While we’d love to say we know it all, as anyone in business will tell you, we are still learning on a daily basis how to do things better. Indeed that leads us on to the first tip.
- Take advice, even if it hurts
Aside from not wanting to be arrogant there really are people out there who want to help and can save you a lot of time and heartache. Ask an honest “what do you think” and take on board their answer – even if they don’t tell you what you expected. Family and friends aren’t usually that helpful. A business mentor or someone else in the field is best placed to give constructive, relevant advice.
- Build trust through relationships
It might sound old-fashioned but spending time getting to know people really does pay off in the long-term. Not only is it a more enjoyable and indeed human way to do business, it also helps you to focus on quality because you’ll know your customers much more. For example, it might be tempting to do everything via a remote purchase on a website but there really is nothing quite like talking to people; and it also causes them to refer you if they know you personally.
- Focus on finance (mostly)
Few people like accounting but doing it from the start will set you up in great stead for the future. Spreadsheets really are a route to disaster in the long run, even if you’re a whizz. Many accounting systems now produce reports, work online and can also do automatic invoicing. Getting your finance simple and clean (with clear terms and conditions if someone doesn’t pay) can save you oodles of time and headaches. If you can’t explain cash flow, budget forecasting, balance sheets, profit & loss, etc then stop-drop-and-learn; perhaps take a simple course. It will save you time and knowing cash-flow forecasting will keep your business afloat.
- Don’t expand too fast
This might sound like a blessing of a problem to have, but it is perhaps the second biggest reason businesses fail (after cash-flow). If you’re dealing with too many products across too many ranges then your time is split from marketing, sales and strategy points of view. Likewise a massive burst in business can also become a bust shortly thereafter so don’t go employing tons of people – get temporary help instead and grow organically in a way you understand. If you really have hit a gold-mine then go straight to #7.
- Work hard but don’t forget your health
When running a business there are two temptations: 1) sit back and let everyone do the work and 2) work like crazy. Neither really works, although #2 is where you’ll find many people. Taking regular breaks, drinking water, stopping before 11pm and taking a chance to wind down will all make you more relaxed, efficient and sleep better. Most importantly you’ll actually be a human who loves to work rather than a slave to your work. Certainly there are times to work beyond the call of duty to get something done, but it shouldn’t be your normal practice.
- Don’t be cheap, it will bite you
There’s nothing wrong with being clever, eg. having an Internet-based line rather than a BT line (check out Vonage – ask us for a referral if interested) but it’s when you hit the ‘free’ area like Skype that you should tread carefully. A good example are ‘free business cards’ where all you pay is the postage – not surprisingly the print isn’t great, they’re quite thin and it shows… almost like an advert saying “I’m cheap”. (Note: 350-400gsm thick cards are really nice, SoloPress is good value while Moo adds the extra ‘wow factor’ so they stand out.)
- Find good people and keep them
This doesn’t mean you need to employ people, but definitely find others who have expertise in areas you don’t. For example if you’re great at making things but perhaps less so at sales then get someone to help with the sales and marketing rather than becoming an expert. Certainly you’ll need to learn a little about everything (and more about finance) but you’re unlikely to be able to cover every business aspect yourself. How do you find good people? Well the best way is by recommendation and someone (or a team) with whom you can build a long-term relationship, like point #2.
If you want some more tips then check out CABE (of which we are a member) who have developed Principles For Business – really solid biblically-based ways of approaching business that, regardless of your faith, are uplifting.