The other day I was speaking with a young man who was preparing to launch his first business. He asked for some informal advice, and as we spoke, I was able to zero in on a few key “big picture” principles for success. I thought I’d share them with you, too. Even though most of us have been in business for years, it never hurts to remind ourselves of the big-picture fundamentals. How are you doing in these areas?

Have a plan.  You need a long term plan.  Where are you going and how are you going to get there?  If you don’t think this through, it’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day details—and then you lose your way.  You need clearly defined goals, and you need a plan for achieving them.  And once you’ve written this plan, you need to refer back to it often.  A great way to do this: wait until Friday afternoon as your week is winding down.  Then, pull out your long term plan and think about the decisions you made during the week.  Are you moving in the right direction?

Focus on relationships.  No matter what your business, you cannot succeed by yourself.  You will be dependent on others, whether they are employees, suppliers or advisors.  So try to figure out who you can trust, and then do everything you can to grow your relationship.  When things get crazy, you need to have people by your side that you can count on.

Be fanatical about client service.  We’ve all heard the old cliché “the customer is always right.”  This may not always be true, but it should still be your mindset.  Ultimately your clients are your source of income, and you need to do everything you can, at every step of the process, to make sure that they are more than satisfied.

Manage your time.  As a business owner or manager, it’s easy to be consumed by day-to-day operations.  Resist the urge to micromanage and learn to delegate to employees and partners.  This will allow you to keep an eye on the big picture— which is where your attention has to be.  There is not enough time in the day for you to focus on every detail of your operation, as much as you would like to.  So don’t try. It’s not going to happen, but you will end up burned out and frustrated.

Seek affordable financing.  Too many businesses fall into the trap of credit card debt.  It’s much easier to max out a credit card than it is to secure a loan or attract investors, but two years down the road, as you’re paying 20% interest on your debt, you’ll wish you had taken the time to secure affordable funding.

Do what you love.  Running a business is stressful and demanding enough, and you simply can’t spend all day doing something you don’t enjoy.