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.[John Ingrisano here with ten tips for helping make sure your small biz survives…and maybe even thrives.  This piece first appeared in the August 2007 issue of Corporate Report Wisconsin.  Check them out at]

This isn’t IBM or General Motors.  Your boardroom meetings may look more like a walk in the woods with your dog than a gathering of "suits" around a mahogany table.  R & D is, "I have an idea that might work," rather than a lab full of engineers in white coats.  And your Human Resource Department may consist of a sheet of paper with the names of people you can call in a pinch.

They used to call us Mom ‘n Pop shops, entrepreneurs or just self-employeds.  Today, if you are one of millions of men and women who work for yourself or have a payroll of fewer than four, you’re a "micro-business." That means you are the business.  If you succeed, the bills get paid; if you fail, you’re out of business.  You know that the lessons that drive the big multi-national corporations don’t mean a heck of a lot to you.  You also know you cannot afford to fly by the seat of your pants.

Ten principles to help assure your ongoing success as a micro-business:

1. Remember that attitude is everything.  People used to think that entrepreneurs had some special talent.  We’re considered to be overly aggressive, thick-skinned or simply prone to be high risk-takers.  However, studies have shown that the single driving factor behind success is attitude.  If people have a positive attitude toward their business, they tend to do reasonably well.

2. Think like a business. Even if you’re a one-person operation working out of the back bedroom, resist the urge to hang the "gone fishing" sign on the door in the middle of the day.  Keep regular hours, have a budget, keep good records.

3. Have a dream. Successful small business owners are almost invariably goal-driven.  They have a vision of what they want to accomplish.  They understand the need to have clearly defined, written goals.

4. Unleash your passion.  It is the secret weapon missing in many bigger companies.  Enthusiasm sells!
5. Be disciplined.  One definition of self-employeds is people who would rather work 18 hours a day for themselves than eight hours for someone else.  In many instances, success is simply a matter of being there and putting in the long hours.  There are no substitutes for hard work and long hours.

6. Master the mundane.  Most micro-business owners start with knowledge of a particular product or market niche, and little business knowledge.  Long-term success, however, hinges on how well they learn to wear the many hats of a businessperson — marketer, product developer, bookkeeper, and more.  Every day, become more knowledgeable about some aspect of your business.
7. Manage your money.  The biggest cause of business failure is "cash flow woe."  Have a line of credit at your bank and enough cash to achieve your goals.  Then watch your expenses carefully.

8. Stay focused.  Small business succeeds when the company is narrowly focused on doing one or two things exceptionally well.  Many people start a business with the idea they can be all things to all people.  It never works.

9. Network. It is not just what you know, but who you know.  Make connections.  Build ties.  That’s how a business is grown these days.

10. Get expert advice.  It’s all around you…and much of it is free.  Start with your banker, who has a vested interest in your success.  Other sources of information include The Small Business Administration for free information on market trends, business ideas and sources of grants and other money (phone: 800-827-5722)  and the Better Business Bureau, just to name two.
There is nothing more exciting or frightening than being in business for yourself.  While the risks can be high, the potential for financial and personal rewards is also great.  By applying the above principles, you can help increase your success and boost the odds of achieving your business goals.

  As always– work hard, make money, have fun!

— JRIngrisano
   The Freestyle Entrepreneur

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