By Rieva Lesonsky

Some small businesses are more successful than others. How can you ensure your business is one of them? To start with, check out the results of the latest American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor. The study identified a group of “high achieving” small business owners as part of its overall survey sample, then examined what they do differently than the average business owner to spur their growth.

High achievers are an elite group, accounting for just 6 percent of the Small Business Monitor’s respondents. On average, these companies enjoyed business growth of 34 percent over the last three years, compared to an average of 10 percent for all survey respondents.

That’s an impressive growth rate at any time, but especially so in the tough economy of the last few years. So what are these high achievers doing differently? Whether you’re a startup or an existing business owner, there were a few areas that really stood out to me.

  • They ask for feedback.Three-fourths ask their customers for advice on how to better serve them, compared to 52 percent overall.
  • They take more risks. Over two-thirds say they have increased their appetite for risk compared with one year ago (67 percent, compared to 35 percent overall).
  • They plan for growth and make it a priority. A whopping 93 percent of high achievers say they are planning to grow their businesses over the next six months (compared to 69 percent overall). More than half say growth is their top priority (compared to 31 percent overall).
  • They invest in their businesses. Putting their money where their mouths are, more than three-quarters (78 percent) plan to make capital investments in their businesses in the next 6 months (compared to 49 percent overall).
  • They leverage social media: 70 percent use social media, compared to 49 percent overall. Almost 80 percent use it to attract new customers, compared to 57 percent overall.
  • They think positive. Over three-quarters of high achievers describe themselves as having a positive outlook and business prospects (77 percent compared to 49 percent overall); 99 percent say they see the glass as half-full.
  • They ask for advice. Almost six in 10 have a business mentor (59 percent, compared to 33 percent of all respondents).

What strikes me about these “success factors” is that there’s really no excuse for not doing them, because most of them don’t cost you anything. You may not be able to invest in your business right now, but you can ask customers for feedback, use social media or create a growth plan.

What are you going to do first to make your business a high achiever?