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I come from a long line of self-employed people. The Buffini family has worked for themselves since 1769. When I went into business for myself, it was a no-brainer. I’ve worked for myself for more than 30 years, 20 at the helm of Buffini & Company. However, many small businesses don’t fare as well. In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, half of all small businesses fail within five years of opening.

Some fail because they run out of money; others because the stress of running a business takes its toll. Even more fail because they weren’t able to survive the economic stress. Whatever the reason, opening a business is a risky endeavor. However, by following these seven steps, you can create a business that defies the odds and lasts.

1. Do What You Love. They say when you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. It’s true. I feel like I haven’t worked in a long time because I love what I do and I believe in the mission of my company. If you’re thinking of starting a business, think about more than what you’re good at. Ask yourself what you enjoy doing and what you would ultimately do if you didn’t need the money.

2. Define What Makes Your Product or Service Unique. What are the top three features or benefits that set your product or service apart from the competition? Since people tend to buy emotionally, what emotional needs does it meet.

3. Promote. While the features of your product or service may be bar none, it’s the story you’re selling. Why did you create the product or service? Craft your narrative and tell it to the world.

4. Sell with Enthusiasm. Estée Lauder said, “I’ve never worked a day in my life without selling. When I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.” Enthusiasm is contagious, and when you’re excited about your product or service, others will be, too.

5. Exceed Customers’ Expectations. As a kid, I worked for my grandfather’s painting business in the summer. When we finished a job, we’d clean the windows and change the lightbulbs to highlight the new paint. My grandfather knew the paint wouldn’t look its best through dirty windows and dim lights. His philosophy was, “Can you put your name to that?”

Go above and beyond what your customers expect by noticing a need.

6. Stay in Touch. Most agents stop communicating with their clients as soon as the ink on the contract is dry. As a result, they’re always going back to square one to generate leads. If you maintain contact after the sale, provide valuable information and communicate on a consistent basis, you’ll build trust.

7. Create a Community of Advocates. When you do all of the things listed above, and you do them on a regular basis, you’ll begin to build a community of advocates who will refer you to their family and friends. When you have a strong community of support, you strengthen your business to survive and thrive.

When you adhere to these timeless principles, you increase your chances of defying the odds to achieve success.

Brian was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, and immigrated to San Diego in 1986 where he became the classic American rags to riches story. After becoming one of the nation’s top Realtors®, he founded Buffini & Company—an organization dedicated to sharing his powerful lead-generation systems with others. Buffini & Company has trained three million business professionals in 37 countries and currently coaches more than 10,000 business people across North America.

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