What's the one piece of business advice you would share with your younger self?
Hindsight can be a powerful thing.
When you reflect back on when you started out in business, which may have been a number of years ago, and with what you know today, what is the one piece of advice you would share with your younger self, if you were just starting out in business today?
As a new startup business, you may have benefited from one of the funded regional business support programmes, utilised the services and paid for a business coach or fortunate enough to have been mentored by someone whom had run a successful business and done it all before.
However, no matter how much preparation and research you do prior to starting out and launching your new business idea, it's often not till you get out there and you're in and amongst it, that you really start to learn.
Unfortunately in the first few months and years of trading the challenges and obstacles that you face can at times be overwhelming and in some cases cause you to retreat back to your comfort zone with your tail between your legs and go back to being employed. This is probably one of the main reasons why only 51% of businesses get past 3 years of trading.
Therefore before you decide to either venture on your own, or decide to through the towel in and scrap plans on running your own enterprise, as follows are the key learning's that I would share with my younger self, if I was starting out again today?
By all means I am no expert and this old dog still has a lot to learn. So, I'm more than interest in what you would advise and what your top tips are, learned from your experience of running a business.
To give my young self the best possible start, there are 3 key aspects to consider, that I would share.
1. Prioritise your time.
Whilst we can't control time, we can manage how we spend our time. There are 24 hrs in each day, 365 days per year. If we live and follow a healthy lifestyle with a good balance, 8 of those hours will be spent asleep, 8 hours will spent working and the remaining 8 hours will be relaxing, eating, spending time with our lived ones and doing what we do when we aren't working or sleeping.
But note, Time is perishable, if we don't use our time effectively today, we will have to do those jobs and tasks tomorrow and the time from today is lost, gone and will never will be recovered. So when it comes to your working hours, plan and use your time effectively.
I've learned the following habit to prioritise my time;
#1. If I have a task or request to help develop a piece of work which will lead to a potential future revenue opportunity for my business, I plan these in the diary first. Such as booking time for networking events, meeting someone for a 1-2-1 to listen into how I could support their business, following up with writing and sending a proposal, exploring a joint venture project, plan and run a seminar or lead an event where I can promote and share what it is I do. The key learning here though, is no matter how busy you are, you need to continue to keep planning in those activities, topping up the sales funnel, which support developing future business opportunities for your sales pipeline.
#2. then focus on tasks generating income so, finishing or completing any job which you may have already won but need to close to be able to invoice. Unfortunately most businesses cram this into the last few days of each month, by being busy clearing their work in progress! (WIP)
It's good practice to measure, in fact I love trends and analysis and this certainly helps with embedding the right working practices and habits. I do this everyday to ensure I know how much time I have spent on developing my business or spent delivering billable work and then compare on a month to month basis.
Over and above these two time management priorities, when it comes to other stuff we have to do, it's just a matter of applying yourself to those tasks that are relevant to your role in the business and not wasting to much of your time on trivial things, "time hoovers" as one of my clients calls them. This is especially relevant whilst many of us are working from home. And don't forget to delegate or pass on specialist work to freelancers and subcontractors if the task can be done by someone else better or cheaper.
2. If I was advising myself on a second key ingredient in running your own business, it's about being resilient.
In the 6 short years that I have been trading there has been a number of events out-with my control which have effected business market confidence and the desire of either my customers or prospect customers to continue to engage. In most cases these have been short term blips but again, time was lost which made an impact to my revenue streams due to the inability to deliver or customer appetite to continue with the business support packages I offer.
What with Storm Desmond in December 2015, 2 general elections, 2 failed attempts to Brexit, the last 10 months of Covid19, Oh! and the current elephant in the room, Eu-Exit at the end of December 2020. So no matter how good your business plan looks and your fantastically polished financial forecast with its linear growth trend projection shows, be prepared for the ups and downs as it will more likely be, like a roller coaster. And it will also likely take you longer to get to where you want to be than you initially planned.
So don't get ahead of yourself, over commit on expenses. Build or make a provision for a good healthy balance in your bank account, managing your forward planning working capital, even create a separate war chest if feasible and focus on developing a decent mix of customers across different sectors. This will ensure your business is more resilient and you have the capacity to adapt and change as the market does, and will continue to do so.
3. The final piece of advice to my young self is, get out there and create yourself a trusted support network. It is not just about having your family and friends to rely on, but you also want to have strong relationships with those you can call on and tell you how it really is, even challenge your ideas, whether they're other business owners in or outside your industry sector, or professional services. But the more diverse your support network the better for you.
So, when the going either gets tough, a new exciting opportunity crops up or you have a potential dispute with a client, supplier or an employee, you can share, listen and take their advice to help you make a calculated decision on which route and action you should take.
Running a business is a lonely place, so ensure no matter where you are on your business journey, reach out and seek advice and then learn from others mistakes and successes.
If you wish to know more about starting a business, join Keith McMean of TEGkickstart and myself on Thursday 10th December 10.30am where we will share "how to validate your business idea".
Event booking link; https://webinars.teguk.co.uk/
Best of luck, no matter what your plans are for the remainder of 2020 and as we head into 2021.
If you wish to chat through your current business circumstances or just share some thoughts, future plans and ideas, please do just get in touch as I am more than happy to catch up over a coffee.
Peter Fleming Business Consultancy
Mobile; 07966 686112