Whether you have a business idea that you’re thinking of developing into an official plan, you’re ready to start your own business, or you are looking to grow your business further, sound advice from someone in the know is like gold dust. If only you could hear directly from a bunch of successful businesses direct? Well, now you can! We asked some of our amazing business owners and clients the following three questions, so you can benefit from their insightful knowledge and nuggets of golden advice. This is what they shared with us:
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE STARTING A NEW BUSINESS?
“Go for it! I needed lots of persuading to make me believe I could do it and lacked confidence. A small push was needed and If it wasn’t for that I might be sat working for someone else”
“Have total belief in your plan but be prepared to learn along the way. Take time out for self-development on topics that might not be what you are used to, such as managing cashflow”.
“Invest in systems early, it’s easier to build these from the start”.
“Trust your gut and go for it! You have nothing to lose. Believe in yourself, believe in the business and go full force into trusting the process!”
“Make sure you plan as much as possible, be prepared, and have contacts that can help you”.
“Don’t be afraid of messing up or making mistakes. That’s part of the process. You will learn so much along the way”.
“If you’re leaving a job to be your own boss, be prepared to probably work harder than ever before in order to achieve it. There will be times that things will feel totally out of your control so, be prepared for the reality not the dream”.
“Cashflow is critical. Budget well and have a detailed cashflow model. Forward on sensible assumptions”.
“Look into business grant opportunities – it’s good to consider all the funding options available to you”.
“People are key. Don’t carry passengers. Make sure the team is all pulling together”.
“Build a network of contacts within your local area. There is a fantastic small business community that I’m involved with, which I didn’t know existed before I started up my company. It has been a great support for me and my business over the years – it can be quite lonely being a business owner at times”.
“I wouldn’t give advice unless asked and I’d suggest not listening to advice unless you have specifically asked someone for it”. After all, no one knows your business like you do, you are the expert when it comes to your business, most people are only advising from their own experience”.
“Get help in all the right places so you don’t have to worry, especially financial advice and legal advice – googling stuff is not a solution!”
“Make a plan and talk it through with a range of people to gather ideas”.
“Don’t try to do everything at once, do things well and build your business. Gaining customers is a privilege and you need to service them whilst winning more opportunities. Repeat business is gold”.
“Refrain from measuring yourself against other people, it is ok to forge your own path, success is different for everyone. Don’t be surprised if your biggest cheerleaders for starting out aren’t actually the people you expect”.
“Keep educating yourself and stay connected with the industry you are getting into”
“Keep spending to a minimum, you will require capital to grow your business especially when things don’t seem to go your way”.
“Research your target market. Look specifically at the problem your product or service solves for them and make sure you understand how this is affecting them”.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU KNEW ABOUT MANAGING A BUSINESS BEFORE YOU STARTED?
“Time is needed (more time than I thought) to actually look at the company admin/planning/culture etc. I initially thought that if I did my job well the company will grow but you do actually need to spend time planning a route forward.”
“Cashflow, it’s the single hardest thing in business for me. Having a cashflow forecast for a full 12 months means that I am constantly prepared for when issues are looming, and I’m prepared to do something about it”.
“I wish I knew more about invoicing, finances and keeping track of tax. Keeping up to date with payments and money is so important”.
“Ways to optimise tax”.
“That growing revenue and increasing in size isn’t always the best thing to do. There’s a real culture around growth and we tend to all plod on thinking that we have to be ‘growing’ our business all the time. But, in actual fact there’s a sweet spot for many businesses where you will make more profits by not being too big. Don’t be afraid to deliberately stay at that size, even if it’s temporary while you work out how to grow further.
There’s a big jump from going from fairly small and profitable to scaling up, and there’s pain points in terms of profit on the way there. You need to have a strong plan that you follow if you do intend to grow – just mindlessly carrying on thinking more income/business means more success (as I learned) is flawed. It’s very hard to descale once you have staff and a certain level of customers, so don’t be afraid to put growth on hold whilst you re-group and ensure you’re ready to blast the next phase”.
“Pay even more attention to detail, especially on expenditures. Never assume you have to pay the first amount quoted or that it’s the only option available to you”.
“I wish I’d had better knowledge and use of social media to engage with customers, gain new ones and promote myself and the company”.
“Learn to outsource and do it before you think you are ready to. There are so many plates to spin when you run your own business, so don’t burn yourself out trying to do it all yourself. Make a list of tasks and anything that doesn’t have to be done by you personally – outsource it! Start with what will be the biggest help to you in terms of giving you back time and allow you to earn more money”.
“I wish I knew more about the power of trust. I micromanaged everything when I first started, I was a control freak. It was exhausting and not very fun. Letting go of responsibility and delegating to trusted people and third parties was the most liberating lesson learned”.
“Greater understanding of what managing the business is and making the pieces fall into place – not running around like a headless chicken without any time to manage your team effectively”.
“The key financials. How I should pay myself and how to handle people paying me late. Cashflow is key”.
“That it never stops! It is hard but so rewarding. I wish I knew that ups and downs of business actually do happen, and they can be hard and amazing all at the same time. I also hate certain admin tasks that I never thought I would end up having to do- I know I’m not alone in that!”
“Make sure your business is scalable, meaning it can be replicated to grow”.
“The world doesn’t end if I take a holiday! I would spend half my holiday on my phone replying to messages, posting on my socials…it’s just not necessary, and it could even be detrimental. I have just come back from two weeks off and by the end of the holiday my brain was absolutely buzzing with new ideas and ways I could move my business forward. I’ve gone from stuck in a rut to excited for the rest of the year”.
WHAT SHOULD NEW BUSINESS OWNERS AVOID DOING AT THE START?
“Avoid the self-doubt and work hard.”
“Avoid mixing work with pleasure from the start. Separating home and work is important. Running your own business will take up so much more of your time than as an employee, so make sure family time is in the diary and have a work phone and a personal phone”.
“Don’t quit your day job before your new business is on track to pay your salary”.
“Don’t rush into things, make sure you have the basics covered before rushing in”.
“Get extremely organised from the get-go. Have payment methods and invoices set up”.
“Thinking about the years ahead. When you first start out you wonder if things will work out – you hope they will, but there’s a tendency not to really imagine, in detail, a few years down the line with a much bigger turnover and staff. You should think about that – not in general terms but in very specific ways. If you don’t, you end up always playing catch up as the business gets busier and things start snowballing and suddenly you realise you haven’t got a staff training manual for new recruits, you don’t have employee handbooks with all policies covered, certain processes aren’t written down, you need a manager but haven’t got a job spec, and so on. I wish I had planned for growth across the board in a much more detailed way when we were still a much smaller business, and I had a little more time on my hands”.
“Overspending and overestimating sales (or return on investment). Plan for very conservative assumptions. If it doesn’t work on those assumptions, then you need to change things”.
“Don’t wait for that perfect day to do something because otherwise you will spend a lot of days doing nothing. Start today, and never stop learning”.
“Impossible for me to answer as I wouldn’t want to assume that what I should have avoided is something that another new business should avoid”.
“Avoid calling in favours, taking advice from random people and trying to buy cheap – all of which costs big in the long run. The way you save your business money is by your own input and hard work which is only rewarded by paying yourself once there are profits”.
“Avoid getting excited about shiny new things and going to market before they are ready. Be disciplined.
- Find the market.
- Test your product is a fit for that market – BE HONEST. Convincing total strangers to buy your product is essential (rather than your family and friends!). It will help you work out the price too.
- Be honest. Are you aiming to be a steady business, achieving steady income, or are you a fast growth business with an exit plan? You might not quite know the details from the start, but you should have a view. There’s no point pretending to be a venture business when you could happily settle with steady income and happy repeat clients”.
“Always be polite and professional no matter who you are dealing with. If people are mean, unfair or leave a bad review, good manners will see you through. You can always swear until you’re blue in the face whilst walking the dog – no one minds that!”
“Don’t put off putting in processes, tools and systems just because “it’s just me” or you think you’re not at the stage where you need to yet. When you are at the stage of needing them, you won’t have the time to think about them to the level you need to! Also don’t forget to enjoy your business from day one, those first years are a great learning curve!”
“Avoid going down the hole of reading and watching all the free information out there on social media. Find one or two people whose values align with yours and whose advice you trust and focus on their teachings. Your time is precious.”
There you have it, some very useful hindsight from all types of businesses including small, medium sized and large-scale companies for you to consider. Next time you wander down your high street, you’ll look at the businesses lined up along it in a whole new light.
Thank you to all our contributors:
Gary McKenna, Mortgage Evolution.
Katie Spreadbury, OrangeSheep Research Ltd.
Charlotte Saunders, Charlotte Saunders Ltd.
Nathan Kelsey, Make Me Local.
Laura Turner, Noted in Style Ltd.
Andy Crispin, Silverback Publishing Ltd.
Gary Cooper, Square Freedom Photography.
Jay Woods, Thieves Kitchen Ltd.
David Beck, Beckoffice.
Sally Burton-Graham, Fern Equity Ltd.
Elle Baldry, Elle Baldry Consulting
Pietro Savvides, Northern Capital Partners