Ten Things I Learned From Three Inc. 5000 Companies

I’ve been running my ten person company for twenty years. We’re doing fine, but I’m not on the list of Inc.’s 5000 Fastest Growing Companies. However, I know three business owners who are, thanks to Staples. Staples is highlighting businesses on Inc. 5,000’s list to show us how they make more happen every day. And you know what, I’ve learned from them.

Glen Dobi is one. He runs Dobi & Associates, an international distributor of closed out goods. And so is David Campbell, whose firm Boxman Studios, develops, designs and deploys custom containers. And there’s Aviva Weiss, who owns Form and Function, a maker of educational products and playthings for special needs children. These are three successful, hardworking and smart entrepreneurs who I recently got to know. They don’t have all the answers for successfully growing your business. But they’re figured a lot of things out. And they’ve learned a few good lessons too. Here are ten that I took away.

• Don’t make hires unless they’re the right fit for your company. In a small business you’ll be working very closely with your employees. They’ll be working closely with each other. Make sure you’re bringing in someone that adapt to your company’s culture.

• Know your P&L. You need to be an accountant. You need to know math. You need to get reports daily and weekly. Numbers are very important to any successful business owner. Have metrics. Get your financials done. Stay on top of your numbers. Get the best financial software and products, which a store like Staples offers.

• Have good partners and advisors. If you’re going to grow past the startup stage you’ll need capital. And banks have it. Find a good local banker and develop a relationship with him or her. You’ll not only get expert advice from someone with a financial background but a good banker will introduce you to their community of professionals, partners and prospective customers. Consider also partnering with a local Small Business Development Center too. Or SCORE. Get close to a CPA or an attorney. These are people and organizations that exist to provide resources to help you grow.

• Talk to similar sized business owners. Join a networking group like Vistage or EO. Go to your Chamber of Commerce events. Get to know others who run businesses no matter what industry they’re in. The challenges are the same. And it’s nice to discover that others are grappling with the same problems you have. You may even get some help figuring out a few.

• Look for problems, don’t avoid them. Many business owners, being optimists, avoid hearing about the bad. Being positive is important of course. But you can’t run away from your problems. And the most successful ones are problem solvers. They seek out the issues and work to resolve them. And they also know that for every problem solved, there’ll be ten more waiting in the wings.

• Get feedback often. Survey your customers. Sit down with your employees. Bring in a consultant or an advisor. You don’t even know what you’re doing right or wrong most of the time because you’re so busy just running your company. It’s extremely helpful to get someone else’s perspective. And if you keep your mind open, you’ll find that some of these observations may significantly change how you’re running your business.

• Create a positive work environment. No one wants to spend ten hours a day in a miserable place. You want what’s best for your current employees. And you’ll want to always attract talented new people. To do this you need to demonstrate why your company is better to work at than anywhere else. The result will be happier people and a better attitude towards your customers.

• Recognize your talents, let others do the rest. You can’t do it all. You won’t be able to micromanage your way to success. The only way is to empower your people to do what they do so you can do what you do. Focus on what you do best and give others the chance to do what they do best. Everyone will profit.

• Have a plan. Or a mission. Or a goal. It can be one year or three years away. But have one. That way you’ve got something tangible to work for. A direction. A reason for doing what you’re doing. You won’t be able to do it all. And there will be many roads you can travel. Pick one and create your goals. Having a plan will keep you focused on what’s important and help you avoid things that will distract you from reaching your goals.

• Enjoy what you do. Profits are important but they shouldn’t be the driving motivation behind your business. There are plenty of ways in this world to make money. But life is short and you’ll be working hard. So you better have passion. And you better have fun. Because otherwise, is this really worth it?

Check out the Staples Small Business Center with tips, deals and products to help make more happen at your small business every day.

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