672,893 new businesses were started in 2018/2019 – an incredible 1,843.5 per day! Out of all of the new businesses started in 2013, 57.6% of them had closed down within the 5 years to 2019. In the time that The Marketing Associates has been in business there have been, as with any business, highs and lows, amazing achievements and disappointing blows, as well as national and global issues including, of course, Brexit and Corona Virus. With this in mind, I thought it may help other business owners – new or old, planned start-ups, self-employed and working mums alike if I shared some of my learnings to date.
- It takes much longer than you think to achieve the small steps to success: This is a really important point to be aware of as there are so many ‘get rich quick’ stories out there: teenagers making a million from their bedrooms and online businesses booming overnight. All of that is great but it’s not a given. Starting a business, running a business day-to-day, achieving business goals, rolling out new products or services, finding trustworthy suppliers, employing staff and gaining a customer base all takes time, planning, investment and blood, sweat and tears! Be realistic, set achievable objectives through small steps, ask for help when needed and expect set-backs along the way, but keep going.
- Know your worth: If you undervalue your product or service through lack of confidence, low pricing, poor branding/marketing, slow customer service etc. then your customers won’t value it either. Look at your competitors, review your strengths, look at your product/service offering, decide where you want to position the business, focus on who the target market is, and then price and position accordingly ensuring that they are all aligned.
- Always look to learn, network, make new contacts and focus on new business: Meet people for coffee, swap contacts, attend suitable networking events, conferences and exhibitions, follow up with people you connect with and most importantly never burn any bridges. Review where the majority of your new business comes from (draft a new business pipeline to help with this), it could be from referrals, reviews, search engines, social media, networking etc. Use LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram to build your personal brand as part of the business, and remember, past contacts may provide invaluable future opportunities.
- Allocate weekly time for the business itself and outsource where necessary: All elements of running a business take time and require you to wear many hats, outsource where you really need it and where you can afford it – accountant, website designer, marketing, HR services etc. By scheduling in weekly time to focus on the business, you can stay on top of all the various business-running elements then focus solely on your day-to-day business for the rest of the week.
- Put everything in writing: Draw up NDA’s, confirm telephone conversations in writing, send payment terms and meeting invitations even if it has been confirmed elsewhere. This may seem obvious but it is really important to do – I have known business owners who have lost out in some way when not having something put in writing with a client.
Finally: Hard Work Pays Off: But be prepared to work whenever, wherever, and potentially always: People often think that being self-employed or a small business owner is an easy job, I have been called a ‘part-timer’ several times… Yes, you can sometimes pick and choose your hours, but ultimately it is your business and what you put in, you get out, as long as you enjoy what you do then that will show through.