5 tips to keep you afloat in your first year in businessBY ANISA HASSAN
If you have taken that first step to start your business, congratulations! You’re in for a treat that will take you to the highs of highs and to the lows of lows.
As you prepare for takeoff, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by seemingly unceasing business demands. Sometimes, the thought of accelerated success could also make you giddy either with euphoria or disbelief.
Research has shown that a substantial percentage of startups crumble after the first year, no matter how promising the start.
But if you want to better the odds and achieve sustained growth and success, here are 5 tips.
1. You might need to be Superman but even Superman can’t do it alone.
A story is told of Olympic boxing champion Muhammad Ali on a plane ride. Just before the take off, Ali was reminded by a stewardess to fasten his seat belt. ‘‘Superman don’t need no seat belt’’, retorted Ali. To which the stewardess quipped, ‘‘Superman don’t need no plane either’’.
You might think you’re super human and in many instances feel compelled to multitask. Be it drafting a contract, designing a brochure, recruiting or getting quotes from vendors, small business owners have to wear many hats until they can afford to outsource.
Yet if you know there is help available, utilise it and don’t try to do it all alone. You are most productive when you’re working on your strengths. Never be afraid to ask for help either from a friend within an industry or a family member who could give you a leg up.
2. Find ways to keep your expenses down.
A common reason why so many startups don’t get past the first few years is their inability to manage their cash flows.
Their expenses far outweigh their revenue or they are probably not controlling their cash flow well. Most business owners even fall into the trap of over-extending their personal credit over the business, leading to messy accounting.
Foremost in many business owners’ minds should be to spend more time keeping costs low.
For instance, source for cheaper alternatives, hire interns instead of permanent staff or make bulk purchases. Additionally, always think about what you can do without.
3. Communicate effectively with your Customers / Clients.
There’s nothing more important in a start-up than good word of mouths or referrals. Treating customers/clients right from the outset and following through on your delivery are fundamental to repeat business. And when the sale is made, it’s always a good practice to show appreciation with small tokens like a Thank You note, or a Thank you lunch.
Go the extra mile to invest in them by being excellent in both your service and follow up service.
4. Constantly Take Stock of how you are Faring
Yes, time is certainly scarce, especially when there are so many other things hankering for your attention, but consistent evaluation is critical.
Every business owner must never neglect the time to reflect on where they are and where they should be. Measuring your success or otherwise gives you an objective understanding of the business and what more could be done to fine tune, improve or eliminate completely. In some cases, it would even signal a clean out or change in the trajectory of your business.
5. Expect, and Plan for the Unexpected.
One of the many gifts of running a business is its uncertainty. No two days are alike. Even when a good system is in place, there are bound to be instances or circumstances that would require you to be quick thinking. A staff who doesn’t show up for work, a client who’s flying off the handle over a defect or an unfulfilled service, a power shut down disrupting point of sale and well, just about anything that could go wrong. Having a presence of mind and the ability to remain cool headed under trying circumstances could be the missing piece that could sustain if not grow a business.
As a business owner, it is your responsibility to anticipate “emergencies” and work out a plan of action that could be easily executed when the situation calls for it.
Understandably, there will be conundrums you have no answer to. Read extensively; seek professional advice and speak to a mentor. It always pays to be prepared.