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September is a time of transition, bringing with it a change of seasons and a return to school for students of all ages. For business owners, the post-Labor Day period often feels like a new beginning, an opportunity to shift gears and refocus with renewed energy and motivation.

As an entrepreneur, there is a lot you can learn from back-to-school season. Here are five school-inspired strategies that will help you get back into a business mindset and clarify your priorities for the rest of the year.

1 – There is Always Something New to Learn

Learning is not limited to acquiring knowledge in a school classroom. It takes place on an ongoing basis as result of our daily interactions and experiences. Learning to run a business does not stop when you reach a certain milestone. Making a life-long commitment to deepening your knowledge and sharpening your skills is essential to building a solid foundation for long-term success.

Be open to continuing your education with the help of experts inside and outside of your industry. Participate in professional development trainings, take online courses, or subscribe to industry publications on and offline. In today’s rapidly changing world, businesses must shift gears in response to changing customer needs. Be sure to evaluate your products and services regularly with an eye towards how to best serve your clients.

2 – Do Your Homework

Small business success is never guaranteed, but doing your “homework” can help improve the odds. If you’re starting a business, this means thoroughly researching the fundamentals such as your business structure, financial options, target market, and competition so you can put a solid business plan in place before you open your doors.

A one-page business plan is ideal for entrepreneurs who are in the early stages of formulating a new business idea. Working through a simple, one-page plan will allow you to explore different ideas in a format that is quick and easy to adjust. If your small business is up and running, a one-page business plan simplifies the planning process and creates a tool that lets you make changes easily as the year unfolds.

September is the perfect time for established small business owners to review their current plan and evaluate where they stand relative to the goals they set for the year. Make sure your financials are up to date so you have a clear picture of the current state of your business. If you struggle to stay on top of your bookkeeping, make the switch to an accounting software program for small businesses. These systems are designed to help speed up cash flow, reduce costs, simplify budgeting, and improve efficiency to ultimately help your business grow.

3 – You Can Never Be Too Prepared

When it comes to running your business, there is no such thing as over-preparing. While it is impossible to anticipate every conceivable crisis, it is important to consider the situations that are likely to have the greatest impact and determine how you will respond to them.

For example, how will you make payroll if you experience cash flow problems? What will you do if a senior team member becomes ill or suddenly leaves the company? How will you continue to operate if a flood or fire severely damages your warehouse? Advance planning will make it easier for you and your team to navigate any crisis, large or small.

The best insurance your small business can have for recovering from an unplanned, costly event is to have an emergency fund in place. However, there may times when the financial challenge exceeds available funds. Summit Financial Resources specializes in working capital financing for small businesses, with lending programs designed to give you flexibility and fast access to cash so you can cover operating expenses and pay your employees and suppliers during any emergency.

Preparation is also key when you’re establishing a business structure. Choosing the legal structure for your company is one of the most important decisions you will make when starting your business. It will impact how much you pay in taxes, your personal liability, the amount of paperwork and accounting you’re required to do, and your ability to raise money. Research which structure will work best for your business and go through the necessary steps to launch your business.

4 – Go for Extra Credit

One advantage small businesses have over larger competitors is their ability to connect with their clients or customers on a personal level. As the customer experience continues to become a key differentiator for businesses and organizations across all industries, providing top-notch customer service has never been more critical. According to research compiled by Salesforce, 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience when they engage with a brand, from visiting the company’s website to connecting via their social media channels.

While you may already be committed to going the extra mile for your customers, it could be time to raise the bar as you head into the holiday season. Talk to your customers to learn more about them and what they want. Respond immediately to questions and concerns, and follow up consistently to determine if your products or services are meeting their needs. Don’t forget to thank them for their business. Friendly interactions, whether face-to-face, over the phone, or via email, will keep you top of mind and are often the key to generating repeat business or new sales.

5 – View Failure as an Opportunity

In school and in business, one misstep is not a reason to give up or abandon a plan. Whether it’s a philosophy exam or a branding strategy, lack of success can be a valuable learning experience.

Take the time to figure out what went wrong and why. Use the knowledge gained from your mistakes to regroup and try again. If taking immediate steps to course correct is not an option, trust that the new information you’ve gathered or the insights you’ve gained will be put to good use when a new – and better – opportunity comes your way.

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Summit Financial Resources specializes in working capital financing for small to medium-sized businesses that need increased cash flow. We provide working capital financing through invoice factoring, asset-based lending, inventory lending, and equipment financing.