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Ask SCORE: What Does it Take to Succeed in Small Business?
by Steve Wolfson
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August 11, 2022
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A food stall owner waits for customers at his taco stall at a busy market

I guess you could say the entrepreneurial spirit is part of my DNA. I practically grew up in Wolfson Grocery Store, a New Jersey supermarket my grandfather started nearly 100 years ago. As a kid, my dad was the owner of the family business and I saw firsthand the importance of investing in sweat equity.

After college, I went on to run three different businesses over a 40-year span. First, I ran a division of a major manufacturer. In that role, I started 13 operations. I later became vice president of a company that had 50 retail locations, 15 of which I had started. From there, I bought and ran a wholesale business with my wife for 30 years.

My business experiences, coupled with my time mentoring countless successful Bucks County entrepreneurs and small business owners, have helped identify a blueprint of the various characteristics and components one needs to succeed in a small business. When I say small business, I am really talking about companies comprised of one to 10 employees. Truly small companies represent the bulk of SCORE’s client base.

If your business follows a good portion of these tips, you have what it takes to be successful. Some can be learned. Others need to be ingrained in the culture of the company and its owners.

  • Be self-motivated every day
  • Be passionate about your business
  • Be an expert in your field - customers/clients rely on your knowledge
  • Every employee is accountable for business success
  • Stay in front of your customer with digital advertising, social media, and in-person contact
  • Stay focused on your goals
  • Have a customer for life
  • Invest in sweat equity, the unpaid labor entrepreneurs put into their business
  • Go beyond normal customer service
  • Thank the customer/client for their business after every transaction
  • Improve your time management to plan more to maximize the results
  • Do not put off the tough projects, finish them first
  • Strengthen your vendor relationships
  • Network with business organizations, suppliers, and customers
  • Trend your financials month to month to improve your cash flow and working capital

In my experience, I have seen that it does not matter what kind of business you are running. All these characteristics and tasks fit into what it takes to succeed in a small business.

A good bit of the characteristics I grew up with working in my father’s supermarket. Years later, when I worked for a large corporation and did not know what was coming next, I had no choice but to keep moving forward in pursuit of continued success.

Providing exceptional customer service has been a common thread throughout my business life as well. The personal service that contractors and many businesses came to know from my 180-year-old wholesale business kept the success moving forward.

Everyone talks about customer service, but not enough people go beyond regular customer service. If you do something extra that no one else offers, you are going beyond the norm and will likely have a customer for life. I had that experience with my 30-year business that I sold recently. We had many second and third-generation customers. How are you exceeding your customers’ expectations? Are you building relationships to yield lifelong customers?

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About the author
Steve Wolfson
Steve created a new wholesale distribution division for an existing billion-dollar manufacturer by starting thirteen warehouse locations in the construction industry. Steve grew operations from $0 to $50 million in five years. Steve was responsible for all sales, marketing personnel, purchasing, training, warehousing, and new procedures as the General Manager.  
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