10 Qualities of Successful Long-term Entrepreneurs

If you take the time to study any successful business from large to small you’ll notice some qualities they all have in common. If you want to have a long term business it’s important that you learn what these qualities are so that you can develop them within yourself. Thankfully, most things can be learned even if they don’t come natural.

10 Qualities of Successful Long-term Entrepreneurs-102314

When I first started my business more than two decades ago, I was building HTML websites, managing newly formed online communities through bulletin board systems and a lot of other things that I don’t do today. I’m still in business because I ensure that I keep moving  forward with technology and the needs of my audience.

They Do What They Enjoy

Long term entrepreneurs are smart to choose to do the things they love to do. Naturally all businesses have some things none of us want to do, but once you get your business off the ground you can outsource the things you don’t love and focus on what you love. But, overall it’s important to choose a business that you’ll be passionate about and enjoy the end results. If you choose something you love you’re going to be more likely to enjoy your life and stick to it long term.

They Take Their Business Seriously

Entrepreneurs who have sustainable businesses do not run their business like a hobby working on it only when inspiration strikes. They create a schedule based on their business plans and stick to it day after day, always looking ahead to the future. They believe in their own abilities and run their business as a serious business and do not waiver. Due to the fact that they take their business seriously, other people do too.

They Know Their Audience

A serious and long term business owner will continue research about their audience on a regular basis. Like technology, audience’s change. For example, big businesses like Unilever which creates personal care products. Over the years they have had to change how they market to their audience. If they marked these products today the way they did just 20 years ago they would lose a big share of the market because the old ads might actually offend their audience today.

They Understand the Importance Branding

Marketing properly requires an understanding of branding. Creating a known cohesive brand in all marketing channels, online and offline is the key to getting a larger share of the market. The larger share of the market you can convert to customers the longer your business will be around. To do this, taking the things you know from audience and competition research and promoting benefits over features of any product or service will endear you to your customers.

They Develop Plans for the Future

A sustainable business owner cannot be afraid of change. Entrepreneurship requires understanding that change is a constant. For example, if one is a Website developer, the tools from just 10 years ago are old hat. The smart entrepreneur stays up to date on the changes happening in their industry and makes plans to move with the changes now and in the future. A really good example of a successful business that has developed plans for the future and changed as technology has changed is Netflix. They have gone from distributing DVD movies through the mail, to streaming movies, to now becoming their own powerful network. Without a willingness to change as technology changes and customers’ needs change, your business won’t be around long.

They Invest in Their Business

Long-term entrepreneurs know that they must invest wisely in their business to earn money. They must pay for hosting for a real website, purchase a good auto-responder service,  use a good project management system, and buy the right software and more to ensure the success of their business. Trying to run your business without the tools you need wastes time and makes you look unprofessional to those whom you wish to work with.

They Build a Team and Network with Others

No CEO becomes successful for the long term on their own. No one is really self-made. People who are successful know how to surround themselves with other experts who can help them succeed. They know that they need to reach out to complementary professionals forming strategic partnerships to get to the next level. Working with contractors and joint venture partners is something all long-term business owners eventually need to do.

They Study and Develop Expertise

No one knows everything. Even if you’re an expert in something today, if you don’t keep informed about your industry you may end up being out of touch with the new technologies and facts affecting your niche. Chances are whatever you are doing today to earn a living will slowly change over time until it’s fairly unrecognizable when you compare today to 20 years from now. Keep learning, take classes, read industry publications, and educate yourself so that you are the go to expert in your niche.

They Study their Competition

If you want to be in business for the long haul it’s important that you keep apprised of what your competition is doing. Figure out who is selling and promoting to your audience and follow them, friend them, and associate with them on a regular basis so that you know what they’re doing that is working, or not working, so that you can do even better.

They Are Available to Their Customer and Follow Up

Smart business owners who thrive during the ups and downs of any economy, the changes in technology, and the changing and growing needs and desires of their customers make sure to find time to follow up properly. Without following up, you’re missing out on your best source of new sales, the customers you already have.

Finally, one last point is that long-term entrepreneurs never stop marketing and promoting themselves, their business and the people who help make them what they are. They keep going during busy times and show times.

How to Schedule Down Time to Avoid Burn Out

As a small business owner you’re supposed to be the master of your domain. Every story you see about working from home talks about working from the sandy shores of a foreign land, enjoying a lot of family time and down time with friends. But, the truth is, most small business owners don’t live that way. In fact, many are so overworked that they suffer from burn out.

How to Schedule Down Time to Avoid Burn Out

Photo Credit © Depositphotos.com/BrianAJackson

If you don’t want to risk burn out it’s important to schedule in down time. When it comes to getting things done your calendar is your friend. Everything I do, whether it’s taking a walk with my husband, or shopping it is scheduled using Google Calendar. We all have access to each other’s calendars so that it’s easy to see what we’re doing at any given time. That might sound boring, but the truth is, if it’s not in my calendar the chances of it getting done are near zero.  This can work for you too and when you try it, you’ll understand the power of the schedule.

Schedule Family Time First

When you start your calendar, open it up and first schedule family time. After all, the main reason you want to work from home or have a small business of your own is to spend more quality time with your family. Even if you schedule thirty minutes to spend with your kids or spouse each day, that is something that should be sacrosanct, avoiding any reschedules for non-emergencies.

Add in Appointments & Regular Infrequent Chores Next

Once you have family time in your calendar add in regular appointments that you have such as yearly doctor’s appointments, dentist appointments, and chores you do on a schedule such as changing your air conditioning filter. While this may seem like too much scheduling, the truth is, if you do things such as deep cleaning a closet on a schedule it’s more likely to get done, and since it’s getting done regularly it will take less time.

Block off Your Yearly Vacation Time Now

If you don’t take a yearly vacation on any particular schedule, you’re a lot less likely to do it. Look at your family’s normal schedule such as school and the ability of your spouse to take a vacation and schedule a regular time for your once a year vacation. Block it out, and make it sacred. Even if you cannot afford to leave for your vacation for some reason, make this the time you and your family take time off to be together even if it’s a “staycation”.

Mark the Times and Days that You’ll Devote to Work

Now that you’ve put in all the important things, mark off days that you will be working, including the actual hours you’ll work on your business, billable hours, and even lunch breaks so that you know at a glance of your calendar what you’ll be doing on any given day. It may seem obsessive but you’re going to get a lot more done if you know that from 8am until 11 am you’ll be working on client A’s work, and from 11:05 am. Until 12:05 pm you’ll be at lunch. Be sure to mark off the real time it takes. Don’t underestimate the time things take.

Putting everything, even the mundane in a calendar is going to help you not only have more downtime to enjoy with yourself and your family, it will help you get more work done in a shorter period of time because you’ll be organized and know exactly what you are doing at any given time on any given day.

What to Do When Your Branding No Longer Fits Your Business

Brand Words Sticky Notes Perception Identity LoyaltyAny business that has a long life also goes through many different branding identities.

If they don’t, the business may end up stuck in the past marketing to customers who no longer exist. For instance, a demographic such as women in their 20’s, looks completely different today than it did 20 years ago. Since a company’s brand is about the audience more than anything else, it’s important to consider how things change.

Look at a company like Johnson & Johnson.

They have been around for over 120 years. If they kept the same branding over the years, it would be difficult for them to keep marketing to the audience they want to attract. In fact, without appropriate branding they might even offend their audience.

The same can be said for your business.

It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is, over time your branding may need to be updated or changed completely to reflect the direction your audience has moved. If you’ve paid attention to your audience, you are aware and open to how they’ve changed and in what direction they are leading you.

Let’s take a look at what branding does:

  • Branding Communicates Directly to Your Audience
  • Branding Engages Customers
  • Branding Connects Your Product to Your Customer Emotionally
  • Branding Motivates Buyers
  • Branding Confirms and Increases Your Credibility

If your current branding is not accomplishing those goals, it’s time to make a change.

The change might be as simple as a redesign of the logo to a more modern logo, it might mean a change of fonts, or even how your web design looks. Whatever you do, your re-branding should focus completely on your audience and the people who you want to be your customers. After all, it’s the audience that informs the brand, not the other way around. It’s how they see your business, not how you see it.

The choices you make when branding your small business will make a huge impact on every aspect of your business moving forward. The branding will inform the messaging you use going forward, how you connect with your customers, and even how you tell the story of your products to your audience.

The research you do about your audience in order to improve your branding may also impact the choices you make regarding product creation in the future. In short, branding is everything. But, it’s not static. It can and should change over time as your business and customers evolve. Branding, after all is all about your audience.

Spending time developing and building your brand is like building your relationship with your customers. It takes time; it evolves, and leads the way for all your marketing efforts. If the branding is not right, it’s okay, just work on it, and perfect it over time keeping your mind open to your audience and their needs, wants, and desires.

What To Do When Your Branding No Longer Fits Your Business-082014

Your Brand Is More Than The Obvious

A brand is a far reaching thing. It involves more than just the obvious. A good many businesses have brands that are less than they ought to be. They’re not the kind of company to take bold moves and create a unique experience. I am quite frustrated when I see companies play loose with their visual brands. Take the accompanying photograph. When this business took over the building and removed the old lettering, they took the cheap way out and failed to bother re-surfacing the facade. What you have is what looks like the building was sprayed with bullets. Ironic that it’s a legal office.

photoThe proper move would have been to resurface then apply the new signage. MUCH more professional. This is just sloppy and lazy. Is their legal advice any better? Who knows, but their street level visuals is saying exactly that. The few bucks they saved may have cost them business. Something so basic can and does damage brands. If you were to ask them if they run a tight ship, no doubt they’d think they are first class operation.

Is there an aspect of your business that could show better than it does today? It might not be a visual thing but an experience perhaps. If you have service as one of your brand values but it is common practice to leave a customer on hold or put them through voice mail hell, that speak as negatively of your brand as the unsurfaced facade. Uninspired sales teams – same thing.

I constantly try and add value to my brand service. It’s a practice what you preach philosophy.
Imagine the message I’d be sending if I let mediocrity rule my brand. What you even consider retaining my services? All of us must walk the walk. Too much effort goes into doing what we do to make a living to risk it’s value as a brand.

Capitalize on 4th of July Merriment with These Five Marketing Incentives

Capitalize on 4th of July

Marketing is nothing without opportunity. Every business — even the largest and most recognizable brands — are marketing at every chance they get, and holidays are one of the best ways to capitalize on a great opportunity. Everyone from big-box retailers like Best Buy to your local car dealership is known for having great sales on weekends surrounding Columbus Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day and the like. So, for the upcoming July 4th holiday, use it to your business’ best advantage. Learn how you can capitalize on 4th of July merriment with these simple marketing incentives.

Many people associate July 4th with fireworks and barbecues, but there’s more to it than that. This year especially, July 4th can be a great marketing opportunity because it’s attached to a weekend; once the fireworks have ended, it’s a great long weekend where people likely have the opportunity to “catch up” on things they’ve been meaning to do. Here are a few reasons why it can be beneficial to use a splashy incentive for the July 4th holiday:

Utilize the season

July 4th is the “official” beginning of summer. By creating a limited-time offer to encourage a customer to buy now, you can capitalize on 4th of July merriment and that early-summer momentum. Especially if the product or service that you’re offering is something that can be tied to the summer months, let your customers know that the offer won’t last forever so they need your product now in order to get the most use out of it during the summer that they can. If you miss that “window” of opportunity, the summer goes by too fast — by August 1st, retailers are advertising back-to-school sales and you can no longer use the summer as your incentive.

Social Media

Email and social media can be your best advertising technique when it comes to holidays, especially 4th of July. If your brand already has a solid social media following, use it to your advantage. It seems counter intuitive to assume that people will be trolling Facebook and Instagram when the days are long and outdoor activities are plentiful, but the “me-centric” culture that abounds on social media these days is your best asset. Everyone wants to show their friends just how much fun they’re having… whether they’re posting photos of their legs tanning on the beach, or “checking in” at some fun destination, they are broadcasting to the whole world what they’re doing this summer — the flip side is that they also want to see where their friends are and what they’re doing. That includes YOU! If you’re having a July 4th sale or special event, share it on social media as far as you can reach. Include some beachy-looking photos to catch the user’s eye (even if perhaps they’re unrelated to what they’re selling). Chances are high that lots of people won’t be spending a holiday weekend watching TV or reading the paper, but they will be checking their social media accounts. It’s a great time to increase your brand’s social following, capitalize on 4th of July merriment, and activities by joining the party online.

Be Memorable

Have your brand do something unique. Having a July4th sale? Go the extra mile to bring customers into your store. The best thing you can do for your brand is to build customer loyalty that will last year-round. Throw a party — especially if your business is in the center of a town or walkable area, find out whether you can put on some music and perhaps set up a grill. If every customer who walks through the door is greeted with a free hot dog and soda, it will make the experience memorable and that customer is more likely to come back to you, rather than the big-box retailer, the next time around.

Be Patriotic

Capitalize on 4th of July merriment by being patriotic and showing some red, white, and blue. Americans love holidays where they can show their American pride. July 4th, Memorial Day and Labor Day are unique in that they are great times to really let a business show its all-American roots, and when people are most likely to be feeling that patriotic pull. Even if all that means is adding some red, white and blue to your storefront’s décor. Whether it’s a sign, a flag, or even some balloons, it’s an easy way to put people in that patriotic, warm-hearted mindset. This is especially helpful when you have customers who really do prefer to support small businesses, but who will shop online or at the big-box retailers simply for convenience. When you do something, however small, to remind them that your brand is all-American, local and patriotic, it might make them go the extra mile to seek out your products or services in the future.


Maintain the relationship. Depending on the nature of your business, maintaining the relationship with an existing customer by creating a method of post-sale follow-up could be a practice that you employ all year. If your business is small, but caters to higher-end products, following up after a July 4th (or any) sale is the perfect opportunity to build customer loyalty. As customers enter your store, encourage them to sign a guest book that includes their name, email address and phone number. Whether or not you close a sale at that time, a phone call the following week might be just the personal touch that the customer craves. If a sale was made, inquire as to how the customer is enjoying the product and if there’s anything further that s/he needs. If you didn’t close a sale, let the customer know that you’re happy to answer questions about any of your products and that you always have new inventory becoming available.

Especially for the small business, what will keep you in business is building customer loyalty. In this society, where retail is ubiquitous and you can get almost anything you need online, your customers can find what they want with a click of a mouse. What will keep them coming to you, whether your business is online or brick and mortar, is the customer service experience and that little “something special” that draws them in.

July 4th is a great opportunity to capitalize on not just patriotism, but the whole feeling of summer. Set your business apart from the rest by using this holiday (and others) as an opportunity to do some “out-of-the-box” marketing.

Brand Naming: You Can’t Sell it Until You Put a Name on It

You have a concept for a product and a business plan — or maybe you already have the product or service, itself, all ready to go. But, you can’t market a product or service without a name. It’s the single-most important aspect to your marketing strategy, so it’s imperative that you choose wisely. If you have kids, chances are that you thought long and hard about what to name them… you looked at every angle: Would other kids make fun of them on the playground? Would it be a name that could transition from childhood to adulthood? Would there be any nicknames? How does it sound with your last name? Do the initials spell something embarrassing?


A name that can grow with your brand

You need to consider all the same issues, and then some, in choosing a name for your brand. For one thing, the name needs to be able to withstand the test of time. Consider the current popular baby names: Aiden, Violet, Grayson, Avery… they’re trendy now, but think of how they will sound when they’re 30, 40 or 50 years old. Similarly, when the dot-com boom took place in Silicon Valley, brands were popping up everywhere with super-techy sounding names. Now, those that have endured sound a little dated and kitschy. As well, you want to leave room for growth. In other words, even though it may be your intent to brand one particular product, it would be wise to select a brand name that is not product-specific so that if you expand your product line, or add another set of products, you can continue to use the same brand name without it becoming incongruous. For example, if your business is based on home interior design, choosing a name with the “home” or “residential” means that if you decide to eventually branch out into corporate design, you either have to rebrand your entire enterprise or create a separate brand for that aspect to the business. Neither of those options would be good for growing a business. Instead, select a name that focuses on an aspect to your business that has more to do with the result than the venue. Anything you can do to ensure that the brand name you choose isn’t pigeonholing your business is smart — plan for now, be ready to be wildly successful later!

Keep it simple and memorable

The next time you travel through a densely commercial area, check out all of the businesses with intentionally misspelled names and “creative” use of the English language (I’m looking at you, Krispy Kreme). Don’t do this. Yes, Phish and Eminem are successful; they’ve created brands that are recognizable and have become household names, but that’s the exception to the rule. Since you’re building a small business and not a rock band, stay away from creative misspellings and the compulsion to use a “4” in lieu of “for” in a brand name.

Following these rules will help in a few ways. First, you’re avoiding search confusion for your customers and prospective customers. Depending on the type of business you’re branding, the odds are that the vast majority of customers who find your business will be doing so on the Internet. Search engines are not infallible, and whether someone is trying to find you on Google or whitepages.com, or searching your name by asking Siri, a name that includes “2”, rather than “to” because you thought it was cute is going to mess up the search results, which could lead to a loss of business.

Second, you’re going to want your website’s domain to match your brand name. Whether you’re an Internet-based business or otherwise, a business’ website is the gateway to customer service and discovery. A simple, correctly spelled brand name will be easier for a user to input directly to a browser, and also is more likely to rank better in search results for someone using Google or other search engine to find your business.

Be unique

Now that almost any business has the potential to become a global enterprise, it is becoming more and more difficult to find that unique brand name that no one is using. You can choose something that’s not necessarily a unique word or name, but that’s used in a unique way within your industry. Google “Apple”. Go ahead. Do it. For me, Google’s first auto-complete is “apple store”, and you can bet that it’s not my local supermarket. However, you may not be quite so fortunate with your brand name. Search engines have special arrangements with enormous brands that have “common” names like Gap, Target, Apple or Amazon. A small business with a single-word common name will never compete on that level. However, if you can combine something simple with something unusual (but still easy to spell), you could have branding gold. Also, do a little research of your own. Spend a few minutes looking up your potential brand name, and close variations, to be sure that someone else isn’t already using it. Your state may have an online registry where you can search DBAs and corporation names, but that won’t help you find national brands. Really, the best way is to spend some time searching and see what’s out there.

The brand name and logo are not mutually exclusive; the name might not lend itself to a specific logo right off the bat (unlike, say, Apple), but try to envision what your logo might be and make sure that it seems cohesive with your name of choice.

What message do you want to send?

Generally, a best practice in branding is to steer clear of any name with emotional, sentimental or political associations. The exception is that many of the country’s largest and most successful brands are associated with a sense of patriotism, but not because of their names. In a recent study, the brands deemed “most patriotic” by Forbes were Jeep, Hershey, Levi Strauss, Disney, Colgate, Zippo and others. Certainly, if you’re considering branding strategy for your business, those are some accomplished role models. Bottom line: You can profit from patriotism. Your brand name, itself, doesn’t have to scream patriotism — your logo could sport an American flag, which would evoke a good down-home image of American workers with U.S.-based jobs bolstering the economy and keeping your business going, while keeping this country strong. Go with that. The key, when brand naming and otherwise, is instilling confidence in your customers. It has been shown that consumers will be more likely to choose a brand that they associate with some type of U.S. pride and patriotism than one that doesn’t.

Confident. Unique. Memorable. Let your brand name speak for your business and set yourself up for success.

Building an All-American Brand

Building An All American Brand

If you own a business, or do marketing for one, you likely are looking to sell your brand not only locally, but in the global marketplace. For better or for worse, taking your brand online gives it the potential for worldwide customers. And, in this day and age, just about every business in the U.S. has an online presence, even if it still exists as a true brick-and-mortar business.

Why construct a brand?

It’s crucial that you build a brand for your business. Your “brand” encompasses everything about how your business is perceived by its customers. It’s not just having a snappy-looking logo or catchy slogan. Your business’ brand is what promotes recognition and association, lets customers and potential customers understand what your business stands for, generates referrals, helps you and your staff stay focused on your business’ strategy and provides value.

Your brand is encompassed by each interaction a customer has with your business, from the moment that customer visits your business, views your website or calls on the phone to the conclusion of the transaction —  the goal, of course, is that the start-to-finish experience with your brand will have been so positive that the customer becomes a repeat customer, and also a source of referral to others.

The significance of patriotism in branding

It’s been established that consumers have national pride, and that pride is reflected in their buying decisions. Especially before and after the Olympics and around holidays like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Presidents Day and Columbus Day, brands capitalize on Americans’ nostalgia and U.S. pride by selling items with American flags or American flag-themed designs or using popular Olympic athletes to promote their merchandise.

In a recent Forbes story, the example is provided of the dollar bill as a brand. The Federal Reserve is the owner of the brand, which is known and valued worldwide. It carries testimony from the most recognizable American there is, George Washington, and it states the message “In God We Trust”, which tugs at the user’s loyalties. A dollar bill is more than just currency; it has value as a brand that represents the United States and it’s as ubiquitous as the American flag, itself.

Especially when the American economy is suffering and people feel the pain of unemployment either in their own lives, in the lives of people they know or simply from seeing stories about it on the news each day, Americans put a real value on knowing that what they buy was made by a company that is giving Americans jobs. Each time you see a product label that says “Made in the USA”, on some level you’re recognizing the fact that whatever company made this item is keeping people employed on our home soil. Studies have shown that if all else is equal, a majority of Americans will choose an American-manufactured item over one from overseas if they’re aware of the distinction.

How to “Americanize” your brand

So, you see the value in expressing patriotism in your brand and products, but if you’re not manufacturing American currency, American flags or George Washington-style wigs, how do you accomplish this? For one thing, you can not only demonstrate that your products are made in America, but tell consumers that your products are made here. That’s as simple as an “About Us” on your website or an insert in your packaging. Don’t assume that people are reading every label or that they are going to actively seek this information. Most of them aren’t and won’t. But, if it’s included as part of the product or company description, it’s an added incentive to purchase your product.

Also, don’t be shy about being specific in your marketing efforts. Roberto Torres, president of men’s clothing retailer Black & Denim, told Entrepreneur that his company’s support of American jobs through suppliers that make everything from zippers to patches is evident when he talks to retailers. He lets them know that his company is helping keep jobs in this country. “We … talk to our stores about the impact that one American job has on the economy,” he said. “We market [the fact that we’re helping job growth] in the hopes that [the retailers] can become advocates for our cause.”

Be creative. Does your packaging include an organic substance raised on a farm in Texas? Well, by all means, tell the consumer about it! Are you selling a product for which the idea was borne from a need of workers on oil derricks in North Dakota? These are things that you want to market to the best of your ability, because that’s what drives home the concept that your company, your brand, your product is patriotic. And that’s what the U.S. consumer wants to see.

The world is shrinking every day, but your brand doesn’t have to. Part of being a successful businessperson is taking what you have and using it to your best advantage; if you own an American-based business, regardless of size, not using that fact as part of your brand could be missing out on an opportunity. The next time you gaze out the window at an American flag flying high on its flag pole, consider what that means to you. Then remember that it means something to your customers, too, and work it into your brand in the strongest, most effective way possible.