6 Business Lessons from Karen Bradshaw

  • Published: Friday, Dec. 6, 2019

Karen Bradshaw has been working with clients through the Missouri SBDC since it’s formation on the Missouri Southern State University campus in 1987. She has experienced success stories and helped business owners realize their dreams through hard work and dedication. She has also seen difficult start-ups and businesses that fail after just a few years or months. As she heads for retirement at the end of 2019, she’s shared some pivotal advice on how to be a successful business owner.

1. Get help before you get stuck

SBDCs helps businesses start out on the right foot. They make sure you know about the industry you’re wanting to find success in, assist you with financial plans, and can even help you find a location for your business before you get caught in a lease you can’t get out of. “It’s difficult to help someone when they’ve already buried themselves,” Bradshaw says. “It’s good to work with people before they start up, or when they’re just getting started, to assist them and help them be successful.”

2. Recognize your target market

“One of the biggest things businesses have the most problems with is knowing who their target market is and how they’re going to reach them,” Bradshaw says. “There are so many different avenues to reach your target market and yet there are so many people competing for the same audience base.” WHO are you trying to reach? You need to know who you have in mind when you’re creating your business, and keep them in mind in everything you do. When you post on social media, when you build your brand, when you release products and services- are you catering to your target audience?

3. Identify the five “W”s of your target market

Just as important as the “who” are the when, why, where, what, and how. You may know your target audience, but if you don’t know the best ways to reach them, you’ll be lost. You need to know the ins and the outs of how your target market makes decisions. How do you learn these things? Bradshaw suggests to just talk to them! “If you want to know what your target market or customers think, you need to go out there and talk to them, read surveys, and meet with potential business clients.”

4. Find a business mentor, and learn from their successes- and their mistakes

One of your most critical resources everyone has is other peoples’ experiences. There are millions of businesses that you can look at and learn from. It’s also important to find a mentor who has found success in what they do, and take advice from them. Use their ideas, and avoid their pitfalls. The SBDC is a great means of finding people who were once in your shoes and rose above the difficulties. Bradshaw says, “Learn from other people’s failures, see what isn’t working, and don’t do the same thing. Go out and find out what is working- not just in the local area, but in the United States and the world.”

5. Be honest with yourself about trends

If you have a great idea that would have flourished years ago, but is quickly becoming obsolete- think video rental stores or CD manufacturers- it might be time to reconsider your strategy. Spending time and money on a business that won’t last a year is pointless. “You never want to get into business that is on the decline; you always want to get into an industry that is new and exciting and has a future,” Bradshaw says.

6. Listen to your customers- they truly are always right

Your customers know what they like, and how they like it delivered. Listen to their complaints as well as their excitement. If they like an event that took you weeks to plan, know that doing it again is worth it. Your success is dependent on what your audience thinks of you and your business. As Bradshaw says, “Successful business is about perception of the customer.”