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Begin with Your Passion — Plus 7 More Small Business Tips

by Kevin Carter, Staples

Small business owners like you know that the root of a successful business doesn't stem from simply wanting to own a business — great small business ideas grow from passion.

That’s how Square, the company that allows small businesses to accept credit cards via mobile devices, began. CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey and his partners wondered why, in the mobile age, transactions couldn't be as easy and frictionless as communications. From that idea, Square was born.

Consider Doug Povich, whose passion for lobster became the end of his law career. As co-owner of Red Hook Lobster Pound in Washington, D.C., he has launched two food trucks that offer succulent Maine lobster to area residents. The business had a line of “literally 300 people on the first day,” says Povich.

Povich and Dorsey both sat on a panel with Brian Sykora of Pleasant Pops, Mark Warmuth of Swing’s Coffee and Karen Mills, administrator for the Small Business Administration, at the SBA’s National Small Business Week, cosponsored by Staples. Here are seven of the top takeaways for small businesses from the event:

1. Streamline for Success: Povich encourages entrepreneurs to focus on one thing and do it really well for optimum results. Cut down on unnecessary processes and avoid getting distracted by anything outside your area of focus.

2. Value Your Team: According to Dorsey, the biggest realization he has had over the years is the importance of the people he works with every day. Fostering strong relationships with colleagues can help small business owners achieve great results.

3. Create Great Communication: Dorsey also noted that it’s essential for every group within a company to communicate clearly and efficiently with every other group. "In every single meeting we have [at Square], someone takes notes, and the notes are sent to the entire company," he said.

4. Get a Mentor: The value of finding a mentor was a strong theme throughout National Small Business Week. Mills recommended businesses take advantage of the SBA’s mentoring program. Warmuth agreed: "If you can find that mentor, I highly suggest it."

5. Harness Technology: For small businesses, technology levels the playing field, said Mills. From raising funds to increasing efficiency and marketing your business, technology can be a big help. While it can be difficult to ask friends and family for capital to start a business, sites like Kickstarter can help, suggested Sykora.

6. Engage with Your Customers: Nearly all panelists noted the value of building long-term relationships with customers and the power of social media to help businesses engage with fans. Povich said that Twitter has been and continues to be instrumental in helping him build a community of loyal followers.

7. Ask Why: Dorsey also offered this pointed advice: Always ask why. Asking why is crucial for small business owners — it helps to expose areas of opportunity and new avenues for following their passion.

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