Advice from the Experts: Priming Your Small Business for Big Success

You are your business.

As founder of Supersonic Creative, David Hayman, says, "You're staking your livelihood and, frankly, your life on yourself, so believe in yourself, work harder than everybody else, and do what you do better than anyone else in the market." Respected venture capitalists Ken and Ben Lerer argue that they tend to see the weakest returns when they get more energized by an idea than they do by the entrepreneur behind it. The face of your business as an entrepreneur is your face. Wear it well.

Understand that it's not good enough to be the best.

You may be great, but you also have to be really good at staying ahead of the curve. Hayman says, "Be the solution today, and the answer tomorrow." Figure out how to sell the future while also being happy with your present. This will take soul searching, some financial discipline, and this next piece of advice.

Recognize that business is about more than financial reward.

Do something that drives you, something you must do, something that makes you feel good and something you'd actually like to use. Customers can make tireless and passionate CEOs. Be a customer - you'll stay committed to delivering superior products and services at lower costs, since you appreciate quality and a good deal as much as the next guy.

Business may be about more than financial reward, but you still need money.

So, keep it coming in. Brad Nathan, President of Lynx Equity, says, "Work closely and honestly with your bankers and they will become your best friends. Don't wait for them to call you on a problem, call them first. Nobody likes surprises." The same applies to all of your investors. Be honest, fair and forthcoming. Your investors are helping to make your dreams come true so don't be too difficult.

Accountability makes business stronger

Peter Tolnai, President of Orchard Capital, asks the businesses he works with to craft one-year business plans and monthly financial forecasts. He believes businesses operate more effectively when they're accountable to outside stakeholders, such as boards of directors, investors, or advisors. Be accountable and give your stakeholders a reason to care. Motivated advisors can help you recover from pitfalls or avoid them altogether. The more motivated your advisors, your board and your employees, the more successful your business is likely to become. If you're looking for ways to motivate those around you, two books worth skimming are Wharton Professor Adam Grant's Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, and Daniel Pink's To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others. Look them up.

Finally, when things don't go as planned, the illustrious Jen Agg, owner of Toronto hotspots The Black Hoof, Cocktail Bar, and Rhum Corner, has sage advice. She says, understand when it's time to pivot your business and then get ahead of the story. Don't avoid the media, engage them to help create the story you're excited about telling. Sometimes business is about control. Seize it.

Hilary Doyle is a freelance broadcaster, writer and humourist based in Toronto. She has worked as a field reporter, writer and producer for BNN, CTV, CTV News Channel, The Marilyn Denis Show, CBC Radio, and CBC's The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos. She co-created, wrote, and starred in Stock & Awe, a scripted business comedy for BNN and CTV. Hilary holds a BSc in theatre from Northwestern University, with a concentration in global business, and a master's degree in International Business Law from the University of Toronto.