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This article was originally published in the February 2012 edition of the Sauk Valley Sun, which serves Dixon, Sterling and Rock Falls (Illinois).

I do not pretend to know all the answers to all the questions for building a successful small business. I can only take the success I and others have had in business and share with you what I consider to be integral criteria for avoiding some of the pitfalls and gravitating toward the healthy aspects of being a true winner in business. This column will attempt to accomplish that. Most successful entrepreneurs enjoy what they do. Spending up to 66% of your lifetime working on what you love to do is important. If you can be successful doing what you love to do, doing it the way you want to do it, then you are one of the lucky few. “Luck” is where preparation meets opportunity. Sometimes, we all have to go back to the basics. When something is going on in our business, which is either positively or negatively affecting it, we usually start with the basics to determine what that “something” is. It is vital to investigate where we are with our business at various intervals on a regular and consistent basis. It is very easy to lose a grasp of where we are as change is a constant. It is hard to find a business that remains “suspended in time”. Usually, most businesses are either moving forward or backward. The key is to “stay ahead of the game” and prevent your business from moving backward and (or) improve upon your business by maximizing what it is that is propelling it forward. There is always room for improvement. Most successful entrepreneurs are never satisfied with where their “bottom line” is. Planning and goal setting is essential for determining a “road map” for success. In the previous paragraph, I alluded to business basics. Five areas concerning your business basics should include who, what, where, when, and how. Of course, these will all be “subject to change”. For example, the “how” might be reflected as how you measure the success of your business at any point in time, whether it be number of units sold or amount of net revenue taken in a week or a month. The plans should remain flexible and fluid and priorities should be given for each objective. I do not know of too many successful businesses that do not have a business plan, a marketing plan, a good bookkeeper and (or) tax-accountant, and possibly an attorney. Some of the more enjoyable aspects of running a small business come when we can “tweak” or adjust certain key variables that relate to increasing our net profit. However, sometimes we need to take 2 steps back before we take 3 steps forward and look at the big picture. In this way, we can better prioritize what we need to do to bring our business closer to where we want it to go. Who better (besides the customer) to control the parameters and criteria for growing your business than you, the small business owner? Timing is important. For example, when are the most productive times for our business? Asking ourselves the tough questions can lead us to the answers we seek. Brad Monson

A monthly column in the Sauk Valley Sun signed by Brad Monson. Brad gives small business owners ideas, which can help them boost their business. The Sauk Valley Sun serves Dixon, Sterling and Rock Falls - Illinois, USA.

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