Unlock Success with These 9 Business Principles for Small Businesses Owners

A chef works on the computer in her small business kitchen

If you have ever sketched growth strategies on napkins or envisioned your small business as the next big success story, you know how thrilling a good idea can be.

Envision blending some of your entrepreneurial inspiration with a fresh wave of business knowledge. And consider the potential of learning from like minds, from ambitious entrepreneurs who’ve already achieved their dreams or who are on their way, with goals similar goals to yours. What would that do for you? What would that do for your business?

Cue the choir chanting Hallelujah, right? Sometimes all you need to thrive is some foundational business knowledge you can pair with your existing understanding of the business.

Beginning (or resuming) your educational journey just might hold the key to unlocking a tremendous amount of untapped business potential.

Check this list of fundamental business principles that all small business owners will want to get right and see which ones you might already know.

9 Fundamental principles for small business success

Whether your business involves selling furniture, repair services or yogurt, these essential business principles can help you strengthen your business. This forms the bedrock of the business world.

1. Provide a solution

The larger the problem you solve, the larger your business could be. But are you solving a big enough problem?1 Ensure that the issue you aim to solve is genuinely in need of a solution and that those who gain from it would value that enough to invest in.

Many small business owners invest time and resources in crafting a product or service without a viable market (or one that's too small). Conduct thorough market research to precisely identify your target audience and determine if they're willing to pay for the solution you're presenting.1

2. Gather the right team

Gathering the right team holds immense significance for small business owners.

A skilled team brings diverse expertise to the table, enriching decision-making and problem-solving. Each team member contributes to the business's success and development, filling gaps in knowledge and skills and collectively driving innovation.

In a small business environment, you only have so many people working with you. So, it’s even more important that those people contribute to success.

A fortified team can foster a positive work environment, boost productivity and enhance customer interactions.2 If your team understands and shares your vision, they will naturally have more buy-in.

In the competitive business landscape, having the right people on board empowers small business owners to navigate challenges and seize opportunities effectively, ensuring long-term success.

3. Offer quality and consistency

Remember small business leaders: Talent wins, trust is earned and credibility is consistent.

For small business owners, consistently delivering quality products or services establishes a solid reputation and lays the foundation for long-term success. Many businesses make the mistake of starting strong, then lapsing in their punctuality or quality as time goes on.

Don’t open your doors until you are ready to deliver, and make sure you have a plan in place to keep delivering when problems arise. Now do this over and over, consistently without fail.

This is how you earn customer trust. You need to consistently meet or exceed their expectations (including excellent customer service) – which may also generate positive referrals and reviews.

Simply put: High-quality product/service = happy customers = more business

If you get sick, lose an employee or experience financial setbacks and suddenly stop fulfilling your orders or obligations, customers will get scarce. Build backup plans into your plans.

4. Learn your customer

Learning your customer (or knowing your audience) is another instrumental business principle that all small business owners must take into account for continued success.3

Customer understanding allows business owners to tailor their products, services and experiences to precisely match customer needs and preferences. The best owners pay strict attention to their customer's interactions.

Get very familiar with your customer's perspectives and pain points. Doing this, small business owners can anticipate shifts in demand, identify trends and seize opportunities that might otherwise go unnoticed.3

This customer-centric approach not only enhances customer satisfaction but also builds brand loyalty (trust!) and could generate more positive word-of-mouth.

And insights gained from customer interactions can help you innovate, improving your business as you go and helping you make more strategic decisions.3

If you get this right, you could deliver exceptional value and create lasting relationships that contribute towards your growth and success.

5. Know your vision and stick to your mission (and vice versa)

Small business owners like you must know their vision and mission inside and out and rely on them as guiding lights.

Meticulously knowing these elements can provide clarity regarding your business's purpose and direction. Your vision acts as a compass, helping your business navigate challenges and stay on course even amidst uncertainties. Your mission acts as your motor. The why you're even "navigating" somewhere in the first place. What is your main objective? What are you setting out to accomplish?

When small business owners are intimately connected to their mission and vision, they can create a strong foundation for growth, resilience and the realization of their aspirations.

6. Adhere to ethics

This is as simple as it is complex: Don't harm people, animals or the planet, in any way, ever. And don't break any laws.

It's not all about profit and positive cash flow – now more than ever – you need to weave ethics into your core principles of business. This is something consumers and customers increasingly pay attention to (especially the kind of customers who gravitate toward small businesses in the first place).

Operating with integrity and strong ethical values establishes a foundation of trust with customers, partners and the community.4 Ethical behavior not only builds a strong reputation but also creates a positive work environment and fosters employee morale.

Ethical decision-making helps small business owners contribute to the sustainability of their businesses and the well-being of their stakeholders. Ethical conduct ensures fairness, transparency and accountability, enhancing relationships and promoting long-term success.4

In a world where values are closely observed, aligning actions with ethical principles not only safeguards a business's future but also reflects the owner's commitment to responsible and conscientious entrepreneurship.

7. Think big - but keep it simple

Balancing big thinking with simplicity is another crucial aspect needed for your small business to thrive.5 Envisioning ambitious business goals sparks innovation and growth aspirations, propelling the business to new heights or helping to set a clear direction. However, translating these ambitions into practical, straightforward strategies and actions is the real trick.

A balanced approach allows for effective resource allocation, streamlined operations and better communication within your team. This approach minimizes complexity, enabling your business to remain agile and responsive.5

Ultimately, thinking big while keeping things simple allows small business owners to harness innovation and ambition while ensuring that every step taken is purposeful, achievable and aligned with the overall vision.

8. Learn from failure and raise the bar

Learning is a lifelong dance for most business owners (if not all). A significant aspect of business leadership involves encountering failures. And just like failures in life – what is most important is how you respond.

Failure, when viewed constructively as a learning opportunity, offers useful insights. Learn from what went wrong and build your business into a better place going forward.

Consistently striving for excellence may elevate your business standards, setting a benchmark for growth and progress. And embracing failure as a stepping-stone and consistently pushing the boundaries ensures that you remain agile, adaptable and positioned for long-term success in the ever-evolving marketplace.

Failure can help you focus your efforts, sharpen your acumen and uncover more opportunities for success. So, don't give up if you encounter failure – just try to reframe how you think about it.

9. Be kind and fair

The importance of small business owners practicing kindness and fairness cannot be overstated.6

Surely it’s good to be kind and fair generally. But for small business owners, these qualities are even more important to build up your small team of employees and your community.

Treating employees, customers and stakeholders with respect fosters trust, loyalty and a strong sense of community. And fairness in decision-making ensures transparency and helps promote equal opportunities, contributing to employee morale and overall success.6

Exercising power arbitrarily is a quick way to alienate your employees – avoid that. Instead, establish an open system where kindness and fairness are ingrained into your company culture.

How education can empower small business owners

As you can see, these business principles have lots of implications for a small business. Since you are already probably wearing ten different hats in your business, it can be hard to make time to really apply this stuff.

But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure—especially in a market where so many businesses are struggling. 

A good business program will guide you through crucial aspects of business such as finance, marketing, operations and strategic planning. This knowledge could equip you to navigate challenges more skillfully and handle tasks more efficiently.

One thing many people don’t realize about business education is how many options are out there. You can of course look into business degree programs. But there are also faster options like a business certificate that help you formalize your understanding of marketing, finances and management. This program can be completed in as few as 9 months.7

Ready to raise the bar?

For small business owners, returning to school can feel daunting. How could you possibly make time?

But programs like Rasmussen University’s business certificate were made for people like you—working adults who need a manageable, online education option to advance their business knowledge.

If these business principles sound interesting to you, you’d be fascinated by what you can learn in a business program--not to mention the network of like-minded professionals you can build!

Feeling fired up? Explore our Online Business Certificate program and get more details about the cost of tuition, the courses you’d take and the results you could look for.

1T Tyler. LinkedIn. What problem does your business solve and is that problem big enough? Date accessed 8/11/23. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-problem-does-your-business-solve-big-enough-tom-tyler/

2S OWOLABI. LinkedIn. How Organizational Leaders Can Foster a Positive Work Environment. Date accessed 8/11/23. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-organizational-leaders-can-foster-positive-work-samuel-owolabi/

3K Pezel. Medium.com. Understanding Target Audiences is Critical for Small Businesses. Date accessed: 8/12/23. https://medium.com/upskilling/understanding-target-audiences-is-critical-for-small-businesses-37242a929844

4C Baker. Leaders. What Are Ethical Values in Business? Date accessed: 8/11/23. https://leaders.com/articles/company-culture/ethical-values/

5C J Amobi. LinkedIn. Embracing the Power of Simplicity: Balancing Complexity and Clarity for Effective Decision-Making. Date accessed 8/12/23. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/embracing-power-simplicity-balancing-complexity-johnbosco-amobi/

6Allen-Paisant. LinkedIn. 6 reasons why being kind in business is your key to success. Date accessed: 8/12/23. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/6-reasons-why-being-kind-business-your-key-success-allen-paisant/

7Completion time is dependent on transfer credits accepted and the number of courses completed each term.

About the author

Robbie Gould

Robbie is a content writer for Rasmussen University. He researches and writes on a variety of topics and is passionate about storytelling, learning and empowering the next generation of students.

Robbie Gould smiles at the camera with a blue light and a grass meadow behind him

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