By Sarah Kearns

The first year of owning a new business is both exciting and a little scary. Many ill-prepared businesses fold in the first year because they didn’t account for all the variables, including things not going according to plan and expenses being higher than anticipated. If you can get through the first year and keep your momentum, there’s no reason why your business couldn’t or shouldn’t be successful. Buckle down and stay focused. Make sure you’re keeping your eyes on the prize with these tips.

Tighten Up Your Business Plan

Some small businesses, primarily those that are self-funded, don’t have a spectacularly detailed business plan. Without a plan to reference or reflect on, you won’t be able to tell with any degree of certainty how close you are to reaching your goals. You might not even have a clear picture of what those goals are and how every aspect of your business is impacted by them. If you haven’t yet created a comprehensive business plan, it’s time to put one together.

Keep Your Employees Motivated

The first year can be hard on employees who want to succeed and watch their hard work build something great. If things are taking a while to gain traction, this can have a negative impact on motivation and productivity. Reinforce your company culture. Enact measures to show your employees that you value and care about them. Even if it’s something as simple as keeping their bellies full of awesome snacks or letting them go home an hour early to spend more time with their families, gestures that show your gratitude won’t go unnoticed.

Cut Expenses As Much as Possible

Even if you’re coming in under budget, you should still be looking for ways to cut costs even further. The additional money you save can be reinvested into your business and help you reach your growth potential a little sooner. Try going paperless to save money on single-use goods. If you can, switch to solar power that will keep your utility costs down. Choose an energy efficient fridge for the break room and buy secondhand furniture when possible.

Generate Some Extra Cash

There are several ways small businesses can generate extra cash. If you have more room than you currently need in your office, you can sublet it to a startup that needs a place to meet and work. This might help you network with other entrepreneurs that have similar goals. If you’d prefer something hands-off, you can rent out extra parking space. If you work in a big city or close to an airport, people might be willing to pay you to hold onto their car for them.

Use Smart Marketing Techniques

Getting new customers through the door is expensive. Holding onto the ones you already have doesn’t need to be. Advertising in local markets is absolutely necessary for your success, but it shouldn’t be your sole focus. If you provide outstanding customer service and stay in regular contact with people who have had great experiences shopping with you, it’s easy to turn your core group of customers into your most predictable source of income.

If you haven’t yet, consider implementing a loyalty program that will lead customers to free items or discounts as a result of their continued patronage. They’ll have a little more motivation to come back to you, and you won’t need to chase them down and drag them through the door.

A great first year is usually indicative of a strong and resilient business with the potential for longevity. Work hard in the first year, keep your momentum, and expand when you know you’re totally ready. Patience will get you far.