Record numbers of people started their own business in the UK last year, and even more are expected to do so in 2018. Concerningly, however, as many as half of all new businesses fail within the first three years.
Women are typically held back from becoming entrepreneurs by lack of confidence, but fascinatingly enough, being risk averse is one of the things which makes women more likely to experience small business success!
Whether you’re still pondering about starting a business, or have already taken the first few steps and are wanting to increase your likelihood of small business success, our 10 tips are essential reading.
Top Tips for Small Business Success
1. Pursue A Business Idea You Love
Start a business that you are passionate about. At least in the early days, you won’t be well remunerated, so there has to be something else to sustain you and make you feel the long hours and hard work are worthwhile.
Whether your business idea has grown out of a hobby — Coco Chanel made her first perfume for herself, then later sold it as an add on in her boutique — or you want to have a social impact, make sure it is something which will motivate you to get out of bed in the morning day after day.
2. Do Your Research
Scientists have found that lack of critical information — i.e. not having done your homework — is one of the main reasons that new businesses fail. Don’t let this stifle your small business success. Before you start, read everything you can.
Find out who your competitors are and what they are offering, identify your potential customers and their needs, and make sure you can supply a product which is competitively priced and goes above and beyond what the competition is offering.
3. Access Affordable, Flexible Finance
You don’t have to be wealthy to start your own business: LK Bennett opened her first shop with £13,000 of her own savings and a £15,000 bank loan! What is important is knowing how much you need (Tip 2: Do your research!) and ensuring that finance is available at the right time and at a rate you can afford.
If your business needs a cash boost consider taking small business loans for small businesses and there are helpful online calculators that will tell you straight away how much you are likely to be able to borrow.
4. Find A Mentor
Setting up and running a business is an incredibly steep learning curve, and you’re far more likely to succeed if you have a mentor to advise you.
It might be tempting to ask a good friend, but it is far better to recruit someone with relevant professional experience, even if you have to pay them a fee for their time.
5. Get To Know Your Customers
Who is going to buy your product, and what do they really want?
We’ve partly covered this in tip #2, but it’s really worth investing time getting to know the people whose custom your small business success depends on.
When you do start to make sales, ensure that you spend time every week in a customer facing role, observing the purchasing process and getting verbal and non-verbal feedback from buyers.
6. Spend Time Preparing
Time spent planning is never wasted. It’s not the exciting, sexy part of business, but time invested in getting things right will save you time and headaches in the long run.
It’s absolutely essential that you write a business plan: you can get a free template from The Prince’s Trust.
Also work out your budgets, find the bank accounts which work for you, and choose a cloud based accounting system such as Xero or Sage to make sure all your income and expenses are recorded for the tax man.
7. Establish your Online Assets
Before you even sell your first product, secure all your online assets. Purchase your domain name and email addresses, and register your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.
The last thing you want is to get your brilliant business idea up and running and then discover that someone else has registered your brand names online, preventing you from using them.
8. Invest In Your Brand
If you cut corners and try to set up your business on the cheap, it will show. Yes, there are economies which can be made, but there are certain things you will have to invest money and time in to get right.
These might include your website, graphic design, or making a prototype product. Don’t set off half cocked. It is better to do things slowly but properly and get them right the first time than to make a mistake which is costly to rectify and might damage your credibility later on.
9. Network, Network, Network!
There are people — women in particular — out there who can and will help you push your business to the next level. They could be mentors, suppliers, customers… you’ll never find out until you get out there and meet them.
Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, was struggling to get her underwear company off the ground until she had a chance meeting with Oprah Winfrey. Oprah loved the pants and sales skyrocketed!
The people you meet through networking and built professional and personal relationships with are critical to your small business success.
10. Share your Small Business Success
Modesty holds back women in business. If you’ve done something that you are proud of, if you’ve taken a critical step forward in your business, shout about it!
Not only does sharing your achievements have benefits for marketing, but it will enthuse and inspire other women to work with you and become your customers.
They will want to share in each small business success, and may even hope that it rubs off on them. Positivity is a great asset for any business.
No business is guaranteed to succeed. But if you have a great idea you are passionate about, do your research and plan carefully, and actively network and build relationships with partners and potential customers, you will be well on your way to realising the small business success you deserve.
Which of our tips will you apply in your own business? Which additional tips would you give fellow female entrepreneurs starting out?