Gosh, it is hard to be a small business at the moment.
Even large, long established businesses with big balance sheets are struggling. So it is not surprising that small business owners are having to work harder for less.
There are real success stories out there but certainly not the number we saw in the early-mid 2000s. The success stories we hear are much more likely to be based on shear hard work and determination, than luck in being in the right place at the right time.
Business owners who started out when times were good have fallen into two camps:
- Their businesses have fallen by the wayside. They had not needed to develop good business practices to succeed when the economy was buoyant and when times got hard they did not change quickly enough in response to the tougher economic climate.
- They had good practices, or developed them quickly, and so were better placed to weather the storm.
Some businesses which fell into the second category have eventually found times too tough for them to succeed in the long term, either because their market has fallen away or because their product/service development failed to keep pace with changing consumer needs. However, at least they gave themselves the best shot at succeeding.
Understanding how a successful business works and learning from others is not the magic key to being successful yourself but it can certainly help.
So as a business owner how can you give yourself the best chance at success? Below are some tips I have picked up along the way – the list is not by any means exhaustive but I think it is a good start:
- Make sure you have the right people in the right roles in your company. This includes external suppliers as well as staff.
- Have a robust plan with contingencies so you can react quickly.
- Have a very clear idea of your financial position and make sure you update your view regularly. If you need help from your bank or investors, know about it at the earliest point, so you have time to get something in place in a timely fashion.
- Make sure your product/service continues to be of high quality/relevance and customers are happy with what you are delivering.
- Keep on top of what your competition are doing so you don’t get left behind if they innovate.
- Don’t stick your head in the sand. If there are problems address them head on and get any help you need to sort them out.
- Finally, be in charge of your business – don’t let it be in charge of you. I have known business owners shrug their shoulders as if to say ‘it’s not my fault, it’s the economy/bank/competitors/staff…’. As the business owner the buck stops with you. It is your fault if you don’t do your best to help your business succeed.
At a recent Good Vibrations meeting Matt Elson asked what inspires us.
He had been particularly inspired by the paralympics and the fantastic achievements of the elite athletes there. They concentrated on what they could do rather than focusing on what their disabilities prevented them from doing.
I think we can all do with inspiration. When times are tough it is very easy to start focussing on the negative and to get bogged down with what things are not going to plan.
A far more positive approach is to move past those obstacles and focus on what you can do to move forward. Concentrate on those things you can change rather than on those things you can’t.
At the end of the day we live in a pretty prosperous country and have terrific opportunities residents of the developing world could only dream of.
Coming back to a story which inspires me – my father (an author/historian) in the process of researching for a book met a very wealthy German entrepreneur. He had been a fighter pilot in the Luftwaffe and my father had brought him together with the American pilot he had been in a dog fight with – they both tried their best to kill the other. Now they are the best of friends.
Whilst a great story that is not the inspiring bit for me. This ex-fighter pilot had found himself on the wrong side of the Berlin wall when the East Germans started building it. He left his home and fled to the West with his family and only what they could carry.
By the 70s when we went to stay with them near Frankfurt he was a very successful businessman. He lived in a large house with an indoor swimming pool (complete with wave machine!) and had 5 colour televisions. We stayed in their adjacent three bedroomed guest house. You can imagine the impression this made on a 10 year old whose family had only a couple of years earlier aspired to 1 colour television!
The thought that in just over a decade someone could achieve so much whilst starting with so little is very inspiring.
People do extraordinary things. These people are usually extraordinary individuals but if we can take inspiration from their example we can become, if not extraordinary ourselves, certainly more positive and motivated.
Yes, it is that time already! With Christmas on the horizon (if still fairly obscurely) I am starting to plug the very successful Billy No Mates Christmas bash in Wells.
I am making no apologies for publicising a Christmas event in September because I want it to be the most successful Billy No Mates ever. To do this I need everyone to spread the word to any sole traders or other business owners who work on their own or with just one other person.
These people have no one to have the traditional works Christmas party with, and they almost certainly need one after the stresses and strains of running a business during 2012.
The ‘bash’ is on 21st December from 12pm at Beah, Union Street, Wells, Somerset. As usual Beah have come up with a smashing three course menu, and with a glass of wine, coffee, crackers and party poppers all included in the £22 price, it’s great value.
It’s really easy to find out more information or book. Just go to the Billy No Mates website billynomates.info