Thanks to certain tax breaks and credits offered by 2018's Tax Cut and Jobs Act, more and more people are forming businesses today.
According to a study by LendingTree, entrepreneurs started more than 3.6 billion businesses in 2020, which continues to be an upward trend.
Here's what thriving business owners recommend for your startup success.
1. Be passionate.
Starting and maintaining a successful business is hard work. You're more likely to sustain the effort required if you love what you do or why you're doing it.
"Building a business in an area that you are passionate about will likely lead to greater success, fulfillment, and long-term happiness," says Jay Arcata, a partner at BX3, a firm that provides services to startups.
2. Test your concept.
Intuition is good, but it's not enough. Shaun Price, head of customer acquisition at nutritional supplement marketer MitoQ, recommends validating the product or idea with your network before taking it too far.
"This small-scale test of your idea will also help you iron out any kinks in your business plan before taking it to scale with strangers," he says.
3. Leverage startup programs.
SCORE, funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), is a network of retired volunteer business mentors who guide startups at no cost. SBA-funded Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) located around the country help start and develop small businesses with no-cost consulting and low-cost training.
4. Create a business plan.
Because creating a small business plan forces you to get specific about your concept and how you will structure, operate, fund, and sustain the business, it's an essential part of your startup process.
"Successful business stories almost always begin with intricate preparation and predictions based on truly knowing the industry inside and out," says Kevin Miller, co-founder and CEO of digital marketing agency GR0. He adds, "The majority of successful business owners we witness studied their competition and the need for their product or service in the industry thoroughly to build out their plan."
5. Hire wisely.
While many business experts encourage new entrepreneurs to focus less on hiring based on skills and more on workplace-culture fit, others recommend working with freelancers as much as possible, especially in the early stages.
"The moment we began outsourcing for the best talent on the market was the moment we broke through the ceiling," says Gerald Lombardo, co-founder of The Word Counter, an online tool.
6. Set goals.
How will you know if you've succeeded if you haven't defined success? Goals will help with that while guiding how you use your time.
"By taking the time upfront to chart a course for yourself, staying focused on impactful activities becomes easier, and saying no to distractions becomes a habit," says Carlos Castelán, founder of The Navio Group, a retail management consulting firm.
7. Have a well-defined niche.
It's counter-intuitive, but the more specific you are with your target audience, the more successful you'll be. A focused, narrow niche allows you to reach more of the right people with the right message—and without waste.
"You can always branch out and expand after, but if you don't gain a foothold in one niche market, you may never get the cash flow and profits to survive long enough to expand," says Biron Clark, founder and CEO of job search advice website Career Sidekick.
8. Be agile.
If you're locked into a business model or approach, you will lack the agility needed to pivot as the market or industry changes.
Eropa Stein, founder and CEO of Hyre, a shift employee scheduling software company, had to pivot quickly to survive during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sales tanked when the brand's core customers—hotels, catering companies, and event venues—had to shut down. By targeting a new market, namely, companies managing frontline staff schedules, Hyre was able to stay afloat, she says.
9. Nurture customer relationships.
Alex Berman, the founder of lead-generation firm Email10k.com, attributes his company's success to focusing on providing a personalized customer experience that offers value.
Start with customer relationship management software that allows you to maintain specifics on all customers, he says. This informs business decision-making and helps leaders structure offers that will resonate with those customers.
He also recommends asking customers for feedback and constructive criticism.
"This will give you a good idea about what they want from your company, which will help you meet their needs profitably," he adds.
10. Find support.
"Always keep like-minded people close to you," says Jake Jorgovan, founder and CEO of Lead Cookie.
He relies on a small group of entrepreneurs and friends for brainstorming, feedback, and constructive criticism, but also to keep him on track. "A support network of fellow entrepreneurs gives you a sense of accountability more than anything else," he adds.
Nobody said that startup success would come easily, but heeding the advice of these entrepreneurs and others like them will help move you closer to your goals.