8 Steps to Keep Your Small Business on the Road to Success

One of the largest African American automotive moguls shares his secrets for success

Businessman sitting in car looking out of window

In it for the long haul (Image: Thinkstock)

Dorian Boyland started Boyland Auto Group in 1987 (No. 4 on the BE Auto Dealers list) with less than $100,000. Over the years, he’s built up an automotive empire that now consists of nine dealerships in five states that collectively generated nearly $400 million in 2011. Based in Orlando, Boyland Auto Group’s brands include Dodge, Ford, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Hyundai

Here, the former first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates turned automotive mogul shares some of the lessons he’s learned on the road to becoming a successful entrepreneur:

Understand that projections are only as good as they are realistic. “Don’t forecast or make projections based on guess work or anything that you haven’t seen yet,” recommends Boyland. “All of your projections and forecasts should be based on prior history, of prior performance.”

Maintain a solid debt-to-equity ratio. This is a measure of a company’s financial leverage. Boyland recommends a 1:1 ratio. “If you’ve got a dollar in cash of your own then only go borrow a dollar in cash. Never let your debt, exceed your equity.”

Remember that cash is king. Boyland advises small business owners keep one-and-a half months to two months of expenses available in cash to avoid a cash flow crunch. “Because 50 to 75 percent of your sales might be in receivables that might not be paid for 45 days or so.”

Don’t guarantee salaries. Boyland suggests tying salaries for managers and key personnel who generate sales to performance and productivity. “Their pay should be based on percent of the profit of gross that they generate that they control,” he says. “Everyone that’s in any type of sales environment or position needs to have an incentive for what they want to do other than just coming to work.”

Negotiate with vendors for the best rates. “All small business owners should negotiate with all of their vendors and all payables should be negotiated prices so that they know they’re getting the best deal,” he asserts. “Every vendor has a different price for people that they work with. You got to find out what your price is.”

Don’t just be an owner – take ownership. Don’t let the failure and success of your company be dependent on other people. “Those things, as an owner and operator of a business, should be 100 percent solely dependent on you,” advises Boyland. “You can always change the players but you cannot change your goals and operations, and controls, and the things you want to accomplish.”

Really understand how your business works. “It’s very critical for the owner/operator of a business to be an expert in the knowledge of that business and how to operate that business. You have to be educated on a business and not get into a business as a hobby,” he recommends. “Learn, understand, the business so that the people work for you know that you understand everything that they do. You need to understand what every person within your organization does – not necessarily how they do it, but what it is they do.”

Oversee all expenses. “If you own and operate a business, you need to approve 100 percent of every expense that goes out that door.  You should have the people in your operation know that they cannot, and doesn’t have the ability, to approve and sign any expense,” he says. “At the end of the day it is your responsibility to control the checkbook. Every check that goes out that door, before it’s even cut or written, should be approved and understood what it is by the owner and operator of a business.”