William A. Ward once said, “Four steps to achievement: Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed positively. Pursue persistently.” It is a good idea to keep his words in mind while pursuing the following tips.

1. Stay current. Join an industry association related to your products and services. Subscribe to the magazines that cover your business. (They are tax deductible.) Read and research topics about your business. It’s easy on the Internet.

2. Make sure you have a financial plan. Establish a budget and a measurement process to keep track of how you are doing each month. If you don’t know where you stand financially and have no short-term and long-term financial goals, then you are just letting fate dictate your success — and we know those odds aren’t too good. Control your own destiny!

3. Cash forecasting. It sounds boring and difficult, but it’s not. Keep it simple. Look at your next three months projected income, then just lay it next to all the expenditures you need to keep the business running. The difference is your cash flow. Most businesses hit the brick wall because they fail to understand their cash flow.

4. Get an advisory board or a mentor. Sounds crazy for a small operation? It’s not! The board can be family members that you trust, or your friends. Ask them to be your board of directors and review your business plans and results with them. Having someone to bounce ideas off and getting an objective opinion is critical.

5. Maintain a balance between work, play, and family. This is critical for long-term success. We all put in crazy hours on a short-term basis to get a hot project done, but if you do this on a regular basis it is a dangerous sign that you are losing perspective. You need to be able to step away regularly and get your batteries recharged. Make time for family because, if they suffer, it is almost a sure bet your business will suffer, too.

6. Network. It’s easy to get isolated in a home business or your own small business operation. Force yourself to get out and meet with others that can provide a business support structure for you. One of the benefits of a corporation is working as part of a team and the ongoing support structure it provides. You need to create that for yourself. Don’t think you can do it all by yourself. Talking to others in business will provide you with great ideas, and it will help motivate you as well.

7. Discipline/motivation. One of the hardest aspects of a small business or home-based business is creating the discipline or motivation to work each day. It is so easy to get distracted and put off essential tasks. Keep your workplace and hours separate from the rest of your responsibilities. Develop a to-do list every day. Set goals for the week. Review how you are doing against them.

8. Don’t rest on your laurels. Be prepared to change. Force change. Look for things to do more efficiently or ways to improve your products or services. Constantly evaluate your competition and measure yourself against them.

9. Do something you love. If you are in a business that you hate, then it is a good bet you won’t be successful. Find where your true talents and skills are and get in a business that exploits them. The saying, “Do what you love, and the money will follow” is so true. Remember: Success is more attitude than aptitude. Never forget that failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.

Liraz is president of BizMove.com, an informational website for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Publication date: 07/16/2001