5 Tips for Business Success

By Tammy Adamson-McMullen

Whether you’re a solitary faux finisher or owner of a bigger company, you may have lost a night’s sleep or two over your business.

You’re not alone. Despite fluctuations in the economy, new technologies, government programs and unlimited Internet assistance, small business failure statistics have remained unchanged over the years. According to the Small Business Administration, half of all businesses fail in the first five years and have done so historically.

But why look at the glass as being half empty? The flipside also is true in that half of all small businesses actually succeed and even thrive. And, according to SBA statistics, the probability of survival increases with a firm’s age. How can you make sure your business remains in the latter category? There are practices that successful businesses have in common. Here are five worth considering.

1. Stick to Your Business Plan. If you’ve never written one, do so now. A good business plan should have an executive summary, including mission statement; a thorough market analysis that considers your industry, region and likely competitors; a description of the way your business will be structured; a listing of services you will offer; your rates and how those might change in the future; how you plan to promote your business; and so on. A business plan is a road map to help you plan strategies, solve problems and stay on track. For free help in learning how to write an effective business plan, visit www.sba.gov/writing-business-plan.

Once your business plan is place, adhere to it and share it with others who likewise share in your vision. But don’t be too inflexible. In a Feb. 24, 2014, blog post for the SBA, business author Tim Berry notes that while a business plan with concrete specifics is important, business owners need to be flexible enough to react to surprises. (“When and Why Should You Stick to the Plan?” www.sba.gov/blogs/when-and-why-should-you-stick-plan.) As he says, “It’s way easier to correct your course if you have a plan than if you’re just reacting to whatever happened yesterday.”

2. Find a Mentor. Is there another painter in a similar region who might be able to help you? Someone to lean on who understands your challenges? If you don’t have a painter peer, then attend conventions, trade shows and other professional gatherings and seek someone who is willing to share. Don’t be afraid to ask such questions as: How did you weather a downturn in business? What type of financing did you use to purchase more supplies? What advertising has proven the most helpful? And so on. The faux industry is a particularly generous one with professionals who are known for being helpful, so be sure to connect with your peers whenever possible.

Additionally, the SBA offers mentoring help through SBA partner organizations such as SCORE and the Small Business Development Centers and Women’s Business Centers. The mentors provided are experienced, successful and willing to offer advice and guidance —for no real personal gain. The SBA offers many other free resources and services to support small business owners, both online and in person. For information, visit www.sba.gov.

3. Put Your Best Foot—or Face—Forward. Whether you realize it or not, you are the face of your business. Make sure yours is prominent in your community. Attend public events, sponsor kids clubs and sporting teams, offer your services to charitable groups and don’t neglect social media opportunities. Think outside of the box in finding ways to increase your exposure.

A social media presence is critical. Maintain a professional website and tie it into Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest (particularly important for the visual arts). If you are a novice at managing website and social media platforms or simply don’t have the time to perform these tasks, hire someone to do it for you. The costs—which are lower than you might think—are well worth the investment of keeping your face before customers and potential customers.

Social media is especially well-suited for faux finishers, allowing you to immediately post photos of finished projects and maintain a professional online portfolio. If your client base tends to be a younger demographic, you might consider a presence on Snapchat, which allows you to snap a photo and share it instantly.

4. If You Need Financing, Look Around. Whether you’re starting up or long-established, chances are you’ll be hunting for financing at some point. Many start-ups are financed out of owners’ pockets; however, funding for expansion often comes from outside lenders. A loan from a traditional bank might not be feasible since banks usually don’t like to offer business loans under $200,000. For that reason, many small businesses turn to alternative financing options from a non-regulated, non-bank lending source.

In a March 27, 2015, article for Entrepreneur, business expert David Sederholt notes that alternative lending can offer benefits, depending on what you’re wanting to finance. (“Why Alternative Financing Options Might Be Best for Your Small Business,” www.entrepreneur.com/article/243397.) Alternative financing provides small businesses needing a loan with “access, availability and speed,” Sederholt writes. Online financing sources are easily found on the Internet, but be aware that they tend to have much higher interest rates than banks. If you do seek out a traditional loan, be sure to have your business plan in hand. Banks like to know that the risk they are taking is a sound one.

5. Don’t Neglect Continuing Education. It’s important for professionals of every ilk to stay up-to-date on all of the latest trends, tools and techniques in their industry. Successful businesses continually re-invest in themselves and make continuing education a part of their reoccurring expenses. They also make sure to include it in their business plan.

The beauty of continuing education in the decorative painting industry is that there are opportunities everywhere, from classes at renowned schools and technical institutes to regularly scheduled seminars and workshops. Take advantage of what the industry has to offer—and then return to No. 3 in this list and publicize on social media what you have learned. Clients want to know that they have hired the best. Make sure they’ve found it in you!