How to run a successful business

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    Chris Godfrey

    Page written by Chris Godfrey. Last reviewed on January 3, 2024. Next review due October 1, 2025.

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      More than 5 million businesses were launched in the US in 2022. They joined the millions of existing organisations that already power our economy. Some of these many businesses will fail, but many others will succeed, with some becoming giants and major household names. But what is it that makes the difference between a business that succeeds and one that doesn’t, and how can you ensure your business is in the winning circle? Read on to discover all you need to know about running a successful business.  

      How do you define ‘success’

      You hear the term ‘successful business’ quite a lot, but what does that mean? For many people, it means a  business that makes strong profits and for the owners, delivers wealth and a good lifestyle. However, the truth is, ‘success’ in business can mean many things:

      • It could mean delivering ground-breaking innovation and creating revolutionary products and services.
      • Or it may mean giving your customers the best customer experience possible.
      • For some, like non-profits, success may mean helping others and delivering on a cause or a mission.
      • Or it may just mean you get a lot of satisfaction out of what you do.

      So, success in business can mean whatever you want it to mean, but no matter what your definition is, sticking to a plan and keeping sight of your goals are essential to succeed. 

      What are the steps to running a successful business?

      Building and running a successful business is hard work and if you’re starting a new business for the first time, you should be prepared to work harder than you may have ever done before. Commitment and a determination to win are vital commodities in the race to create a successful business. If you have these, and a great idea, you may achieve your business goals, (and more). But to get you started, here are seven solid tips to get you on your way:

      1. Prioritise enhancing the customer experience

      No matter what you sell, or how you sell it, the customer experience comes first.

      Customer experience, (known as CX in business terms), is the secret sauce for business success. When your customers feel they are appreciated and your products, services, customer support, and brand positioning give them an experience they will find difficult or even impossible to get elsewhere, you create lasting brand loyalty and can drive customer retention – which reflects itself in higher sales. 

      (According to Harvard University, increasing your customer retention rate by just 5% can increase your sales by 25% to 95% depending on your business sector). 

      So what does this mean in practice? It means every element of your business proposition, from the products and services you sell and the way your website or app works, to your marketing approach and your social media communications, must be designed to give the customer an experience that’s better than your rivals. Is this easy? No, it isn’t. But if you get it right, your customers will stay with you, support you, and act as your brand ambassadors wherever they go. 

      Points to consider:

      • What are your long-term goals and visions? How do they fit into the customer experience, and where do they stand in your sector? Are you a follower, or an innovator? 

      2. Develop a compelling and impactful business concept

      This doesn’t mean just a great idea. It means the idea and everything that goes with it must make an impact that resonates in a crowded marketplace. Sometimes, you may not even need a new idea. It’s perfectly possible to take a concept that’s been around for years and then improve it, repackage it, enhance the value it delivers and the service you provide (such as a money back guarantee), and you can create a market winner. However, the key to every successful business concept is that is answers a problem. It must be the best solution to a pain point that your target audience is suffering. Be the answer your potential buyers have always been looking for and they will support you all the way.

      Points to consider:

      • Assess market demand for your products and services. What problem will you fix, and is there space for a new challenger in your sector?
      • You will do better when your idea is something you are passionate about, not just something you think might make money. Build an idea around a product or service that you truly want to invest your time and treasure in.
      • Do you research before you start – ask friends and family, organise local surveys, conduct a thorough competitive analysis – find out what your future rivals are doing (and discover where you can do it better).
      • Start your ‘community’ early. Use the power of social media to cultivate a strong network that will build as your business grows. These are your first adopters, the experimenters who will get you on the map.
      • Assemble the appropriate team to deliver your mission goals. Start with your core skills base – the people who will develop the products or services you will sell – then build a support structure around them. Customers may come first, but products and services are what keep them happy.

      3. Deliver value to your specific target audience

      Value can be determined by two things – is the product or service reasonably priced, and does it deliver a solution that’s worth more than the sum I just paid? This goes back to point 2. If you can create a compelling concept that solves a nagging problem, you’re halfway there. Next, ensure your price point is less than the perceived value of the solution you provide – for example, you provide a product or service for $20 that would have cost someone $100 to achieve before. This is called your ‘value proposition’. When it’s greater than the cost of entry, buyers will be drawn to your door. 

      Points to consider:

      • Determine optimal pricing strategies – where is the sweet spot between problem solved and price paid? Be prepared to experiment with price trials and soft launches to get this right. 
      • How does your pricing stand up against your competition? Can you extract a ‘value premium’ by being significantly better than your rivals? (Think Apple).

      4. Embrace adaptability and responsiveness

      Economies change, fashions change, technologies change, consumers change. Successful businesses ride the waves of change, adapting and responding to the shape of things to come. The business landscape is littered with the wreckage of once great companies who failed to change with the times, got left behind, and fell away. To avoid a similar fate, embed the ideas of continual development, an adaptable business model, and a willingness to change to meet evolving ing demand into your business’ DNA. Nobody ever went broke by being on trend.

      5. Demonstrate bold decision-making and innovative problem-solving

      Hesitation is the enemy of successful businesses. When you’re faced with an issue, such as a product line that’s not selling, be prepared to make the bold decisions that will deliver the best fix, and do it as soon as the issue appears, not after waiting months and hoping for a miracle that may never come. Take the same approach to problem-solving, instead of looking around to see what your competitors are doing – and they most likely haven’t fixed the same problem either – ask yourself what they haven’t done. Where’s the solution that hasn’t been tried yet? Be prepared to experiment. It may just give you the market edge that boosts your business to the next level.

      Points to consider:

      • Make constant learning a priority – for you and your team. When you have all the available knowledge, it’s easier to make the big decisions.
      • Stay in touch with your business sector, watch your competitors, observe how they tackle problems and weigh the decisions they make.
      • Don’t wait for a problem to become a crisis, be prepared to act sooner than later.

      6. Foster attentiveness and mindfulness

      This goes back to points 4 and 5 – stay alert to changes and events within your industry and your customer base. Encourage your team to do the same. One of the easiest ways to fail in business is to lose focus of your goals. Good attention is mandatory – and so is mindfulness; when you and your team are optimistic and aware, you work better together. 

      Points to consider:

      • Listen to your customers, be aware of what they want (and what they say about your business).
      • Encourage teamwork, but also urge your employees to think outside the box and develop ideas they think are worth pursuing, even if it means working alone.
      • Don’t be afraid to follow the lead of a rival if it shows promise, but keep in mind that there are few ideas that can’t be done better. How can you improve on their concept?

      7. Engage in external interactions beyond the office environment

      Building a business can be mentally and physically demanding. Keep some time for yourself. Visit friends, enjoy a sport, just get away from work on a regular basis to let your batteries recharge.  Remember… the best ideas are usually born from the experiences we encounter when we’re away from our desks.

      Always shop around for business loans and banking products

      Few businesses succeed without strong financial help. This means loans, leases, credit lines, even invested equity from lenders and financiers who understand your sector and support your business model. Shopping around to secure the best deal is essential, but finding good financial help can be difficult and time-consuming, especially for young businesses. Without expert guidance, SMEs can find themselves forever searching for finance that suits their individual needs. Instead, working with a broker who can give you access to a wide range of lenders from a single source is a better way to go. No more cold calls and endless demands for information, just tell us what you need and leave the rest to us. 

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      Written by

      Chris Godfrey

      Chris is a freelance copywriter and content creator. He has been active in the marketing, advertising, and publishing industries for more than twenty-five years. Writing for Barclays Bank, Metro Bank, Wells Fargo, ABN Amro, Quidco, Legal and General, Inshur Zego, AIG, Met Life, State Farm, Direct Line, insurers and pension funds, his words have appeared online and in print to inform, entertain and explain the complex world of consumer and business finance and insurance.

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