Tips for Running a Successful Small Business

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Heather Freeman, Negosentro |  Many people expound the joys of small business ownership; few admit the existence of its very real, very many stresses. The entrepreneurial vein is not for the weak. You cannot call in sick when you are the owner. Running a successful small business is sheer hard graft most of the time and far longer than the standard 40-hour week many employees experience. Indeed, “free time” becomes a concept you heard of once upon a time when the daily commute and your work schedule were set out by someone else, someone who kept the dollars rolling into your bank account at the end of each month without too much concern on your part. Well, entrepreneurism is the opposite.

That said, it’s not all doom and gloom. By following a few tried and tested tips and general rules gathered and collated by others who have experienced business ownership, that panic that overtakes you at 3am (eyes wide in the darkness, heart racing, trying to remember exactly what it is that has you feeling like something was most definitely overlooked) will soon vanish. Soon enough, that enjoyment factor you heard of so long ago will become a tangible, fruitful reality.

Cash is King – Being the Rainmaker

As any bank will tell you, the business plan is everything. A poor business plan, although it might be overcome in the beginning, will eventually show its cracks and then – like a tower of cards – the hard work you put into building your company up will all come tumbling down. Within your business plan, it is crucial not to overlook the inclusion of financial forecasting and setting up a reporting or monitoring structure. These are key and just as valuable as balances, accounts receivables, and expenses (if not more so). Credit is not often forthcoming for start-ups these days and financial forecasting assists in preparing for overcoming any inevitable monetary hiccups along the way.

Best practices when it comes to the finances of your small business include QuickBooks or other accounting software, setting a strict review schedule for quarterly or other set review dates, and bringing in silent investors and other sources of funding to overcome financial hurdles.

Time is Money – Learning to Delegate

As already mentioned, bid farewell to structured 40-hour weeks: think instead of weeks in the range of 60-hours and beyond (including weekends). If you believed rearing children was draining, raising a business to its full potential is even more tiring. However, though this might be essential in the beginning, it doesn’t have to be the case forever more.

Take a moment (there will be one) and look at what you most recently actioned – were all of those tasks necessary? Or has routine become a dictator having you working to the bone in areas no longer essential? Reassessment of the path of the quotidian not only refreshes your outlook but frees up space in the diary (space unavailable at the beginning of your venture; space that can now perhaps be enjoyed). An overworked boss becomes a sloppy worker themselves.

As the owner of your business, you have to remember that there is a key skill you have to learn: delegation. You are an employer now, so set your workforce the tasks that don’t have to be done specifically by you. Again, a company is like a baby: every so often you need a sitter to step in. By taking on too much work and not trusting your workers, you’re setting yourself up to fail.

Location Counts and People Matter

It’s obvious, but where you situate your office or store is critical and wholly dependent on your type of business. Though one lease might be more affordable, you need to ask yourself how it suits your target audience, draws in those potential customers, and more.

Yet, vitally important, even more so than the building your business inhabits, are the people you employ to help make it function successfully. This goes beyond the interview process: you could have a lovely group of people, well-qualified and seemingly all working smoothly together, rolling the company along, but have you asked yourself (let alone they themselves) if they’re happy? Thankfully, employee satisfaction is becoming the focus more and more, where once it was entirely overlooked (“they’re employed, why shouldn’t they be happy?” having been the sentiment).

Even though it’s often a fact of life (and especially business life), what you don’t want to end up with is a sudden vacancy and the waiting period for that position to be filled. In order to avoid this, keep a casual eye on interactions between your employees and their general overall demeanor: do they need a motivational speech from their boss? Or do they simply need a more flexible work schedule, given that they’ve just welcomed twins into the family? We are all humans after all, and often it is humanity that is the very thing lacking when it comes to business.

Looking Forward

The statistic that 90% of small businesses fail within the first three years has been whispered for years, but that’s not necessarily true. They often run healthily for over a decade, far longer than any corporate employment, and the most successful seem to go on forever. Profits might not reach those of the latest tech start-up (unless, of course, your business is a tech start-up), but the return in satisfaction levels is unquantifiable.

In short, being your own boss is the opposite of glamorous living. That be the stuff of movies (with the yachts and the mobile conference calls carried out while sipping on ice-chilled Cristal). Nonetheless, entrepreneurship is indeed rewarding – if done right and pursued with an outlook seeped in patience. Quick returns are not the art of small business ownership; rather it is nurturing a long-term outlook. No-one wants to be a fast-burning bright-shining star, but rather an entity that has staying power. Being the boss involves wearing many hats (an established wisdom which holds very real truth; rarely does the new graduate succeed without experience). Yet, after you’ve worn those to get your venture off the ground, set aside those octopus-inspired eight arms of multitasking and delegate, and breathe. You’ve made it.

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