Marketing / Business marketing

7 things the most profitable businesses have in common

While every business is different, the most profitable businesses have a few things in common. Once you know what they are, you can incorporate them into your solo endeavours.

19 July 2016 by

While profitability is by no means the only measure of business success, for most soloists it’s pretty important; most of us have mortgages to pay, children to clothe and a lifestyle to maintain, right?

Happily for us, Phil Ruthven of IBISWorld recently delved into the profitability of Australian businesses. While the 12 guidelines they came up with for profitable businesses were mainly aimed at larger enterprises, I found seven that apply equally to success for small and solo ventures too.

Source: Work your way Flying Solo’s step-by-step course. View more.

So, without further ado, here are the seven things profitable small and solo businesses have in common:

"Unless you’re independently wealthy, you need to find a way to be profitable if you’re going to last the distance as a soloist."

1. Profitable businesses stick to one area rather than trying to diversify and do everything

The saying “Jack of all trades, master of none” would appear to ring true when it comes to business profitability. I have seen firsthand how spreading yourself too thin can lead to both burnout and lack of a clear business focus. If you’re feeling a bit burnt out, now might be a good time to look at the number of products/services you offer and rationalise whether those products/services are all giving an appropriate return. If the 80/20 rule applies here, then for most of us 80 percent of our profit comes from 20 percent of our business activities. So why are we spending so much time on the 80 percent of business activities that are only generating 20 percent profit?

2. Profitable businesses go niche

Most profitable Australian businesses make money by being a big fish in a small segment of their industry rather than trying to dominate everything. This makes sense for soloists who don’t usually have the budget and resources for world domination.

3. Profitable businesses make use of outsourcing

Outsourcing enables growth by removing you from doing activities that don’t form the core of your business and getting them done elsewhere. I meet so many soloists who run themselves into the ground trying to do it all when they could affordably outsource many of the tasks they aren’t skilled in and spend their time working on their business rather than in it.

4. Profitable businesses get good financial management

Trying to do your own books and tax return might seem like a good way to save money but it will probably cost you in the long run (unless, of course, you are an accountant!). When you have a professional handling your finances, this doesn’t just free up your time, it allows you to make better decisions about how, why and why you spend your money, something that is key to the profitability of any business.

5. Profitable businesses are ahead of the curve when it comes to industry lifecycle changes

Staying on top of industry developments is essential if you want to be a leading edge business owner. We are living in a time of rapid change and profitable businesses are the ones who can anticipate the next industry development and be there to meet it, rather than simply reacting to it when it arrives.

6. Profitable businesses develop strategic alliances

No soloist should be an island. Are there other soloists or organisations you can align yourself with for mutual benefit? I have seen firsthand the benefits of strategic alliances when it comes to marketing. Think about who you might be able to align with, for example, a beauty therapist could team up with a hairdresser, and a physiotherapist might ally themselves with a personal trainer. The trick is to pick someone who shares your target customer base but is not a direct competitor.

7. Profitable businesses are unique

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to find something nobody else is doing, but you can at least try to go about what you do in a different way. Think about what you offer and the overall experience your clients or customers have when they work with you. How can you make it unique and distinctive, and a reflection of your values and philosophies?

The top businesses in Australia all do these seven things and more, and as a soloist, following these tips can make a big difference to your chances of success.

There are no guarantees but if you can do all these things you will be on a strong path to meeting your solo business goals, and getting the business and lifestyle you have always dreamed of.

What is your top tip for soloist profitability?

Jo Macdermott

from Next Marketing works with Marketing Managers who need a safe pair of executional hands, Entrepreneurs in funded startups and small and medium businesses with $50K plus annual marketing budgets. You can also connect with Jo on LinkedIn.


  • Whilst some of these ideas may be useful to a Small Business Owner, I have found that doing things yourself instead of subcontracting gives you more control of your business, and increases the profit.
    In my last business (Home Heating and Air Conditioning) my installers were ripping me off by taking items for themselves, charging too much, and doing a poor job. When I began installing as well as selling, I had more contact with my customers, eliminated the problems, and pocketed around $1,000 – $2,500 extra on every job.
    When I owned a Stationery business, I took the orders, packed the goods, and delivered them myself. As a result my customers often ordered more stock when I made the delivery, as they had forgotten to add items to the original order. This business was focused on Service and not price.
    A Small Business Owner should be involved in doing their own Tax Returns and all Financial matters associated with their business, using an Accountant only to tidy up the loose ends. This will give the owner more control of their activities.
    New Small Business owners need a Mentor/Expert to take all the rough edges off their activities, and have someone to bounce their ideas off to guide them to the Road to Success.

  • Paul B

    Hi Jo, this is really good advice. It is probably impossible to think about the 80/20 rule too much isn’t it? If I spent ten minutes a week thinking of where 80% of my business comes from, I am sure I would be better off today than I was even a month ago. Thanks for sharing.

  • Strategic alliances are key for us – there is no way we can do it all, so using others to help service our clients is a win/win/win for all

104,843 people use Flying Solo to help them create a business with life. Do you?

Connect with Flying Solo

Explore the benefits of membership