1. Love what you do.
The road to success is a hard one. But, according to Lisa King, owner of Brownie Points Inc., which sells gourmet brownies and holiday gift baskets, it's a lot easier if you're passionate about your business's purpose. "If you don't [love what you do], it's hard to be successful," she says. She adds that this helps you stay positive: "You need to maintain your optimism. Once it's gone, you're done."
2. Build a team immersed in your vision.
"For me, it's more than just hiring experienced people. It's important to demonstrate the type of organization we want to be," says Mike Mondello, president of SeaBear, which supplies fresh and smoked wild salmon directly to consumers. To bring to life the vision of building a seafood brand based on world-class, sustainable wild salmon, Mondello used a team meeting to showcase a fisherman whose way of catching fish resulted in a better end product.
3. Come up with innovative ways to solve problems.
Necessity really is the mother of invention. Just ask Robin Brocklesby of Creative Coverings, which rents specialty linens for formal events. When customers were having difficulty returning the linens they had rented, Brocklesby turned to UPS for a creative solution. The result was out-of-the box innovation: Return the linens in specially designed bags (with an estimated life span of 300 uses) rather than larger boxes.
4. Create a delightful customer experience.
Several components come together to win customers, and everyone at the company needs to know their own role in retaining customers. "It's mission critical that everyone on our team understands how they fit into the brand and what they bring to the value chain that delivers a successful customer experience," Mondello says.
King notes that shipping plays a vital role in her customers' experience, particularly since Brownie Points provides a perishable product. "You need to know that you're partnering with someone who can manage your shipments and make sure your packages arrive on time," she says.
5. Quickly learn from your mistakes.
Mistakes are inevitable. The key is to learn from them – fast. A decade ago during the holidays, SeaBear outsourced its call center. Customer orders were soon riddled with errors. "When a customer had a need outside the norm, the call center couldn't handle it with the customer care our own professionals could," Mondello recalls. The solution? SeaBear immediately stopped outsourcing and personally contacted all the customers who were negatively affected. Also, the company has learned to test any new process during a quiet time of the year.
6. Rely on people smarter than you.
You can't know and do everything. You must rely on others. "Surround yourself with people who know more than you do," King advises. "I was a schoolteacher [prior to going into business] and there were a lot of things I had to learn," she recalls. To fill in the gap, King selected vendors or has hired people who had the knowledge or skills she lacked.
7. Never sacrifice quality.
"The key to the success of any business is to establish a philosophy and have everyone in the business buy into it," says Larry Sweet, founder and president of Save-A-Load Inc. The company manufacturers load bars for truckers and delivery companies for the cargo area to hold items in place during transport. Sweet's philosophy of putting quality first has resulted in double-digit revenue growth since the company's founding in 1993. The manufacturer stands behind its product quality by providing a lifetime warranty and relying on UPS to deliver its best-in-class product to customers worldwide.