For many entrepreneurs the first few years of running a business are the hardest – so hard that some consider quitting before they’ve even really got going. But, much the same as raising a child, the highs and lows pay off and can quickly be put behind you once your business becomes successful.
The challenge ahead
A YouGov Survey published in September 2014 reported that more than one third of small business owners found that running a business was more challenging than expected. Understanding that there will be challenges and that there will be a period where work will be your number one priority is essential. Here we take a look at some of the challenges and how to meet them head on.
The work life balance
Along with the hard work of running a new business comes long hours. Most entrepreneurs find that they’re working almost constantly in the first few years with little or no down time and the work life balance gets put on the back burner. In fact in the same YouGov report, while nearly half of the people surveyed said that they’d set up their own business because they wanted ‘more flexible working hours’, almost one in five have missed the school run, 11% have missed a celebration with a partner and a tenth have missed the marriage of a friend or relative because of work commitments.
Getting that work life balance back and taking a little time out to re-energise can make a huge difference to your approach to work and can also help you to be more productive. As your business grows it may be worth considering outsourcing some of the administrative tasks that are needed or, if your cash flow allows, employing your first staff member, easing the pressure on your time.
Despite the long hours, putting it in while you’re starting out in business should help to ensure you get what you want from it. Building up your contacts and making sure that you offer great value and service, even if this means you’re putting in extra time in the short term, will pay long term dividends.
You may decide to start working from home while you’re building your business, but the likelihood is you’ll need to find a premises at some point. Whether you’re renting or buying while creating your business plan you should already have done your research to find the geographical area best suited to your business.
Decisions will still need to be made to work out the budget you now have for premises, whether to buy or rent and what else you’ll need to invest in to make the new premises work for you.
Taking on help
While you may be starting your business on your own, when the time is right and you’ve reached a critical mass, you’ll need to consider employing staff members. This is a big step that needs careful planning and consideration, but one that can be particularly helpful when it comes to getting some of your own time back.
Before that point though, help can still be useful. Taking on an intern, to offer work experience, or taking on an apprentice can be a more cost effective option and can offer valuable benefits.
And always remember to take advantage of help if it’s offered from trusted sources in the meantime.
Sales and marketing
Getting those sales in to start cash flowing within your business is key to your success. Putting a marketing strategy into action will help you to focus your attention in the right areas and to warm up prospects.
Sales doesn’t come naturally to everyone and developing a technique that feels easier for you is important – if you feel uneasy when you’re selling your potential customers will pick up on it and you may come across as untrustworthy.
Key things to remember to make sales easier include:
Use your marketing efforts to warm prospects up before you see them.
Be open and honest and try to make it a conversation rather than a pitch.
Build relationships with your customers to increase their loyalty to you.
Safely store data about your customers so you know their needs and what drives them.
Let people experience your product or service so that they can see the benefits for themselves.
Be true to your brand and always keep your values and mission top of your mind.
From the cost of the funding you need to achieve to get going, through to your premises, the tools of your trade and the people you need to help you along the way there are a lot of outgoings when you’re in business.
Controlling these and cutting costs wherever possible can certainly be a big factor in your success and will also take careful management.
Every step you take and every new item you need requires consideration. Here are 5 tips to help along the way:
Negotiate – the first price may not always be the best one.
Seek advice – from other entrepreneurs, the bank or your accountant or solicitor.
Check out tax relief.
Test and learn – to ensure you make better decisions going forward.
Consider value and depreciation.
Running your business – our way
Every business is unique and you’ll find ways of running your business that suit your style and your business mission. Take a look through our guides to help you through some of the main steps when setting up and running your business.