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What makes a business successful?

Find out why most successful businesses share many of the same characteristics and read practical tips on how you can help bring success to your own business.

While there’s no exact science to identifying how any thriving business has achieved its success, there are typically a number of characteristics that most successful business tend to have.

We examine some of them below, and provide some practical tips on how you can help give your own business the best possible chance of success.


Great customer service

It’s fair to say that no business will become successful without having high-quality customer service. But what is customer service exactly?

Though there are different interpretations of what customer service entails, generally speaking it’s the help, support and all-round service that you, as a business, give your customers directly when they buy from you. It usually involves a human connection, whether that’s face-to-face interaction with staff in store, or an adviser providing advice over the phone or on your website, for example.

Customer service begins as soon as you have your first contact with the customer. That might be them entering your store in person, or making an enquiry with you via phone or email. It continues for as long as they consider making a purchase, the buying process itself, and any support they might need once they’ve bought a product or service from you. It also includes your complaints process.

Good customer service should be one of your business’ main priorities, if it isn’t already. Not only does it allow you to build a base of loyal customers but it can increase your revenue, as customers who are faithful to your brand tend to spend with you more often.

Practical tips for your business – customer service

It doesn’t always matter if your product or service is more expensive than that of your competitors. If you consistently provide great customer service, people will return to your business time and time again.

Assess your current standard of customer service and look for ways to make improvements. Can you say it’s as good as, or better, than the service your competitors provide?

If you decide to make changes, consider that this will likely involve some investment in the business, whether that’s through retraining your employees, offering better delivery, or speeding up your processes for responding to customer enquiries, for example.

Read more:


Strong leadership and motivated staff

Another attribute of successful businesses is that they typically have an effective leader at the helm. Someone who:

  • leads by example
  • sets the tone as far as the company’s values and culture are concerned
  • creates an environment in which employees not only feel valued and motivated but able to work productively and to the best of their ability

A strong leader encompasses a number of different characteristics. But one essential attribute is clear and effective communication. Being a skilled communicator does rely on having the ability to speak clearly and coherently in order to get across ideas and influence other team members. Equally important, however, is the ability to listen, understand and then act decisively.

Effective communication also involves openness and transparency. Employees not only expect their bosses and managers to lead by example, but look to them for direction, clarity, encouragement and reassurance too.

It doesn’t really pay for a leader to hold back on sharing information about important goings-on within the business – specific targets, aims and strategies – when in all likelihood this will do more harm than good to the business’ productivity and overall success.

Practical tips for your business – leadership

Leading a team of employees requires trust, and often the best way for you, as a leader, to foster that feeling is to create strong, personal connections with the people working under you. There are different approaches to building trust, but one might involve getting to know your staff on a more ‘human’ level.

By considering their general personality and character at work, while talking to them about their interests, hobbies and life outside of the workplace, you could gain valuable insight into their ambitions, preferences and motivations and use that to inform your style of leadership. Every employee is different and might require their own personalised treatment.

Even if your business is a one-person venture, with you as its sole employee, understanding what makes good leadership could be the difference between the business succeeding and failing.

Read more:


Effective marketing

Marketing is vital to any business’ success. Without making people aware of your brand and the goods or services you offer, it’s unlikely you’ll make enough sales to sustain your business over the long term.

Anything you do to develop, promote and sell your products or services is considered marketing. That might be through advertising, customer service or public relations (PR), for example.

Good marketing has a number of advantages:

  • It promotes your company by establishing your brand and exposing your products or services to customers who want to buy them.
  • It increases your sales, both to existing customers and people who are new to your company.
  • It helps you build a base of loyal customers who will keep coming back to spend money with you.
  • It allows your business to compete with other, more established brands, aiding your growth in the process.

Practical tips for your business – marketing

However you choose to market your business, it really helps to devise a clear and detailed marketing plan first.

As part of this planning, consider ways to take advantage of as many marketing channels – newsletters, social media, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, for example – as you can. Using a number of different channels is one very useful way to attract more customers to your business.

And measure each channel’s success so you can tweak and reallocate your budget and make sure you’re spending your marketing money in the most efficient way.

Read more:


Setting the right goals

Most successful companies are ambitious and target-driven, setting themselves both short-term and long-term goals.

Short-term goals are those targets, likely set down in your business plan, that detail what your business aims to achieve in the next week, the next month and/or the next quarter. Monitoring and measuring those goals, and your progress towards meeting them, ensures you stand a better chance of hitting your targets by the end of the year.

Long-term business goals look further into the future, typically in periods of years. They help crystallise not only what the business is wanting to achieve over time, but what you, as the business’ owner or leader, want to get out of the venture from a personal point of view. Examples might include:

  • expanding the business into new opportunities or industries
  • listing the company on a public stock exchange
  • exiting the business for some kind of personal financial gain

Setting goals for your business isn’t something you do once and then forget about. It’s an ongoing process of testing and refinement, covering everything from the revenue you’re looking to generate to the quality of service you want to offer, and your future plans for growth and expansion, for example.

Practical tips for your business – setting goals

If you have a long-term goal that isn’t practical or achievable, or might be counting against your business, don’t hesitate to change it. Every target you set should be serving the business, not harming its chances of success.

Read more:

  • Setting business aims and objectives – learn how to set short-term and long-term goals, create a mission statement, and use PESTEL and SWOT tools to determine your business’ objectives.


Learn with Start Up Loans and help get your business off the ground

Thinking of starting a business? Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on being an entrepreneur.

Our free  Learn with Start Up Loans courses opens in new window include:

Plus free courses on finance and accounting, project management, and leadership.


Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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