9 key steps to a successful business

LivelihoodsMicro Enterprise

Everyone deserves the opportunity to earn a livelihood, provide for their family and support their communities. Jobs and economic opportunities are a vital pathway out of poverty. For many people, starting a business of their own can be empowering and life-changing. However, great talent and good intentions are not necessarily a guarantee of a successful business.

How will you make your business stand out from the competition? Photo: Mark Lang
How will you make your business stand out from the competition? Photo: Mark Lang

What does a business need to succeed? 

There are a number of common skills and attributes that a successful entrepreneur and/or business will display:  

Motivation and attitude: It takes time and effort to start a new business and begin making a profit. It is important to have a clear understanding of the reason you want to start a business, and the passion and positivity to stay motivated and see the business succeed. 

Business plan: Successful businesses need to have a clear business plan, which gives an outline of the business and how it aims to achieve its goals. It needs to be simple and concise, and to show an understanding of the market (eg who you will be selling to and how many other companies are already selling similar products). It should also explain how the business aims to make money, and over what time period. 

Good record-keeping: In order to understand whether your business is on track for success, it is important to keep good records. These records will help you to manage your business on a day-to-day basis and identify potential challenges that need to be addressed. 

Organisation: Being organised will help you stay focused and complete the tasks that need to be done for your business to flourish. 

Ways of managing risk: Your business can be threatened by unpredictable weather and other forces outside your control. Find out about the likely risks you may face and ways to minimise or manage them. This will help reduce the damage they could cause to your business. 

Awareness of competition: Understand the market in which you are operating. There will be other existing businesses that will be competing with you for customers. Be creative and think about how you can make your business stand out from others. 

Consistently high-quality goods or service: Customers want to know that you will provide the same high-quality goods or service each time they visit your business. If you do this, they will be more likely to come to you again the next time! 

Ethical practice: Business success is also determined by how ethically a business conducts itself. Businesses can choose to follow environmentally responsible practices and provide fair wages and good working conditions for any employees. 

Social impact: There is a lot more to success than just financial returns. Some businesses operate as a social enterprise, which creates social as well as financial benefits. For example, the company Sanergy uses a business approach to tackle the sanitation crisis in Kenya by making hygienic toilets affordable and accessible in Nairobi’s slums. 

This article is adapted from Footsteps Magazine 103, which explores the theme of entrepreneurship and is packed with more practical advice on how to run a successful business.

Claire Hancock

Claire Hancock is Tearfund’s Global Livelihoods Lead. Email: claire.hancock@tearfund.org