teams achieve more than the sum of their parts. By their very nature, entrepreneurs and successful small business owners are curious, open and have a desire to learn new things especially when it comes to identifying new trends and staying ahead of competitors. Quality learning is not only a function of finding outside sources of information, such as networking with non-industry advisors or partnering with organisations with a diverse set of professionals, it’s about welcoming voices from within the team too. Full participation allows everyone to articulate clearly what outcome they’re seeking and how best to achieve it and through honest conversations new ideas are created and innovation can ensue.

By David Marrone


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