Opening a small business on your own is an intimidating venture — especially since, the Small Business Administration reports, only half of small businesses survive five years or more.

Even with the odds seemingly stacked against entrepreneurs, there are some ways to bump up your chances for long-lasting success.

According to David Minnich, the local owner of a direct marketing Money Mailer franchise, it is important to begin with realistic expectations and relationship-building to set a strong foundation on which your new business concept can thrive.

In his own first year and a half in business, Minnich was able to see a 41 percent growth in incoming business.

For small-business owners looking to achieve similar success, entrepreneurs should keep the following tips in mind:

1. Create a business plan that matches your lifestyle

Opening a new business can be overwhelmingly stressful. Align your business plan with your lifestyle in order to find the sweet spot of productivity that will breed success without consuming you. For example, lay out a week-by-week schedule for yourself that you know you can keep pace with.

If you tend to get caught up in day-to-day aspects, schedule time twice a month to sit down for a few hours to home in on the big-picture items that may be getting pushed to the back burner.

On the other hand, if your strong suit is focusing on the big picture and long-term goals, make sure you’ve hired a strong management team to run your day-to-day operations. When you create a business plan that syncs up with your personality, you’re more likely to stick to it.

2. Form strategic partnerships in your community

They say it takes a village to raise a child — in some ways, it takes one to raise a business, too. The health of your relationship with other local businesses and community members can be vital to your success. Whether these relationships are based on business or friendship, they can lead to a smoother and quicker transition into the community.

Sponsoring a local 5K or donating to a local charity during your opening months are great ways to introduce yourself to a variety of groups in your market, as well as to familiarize yourself with other business owners in the area.

3. Understand your market

When researching your local market, go beyond population size and median income. What are consumers in your market buying, eating, and watching? How many schools are there? How many churches, restaurants?

The better you understand your community and the people who live in it, the more you will be able to understand how your product or service fits into the local business scene and how it can improve the lives of the area’s residents.

Analyzing local consumer trends and data can not only give you an edge over competitors, but will help guide you towards your initial target market and strengthen your marketing efforts.

4. Home business vs. brick and mortar

With the popularity of home-based businesses on the rise (about half of businesses are operated primarily from someone’s home), this can be a viable option for new entrepreneurs. While the comforts of home can seem distracting, there are several benefits of home-based businesses that entrepreneurs should put into consideration before signing a lease.

Owning a home business will cut obvious overhead renting costs, but an additional way to use your home as a work space is to make the most of tax benefits. Home business owners can deduct a percentage of household payments as business expenses, including property taxes, utilities, repairs, maintenance and, most importantly, one’s mortgage.

Not needing a brick and mortar location equates to a smaller overall investment and lower expenses, making work-from-home opportunities highly attractive to those of almost any background. If your business does not require a storefront, a home-based business may be the way to go.

5. Build lasting relationships with clients

Not only is it six to seven times more expensive for a business to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.

This is where the importance of relationship building comes full circle — if customers trust, respect, and feel welcomed by you, they are more likely to choose your business over others. Because your presence is necessary for a lasting customer relationship, be available in-store or over the phone as much as possible.

As a direct marketing expert, Minnich understands what it takes to grow a small business fast in a local community.

“Let people know who you are,” said Minnich. “Be aggressive, but have fun in those early stages and find what works best for you. The relationships and loyal customers are soon to follow.”

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