Starting your own business is hard. I knew that going in, but I didn’t know just how tough the first few months were going to be. The initial setting-up jobs – the phones, the internet, the space (my living room) were simple enough, but it was when the actual work started that things began to unravel. With hindsight, there were things I wish I’d known before I started which may have helped the business settle down and begin to succeed more quickly.
I wish I’d known…
Not to run before I could walk
It’s all very exciting when you set up a business – you might have a grand plan with all of the features and services that you think you’re going to create and revolutionise the market with, but this should be pared down until you’ve identified and established your core service. I introduced multiple features at once, but none of them were as well-developed as they could have been if I’d taken my time over them. In hindsight, it would have been better if I’d chosen one of those features, gained initial success based on that alone and then expanded once the customer base and resources were available to do so.
That poor cash flow management means eventual failure
Your cash flow is arguably the most important aspect of your business because if you’re bringing in less than you’re spending, you have nowhere to go but down. Fortunately my cash flow management was never so poor that the business failed completely, but there were times when the cash flow could have been in better health, and it did cause a few problems as far as paying suppliers was concerned. There are a number of cash flow management guides available online that are crammed full of information and tips to help you ensure you’re always on the right side of the cash flow gap.
That a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work
It can be tempting, as I found, to try and deal with clients in the same way every time, but this simply doesn’t work. They’re people, not robots, and different solutions have to be found to meet their requirements. You don’t have to go as far as offering bespoke solutions to each customer, but a bit of flexibility doesn’t hurt. The more you can meet people’s individual needs, the easier it is to forge connections and build a strong customer base.
It’s okay to take time off
As the founder and owner of the business, it seemed sacrilegious to take any time off – what would my customers do in my absence, how would the business run, wouldn’t it all just fall to pieces? I was burning myself out and becoming less productive, which would eventually have begun to harm the business. As soon as I took the opportunity (i.e. was forced by my other half) to recharge my batteries, though, I was refreshed and refocused.
Adaptability is an essential skill
General adaptability is also an important skill and philosophy to develop in order to prevent the business from stagnating. The market or industry you’re in will probably be in a constant state of change, and you need to adapt to come into line with those changes and ensure future successes.
Mistakes don’t mean the end of the world
The first time you make an error – whether it’s in the way you deal with a customer, a payment you forget to make that delays your schedule or a misunderstanding with one of your suppliers – it can be difficult to get it out of your head. What I discovered was that, as long as it’s never repeated (i.e. you learn from it and use it to improve in the future), it doesn’t matter. Chalk it up to whatever – inexperience, carelessness, the wrong approach – and move on. Mistakes are made all the time, and it’s unlikely that any one mistake you make will cripple the business. In the long-term, it will probably make it stronger.
Alex Sebuliba is a Digital Marketing Executive at RocketMill, he enjoys reading writing and sharing anything to do with business growth and career development. Alex has over 6 years experience in digital, his main passion revolves around developing digital strategies for start ups and entrepreneurs