1. Have a written plan. Without a plan, it is merely a dream. It doesn't have to be a book, but you need a few pages outlining specific objectives, strategies, financing, a sales and marketing plan, and a determination of the cash you need to get things done. Writing it all down is a crucial first step.
2. Don't marry your plan. Every great military general in history has known that even the best-laid plan sometimes has to be thrown in the fire when the bullets start flying. Adjust, confront and conquer.
3. Keep your ego in check and listen to others. Advisors are crucial because you need people to bounce ideas off, inspect what you're doing, and push you to greater accomplishments, holding you accountable for what you are committing to do. Always be good to your word and follow through on commitments, even when difficult and challenging. This isn't about you; it's about the business. Don't take things personally and stay out of emotion. Do not let your ego take control.
4. Keep track of everything, and manage by the numbers. Create written systems for everything, because you will reap benefits from them later on. This is how you train your employees and retain consistency. Know your numbers and check them daily and make all decisions based on what they tell you. One of the most important calculations is cash flow pro forma. Determine how much cash you need to do the business, and do not start without the required cash on hand.
5. Delegate to employees and avoid micromanaging them. A manager's job is to delegate and then inspect progress. So don't be a control freak. Keep business organization flat. If you delegate effectively, you will get more and better then you expect. Have an actual written training and orientation plan so your employees know what is required of them. Use an incentive-based rewards system, and maintain a no-problem attitude about issues that crop up.
6. Use the Internet. It is incredibly powerful and very cost efficient, but it takes time and some skill. It is about creating a community, using social media networking such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and blogging to build rapport with your market. You need to get on the train and do it, because your competitors are.
7. Reinvent your business. It is net profit, not gross revenue, that you want to focus on. Separate yourself from your history and create a new competitive advantage, be it a focused niche or super service, but not by discounting.
Above all, have fun. Being an entrepreneur is your choice, so make it work. It can be done. You can survive, emerge and succeed in this downsized economy, if you follow the right path.