6 tips for a successful small business

Since its inception, the United States has always been considered “the land of opportunity” – a place where any individual with the motivation and drive can start a business and succeed. This notion still holds true today as 99 percent of all American companies are small businesses, according to Small Business Administration. But this doesn’t mean being an entrepreneur or running a business is easy.

Each business has its own set of circumstances and variables that influence its success, but you control more than you might think, especially the intangibles. We talked to Jessica Walsh, a graphic designer who by age 25 became a partner of a New York design firm (now called Sagmeister & Walsh), about what she does to stay at the top of her game. Below are Jessica’s tips to lead entrepreneurs to the promise land.

*Don’t be afraid to experiment. No business can get off the ground or grow without taking a few risks or trying new things. And the initial push to open a business is not enough. “A lot of what I do is try stuff out, experiment, fail, and try again,” says Walsh. “When we take on any project, we allow a lot of time to play and experiment, fail many times and really allow ourselves that process.”

*Good ideas can come from anyone. “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing,” as the great Greek philosopher Socrates once said. In other words, you have to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking, especially from sources other than yourself. Walsh ascribed to this mantra, saying “It’s about coming up with the best possible products. So even if it’s an intern that has a fantastic idea, we let them run with it.”

*Stay organized and be efficient. A little organization can go a long way. Don’t just think detailed spread sheets or databases with lists of customers or to-the-minute daily schedules. It can be simple things like how your desk is laid out or even the computer monitor you use. Walsh points out the utility in widescreen monitors, like hers from the line at LG Electronics, because the extra screen real estate allows her to be able to separate things like email, or chatting, with the more creative work on the screen. As a graphic designer, she gets bonus utility because of its acclaimed color accuracy which, for Walsh, is extremely important.

*Be committed, but keep it light. Owning and operating a business is a serious game; there is no doubt about that. However, you should still try to have some fun when the opportunity arises. “Humor is really an essential part of our practice. It’s in our personalities, it’s a part of all the work we do, and I really think that it’s an important part of experimenting and playing. If you take yourself too seriously, you’re never going to just try something crazy or try something new,” Walsh notes how humor opens doors for professionals surmising.

*Stimulate your mind always. One of the best ways to keep your mind fresh is to stimulate it in variety of ways through people, experiences and surroundings. “I think being in New York affects our work. It’s such an amazing and inspiring city of so many diverse people, and cultural events going on at any one moment,” Walsh explains in the context of being in a big city. “Just go out and meet various people any night of the week because there are so many talented and inspiring people out there.”

*Don’t become content. One of the oldest tricks that’s true for all types of businesses is to never rest on your laurels. Even with all of Walsh’s early success, she keeps pushing forward. “I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent satisfied,” she says. “I think you have to be hungry: hungry for new work, new experiences and learning new things.”

Owning your own business can be scary as there are so many roles to play. With the above tips in mind, you have a great framework for prosperity. If nothing else, embrace the madness to find a real recipe for success.


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