5 Early Signs of Small Business Success

Emily Thompson
One of the signs of a successful business is having a happy customer

I’ll never forget the first payment I received for a writing job. I opened the mailbox and saw a sizeable check — just enough to purchase a new computer.

Within days, I had a brand new iMac sitting on my desk. To me, this check was an early sign of business success.

But what does success look like for other small business owners?

Signs You’re Building a Successful Business

Are you getting a business off the ground and wondering what the future holds? If so, here are 5 early signs your business is on the up and up.

  1. You’re making a profit.

    Facebook comment screenshot 1 Source: Andrew Randall, Owner and Founder, Arand Media

    This might be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many businesses spend more than they earn. Sure, there are under-performing quarters, but overall, you should earn more than you spend.

    Look back on last year’s statements — can you say your profit exceeded your losses? Ideally, you want to see your annual profit grow each year. If you do, you can honestly say your business is financially successful.

    If you don’t keep track of your revenue streams and spending, start now. It’s easy to sign up for a service like Freshbooks Accounting ($15 - $50/month) or Intuit Quickbooks Online ($10 - $60/month). Personally, I use Freshbooks to send invoices to customers and track expenses. And, on a monthly basis, I check Freshbooks reporting to see if I’ve dipped in the red or if my profit is growing.

  2. Customers find you.

    I love it when someone finds my website and sends an email. This means they’ve discovered my business on their own, read samples, and feel convinced enough to work with me. If I don’t have to sell them on my writing style, I must be doing something right.

    That’s not to say traditional marketing and sales techniques aren’t important. But, it’s great to have a reputation that sells itself. To help customers find you on their own:

    • Focus on search engine optimization (SEO). One of the key ways customers will find your business is via Google. Learn what your customers are searching for — and then use those phrases in your web content. Google will prioritize your website if you use relevant keywords and offer updated and useful content.

    In fact, I recently wrote a blog post titled, “What are the Dos and Don’ts of a Small Business Website?” Check it out to read more SEO tips.

    • Offer an outstanding product and experience. Word-of-mouth marketing is powerful. So are online reviews. That’s because today’s customers shop differently. They use the Internet and talk to friends to find their own solutions, rather than rely on traditional advertisements.

    Think about it. When was the last time you went to a new restaurant without reading online reviews first? I rely on Yelp to find everything — from dry cleaners, to hair stylists, to electricians, and spas. If you give your customers a memorable product and service, they’ll speak on your behalf. And, new customers will find you.

  3. You have more work than you can handle.

    Ok, this one is hard for me — but it is a true sign of success. When you have more work than you can handle, your business is thriving.

    If you’re in this situation now, there are ways to tackle the workload without burning out or letting customers go. Consider investing in a contractor (to help short-term) or a full-time employee (if you think the workload will stay heavy). It’s worth it to get help. You don’t want the quality of your work to suffer or to disappoint customers.

    Alternatively, adjust the deadline or scale back the scope of work. Explain that you’re booked this month, but you’d love to help out next month. If your customer can wait, offer a coupon deal or another incentive. You might be surprised at how many people are willing to wait — especially if they’re sold on your services.

  4. You can say no to customers.

    This goes hand-in-hand with having more work than you can handle. But, your business is successful if you can turn down customers that aren’t the right fit.

    This used to give me so much anxiety, especially early on. Then I realized I was better off being honest and polite — and then pointing a customer in a different direction. The truth is, not every customer is good for your business. You might say no to someone if:

    • You don’t offer what they’re looking for.
    • You don’t have the capacity to provide work for them right now.
    • You’re concerned they might not pay you on time (or at all).
    • You sense they might be difficult to work with.
    • The project doesn’t align with your business mission and vision.

    Any of these reasons are valid. Remember, it’s okay to turn down business that isn’t the right fit. And, if you can turn business down without batting an eyelash, it’s a sign you have enough on your plate anyway.

  5. You enjoy your work (and your employees do too).

    Facebook comment screenshot 2 Source: Sara Mitov, Facebook Group Member of Business Owners, Entrepreneurs and Start-Ups

    Whether you work solo or with a small team, attitude speaks volumes. If you and your employees enjoy coming to work, it’s an early sign of business success. Excitement and belief in a product show through to customers. Plus, it boosts productivity. On the other hand, a toxic culture with unhappy employees eventually implodes.

    To make sure your employees are satisfied:

    • Offer an anonymous survey. Then use the results to make improvements.
    • Show your appreciation with fun team events and acknowledgments.
    • Staff your company appropriately to avoid employee burnout.

    If you’re a solo entrepreneur, keep your own job satisfaction in check!

    Facebook comment screenshot 3 Source: Emilian Chekenski, Facebook Group Member of Business Owners, Entrepreneurs and Start-Ups.

    • Take regular breaks to clear your mind.
    • Stay inspired by attending industry events.
    • Set attainable goals and work toward them each day.

    And if you haven’t seen early signs of success yet — hang in there. It can take time to get a business up and running. Stay persistent. Keep your head up. And check back in another quarter or year.

    You might be surprised at how much you’ve accomplished in just a little time!

About the author

Emily Thompson
Emily Thompson
I earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (go Bucky). After realizing my first job might involve carrying a police scanner at 2 am in pursuit of “newsworthy” crimes, I decided I was better suited for freelance blogging and marketing writing. Since 2010, I’ve owned my freelance writing business, EST Creative. When I’m not penning, doodling ideas, or chatting with clients, you’ll find me hiking with my husband, baby boy, and 2 mischievous mutts.

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