SCORE Small Business Blog

Secrets of High Achieving Small Businesses

How can you make your startup or existing business a success? The newest American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor offers some clues. American Express identified a group of “high achieving” small business owners within its overall survey sample and drilled down into their behavior to figure out what business tactics truly help drive business growth.

High achievers are an elite group, accounting for just 6 percent of the Small Business Monitor’s respondents. On average, these companies enjoyed business growth of 34 percent over the last three years, compared to an average of 10 percent for all survey respondents.

That’s an impressive growth rate at any time, but especially so in the tough economy of the last few years. So what are these high achievers doing differently? Whether you’re a startup or an existing business owner, there were a few areas that really stood out to me.

  • They ask for feedback.Three-fourths ask their customers for advice on how to better serve them, compared to 52 percent overall.
  • They take more risks. Over two-thirds say they have increased their appetite for risk compared with one year ago (67 percent, compared to 35 percent overall).
  • They plan for growth and make it a priority. A whopping 93 percent of high achievers say they are planning to grow their businesses over the next six months (compared to 69 percent overall). More than half say growth is their top priority (compared to 31 percent overall).
  • They invest in their businesses. Putting their money where their mouths are, more than three-quarters (78 percent) plan to make capital investments in their businesses in the next 6 months (compared to 49 percent overall).
  • They leverage social media: 70 percent use social media, compared to 49 percent overall. Almost 80 percent use it to attract new customers, compared to 57 percent overall.
  • They think positive. Over three-quarters of high achievers describe themselves as having a positive outlook and business prospects (77 percent compared to 49 percent overall); 99 percent say they see the glass as half-full.

What I notice about these “success factors” is that there’s really no excuse for not doing them, because most of them don’t cost you anything. You may not be able to invest in your business right now, but you can ask customers for feedback, use social media or create a growth plan.

What’s one more thing high achievers have in common? They ask for advice. Almost six in 10 have a business mentor (59 percent, compared to 33 percent of all respondents).

You say you don’t have a mentor? That’s one high-achiever strategy you can implement right now. Just head to the SCORE website to get matched with a mentor and get free business advice, 24/7.

Rieva LesonskyCEO, GrowBiz Media
Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. | @rieva | More from Rieva

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Discussion (2) Comment

  1. The 8 FactorsVisitor

    Impressive numbers! This proves that it’s the simple details that make the difference. Sometimes business owners get caught up in thinking that the secret to success is some inaccessible, complicated, expensive and massive process. But as you’ve stated, it really starts with simple things that we all can do.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Deborah OnganiaVisitor

    What you say is so true. In this economy it behooves every small business owner to take advantage of social media to promote their business. Free is always good! There are plenty of sites available to promote your business for little or no cost depending on the type of exposure you really need. Budgeting for marketing is something often times overlooked or under earmarked. It is important to invest in your business and take the time to educate yourself to stay current. If you remain competitive and think out of the box and are prepared, asking for feedback is a no brainer. Taking the time to listen to the feedback to effect change is critical.


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