The road to success as a small business owner will look different for everyone. One thing you can count on though is that the path will inevitably prove much longer and harder than expected.

As a result, perseverance will be key to making it through the ups and downs. And if you can make these seven things a priority as you run your business, you’ll find success to be less a question of if but when.

1. Do Your Research

When designing a product or service, think in terms of the problem it’s working to solve. How is what you’re building a business around going to make the lives of customers better or easier?

To answer this question, do your research prior to launch. User test prototypes among family, friends, and acquaintances—and solicit genuine feedback from their experiences.

You should also dig into the current competition. If you’re launching a brick-and-mortar business, get to know the community and local market you’re wanting to serve. For eCommerce endeavors, analyze the online presence of others in your space.

Clearly define what differentiates your product from the rest and validate your beliefs with social proof. Measure your success by the number of people you help because the more people you help, the quicker your business will grow.

2. Create and Maintain a Cash Flow Forecast

Sales is vanity. Profit is sanity. Cash flow is reality.

Make this your mantra and repeat it often. Also, make sure you’re updating and monitoring cash flow regularly. We have a handy 12-month forecast template available here for managing incoming and outgoing cash.  

3. Employ Good People

Finding good people isn’t easy. But when it comes to recruiting, training, and motivating your employees, don’t let that be an excuse to settle.

Also, don’t get hung up on the idea of the “perfect candidate”. If you’re struggling to fill an open role, prioritize well-developed soft skills over exact experience. There’s a time and a place for investing in someone who believes in your mission, has proven themselves a hard worker, and is eager to learn.

4. Never Stop Marketing

Marketing your product or service should be an ongoing endeavor. Just because someone visits your website, doesn’t mean they’re going to purchase. And just because someone does purchase, doesn’t mean they’ll purchase again down the road.

You have to support customers at every stage of their journey and remember the importance of cash flow management. Your volume of sales made in any given month is a vanity metric compared to your business’ ability to retain customers and generate revenue long-term.

5. Price Products Fairly

What you believe a product is worth and what your audience is willing to pay are two very different things. As you think about pricing, consider what’s fair based on the competitive market, cost of living (relative to you and your staff), and production.

The cost you expect others to pay should be itemized and reflective of performance and behind-the-scenes production. Especially as more and more consumers demand transparency from the brands they support

6. Offer Quality Customer Service

No matter how good your product is, things are going to go wrong. Packages aren’t going to be received and customers are going to change their minds.

When these situations arise, you should be ready to meet customers where they are and address their needs—quickly. Provide a clear route for contact around questions and concerns. Also, define your policies for predictable issues that may arise. 

And remember, it’s more difficult (and expensive) to acquire new customers than it is to retain them. Before you write someone off and refuse a return, think about how your actions may impact their perception of your brand (and word-of-mouth).

7. Be Flexible and Willing to Change

Don’t make emotional decisions when investing your hard-earned money into a business. Base your decisions on facts and return on investment.

Sometimes, this means making tough decisions around personnel, product, or maybe even your long-term role with the business. Take a step back from whatever your knee-jerk reaction might be in these moments and let the data do the talking. You have to be willing to change course sometimes—especially when doing so leads to a brighter future for you, your employees, and your customers.