Are you a small business owner or a startup entrepreneur? Well, here’s the bad news: thousands of small businesses and startups fail every year despite the fact that have a great product or service on offer. And here’s the good news: it can be tough out there for small businesses and startups but the successful ones – and there are plenty of them – share a number of common traits that we can all learn from. In this article we look at the top five essential ingredients that all successful businesses have.

1.       Financial roadmap and business strategy

Sounds obvious, right? But it’s amazing how many businesses launch themselves on the market without a clear vision or sense of where they’re going. Successful businesses don’t just happen; they require careful, thoughtful planning and preparation. Give yourself the best start by having a well thought through and carefully executed business strategy that includes a financial roadmap, marketing differentiators and a product plan. It doesn’t have to run into hundreds of pages either. In fact, the shorter the better as the business strategy should be guiding and influencing your daily operations so conciseness is a real advantage.

2.      Focus on customer service

Quality customer service is at the heart of every successful business. Simply put it means looking after your customers and it should be the guiding principle for everything that you do and every process that you undertake. Make sure that outstanding customer service is integral to your operations.

3.       Effective marketing

Successful businesses know who their customers are and they know how to reach them.  What’s more, having an understanding of the pain points your target market is experiencing and how your product or service will stop that pain is essential to business success. Tailor your marketing to focus on the solutions you offer your customers and you’ll be on to a winner.

4.       Clear sales process

Good sales results don’t just come about by accident. Usually there is a consistent, measurable and repeatable sales process behind every successful company. Exactly what that process is often depends on the type of business you are and your target market. Business to consumer companies, for example, will have an entirely different sales process from business to business ones. And so whether your company depends on referral partnerships and strategic alliances, or direct customer contact, a clearly defined sales process is a key foundation to success.

5.       Willingness to take calculated risks

Successful business owners are not afraid of change and are willing to take calculated risks when necessary. In fact, adaptability is an essential trait when the economic and technological environment is constantly affecting market conditions. Companies that succeed are those that embrace change as a positive and are adaptable and flexible when it comes to responding to the challenges presented by the market, competitors or the economy. What’s more, successful businesses also learn from their failures. Every business will encounter failure of some sort whether it’s in relation to a new product or an expansion into fresh markets. However, every failure is an important learning opportunity so take the time to reflect on those lessons and change in response.