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Guide to the Fundamentals of Business

Guide to the Fundamentals of Business
Susan Guillory
Susan GuilloryUpdated September 27, 2022
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Small business owners are never guaranteed success. It’s those that take the time to learn business fundamentals and apply them early on who are generally most likely to succeed. Whether you’re in the early stages of launching a startup, or already own a young small business, understanding these five business fundamental principles of business can go a long way toward helping you and your business thrive.

What Are Business Fundamentals?

How the “fundamentals of business” is defined can vary widely. Typically, however, this phrase refers to the basic skills and concepts needed to run a business that hold true no matter what the industry or size of the organization. Getting these business basics right from the start can help lay the groundwork for a solid future. 

Why Are Business Fundamentals Important?

It often matters less what type of products or services a business sells and more how the company is run. Applying time-tested business fundamentals when starting or growing your small business can help you avoid costly mistakes, weather economic downturns, and stay one step ahead of your competitors. However, these skills and concepts aren’t a one-and-done proposition. Rather, they are elements that generally require constant effort to nurture. You won’t, for example, become an excellent leader overnight and then never have to worry about it again. Each of these business fundamentals requires time and effort over the long haul to master, and the target is always moving.

The 5 Business Fundamentals

If you want to equip yourself with the skills necessary to effectively run a small business, consider focusing on these five key business principles.

1. Leadership

There is a difference between a manager and a leader. A manager makes sure employees are doing their jobs day-to-day, while a leader inspires and motivates them to give the job their all.Positive leadership is one of the most important business basics. However, many, if not most, business owners don’t start out as excellent leaders. This is a skill that can take time to master.There are many different types of leaders, from the autocratic leader who prescribes how staff should achieve a goal, to the laissez-faire leader who lets employees find their own creative solutions. As a rule, however, a strong leader has great communication skills and truly listens to what employees have to say. They are open to suggestions and feedback and are constantly seeking ways to improve not only the company but also morale.

 2. Goals

One of the big business fundamentals you need to succeed is setting specific and achievable goals. A company without goals is like a boat adrift in the sea. Even if you’re mired in your daily responsibilities, it’s important to have both short-term and long-term goals for the company.A short-term goal might be to expand your sales territory and increase sales by 10%. A long-term goal might be to open a second location for your business.Understand that sometimes goals change, and that’s okay. It’s a good idea to review company goals every quarter and adjust them as needed.

3. Strategy

Goals state what you want to accomplish; strategy is your plan for achieving them. If you want to expand your business with a second location, for example, you would need the cash to do so. That might start with applying for a business loan that gets you the capital you need for the investment, looking for retail space, and hiring staff for the second location.It can be a good idea to make a timeline for each goal, as well as a deadline for each action item required to meet the objective.Many of your overarching business goals may already be outlined in your business plan. However, it’s a good idea to periodically review and update your plan to make sure it reflects where your company currently is, and where you want it to go.

 4. Finances and Accounting

Even if you aren’t actively managing the company’s finances, it’s wise to have a good understanding of small business accounting. Regularly reviewing financial statements like the balance sheet and profit & loss statement can help you understand how your money is flowing in and out of the business. You can assess expenses and cut where you can to increase profits.Keeping an eye on your finances also allows you to forecast when you might need an injection of capital. There are a variety of business loans available, but you don’t want to wait until your cash has run dry to apply for one. It can also be a good idea to keep an eye on credit score (personal and business) and small business loan interest rates to ensure you get financing with favorable rates and terms. 

 5. Systems & Processes

For a business to run smoothly and efficiently, it needs the right systems and processes in place.Systems refer to the tools and software programs your business uses to stay organized. That might include your accounting software, customer relationship management software, and email marketing program. Each of these has a specific purpose and can help drive sales, keep your finances organized, or help you better serve customers.Processes are the tasks or actions taken to achieve an objective. You and your staff likely already have processes in place. It’s a good idea to document each one. That way, any time you hire someone new, all they have to do is learn how to follow the process. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.For example, your marketing director may have a step-by-step process for scheduling two weeks’ worth of social media content. If they document this process, including what to post and where to find images, they can delegate this task to an assistant who can follow the process document. This reduces the risk of errors and streamlines the training process.

Applying the Business Fundamentals

Feeling daunted by all these business fundamentals? The good news is that you don’t have to master them all at once. In fact, it’s often better to focus on excelling at one business fundamental at a time. Just keep in mind: You'll never be done working on these business fundamentals. Consider yourself a lifelong student of entrepreneurship!

The Takeaway

The fundamentals of business can mean different things to different business leaders. However, the basic tenet is that every business requires a strong foundation. By understanding and applying basic business principles – like good leadership, goal-setting, strategy, and systems & processes – early on, you can build and grow your company with confidence.

3 Small Business Loan Tips

  1. Online lenders generally offer fast application reviews and quick access to cash. Conveniently, you can compare small business loans by filling out one application on Lantern by SoFi.
  2. If you are launching a new business or your business is young, lenders will consider your personal credit score. Eventually, though, you’ll want to establish your business credit.
  3. SBA loans are guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration and typically offer favorable terms. They can also have more complicated applications and requirements than non-SBA business loans.

Photo credit: iStock/Drazen Zigic
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Frequently Asked Questions

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About the Author

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory is the president of Egg Marketing, a content marketing firm based in San Diego. She’s written several business books, and has been published on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and Cision. She enjoys writing about business and personal credit, financial strategies, loans, and credit cards. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.
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