Success looks different to every small business owner. For some, the freedom of going it alone to pursue your passion is the greatest measure of success.
For others, success means strong profit margins, high staff retention, or building a sustainable legacy for future generations.
No matter what your definition of success is, there is much to be learned from the accomplishments of other small business owners.
SmartCompany spoke to three SME owners to hear their top tips for a successful business. From remaining resilient to always giving back to the customer, here’s what they had to share.
“Try everything at least once”
“The best advice I can give someone is to take risks,” says Ammar Ahmad, founder and chief executive of AMR hair.
Ahmad is no stranger to risk – at age 18, Ahmad set out to shake up the hair and beauty supplies industry, after seeing a gap in the market for affordable hairdressing tools.
Years of struggling to be taken seriously as a young entrepreneur left Ahmad with some hard-earned business wisdom – and an annual turnover of $24 million as of 2017.
“People will question what you are doing, put you down or make you feel bad about your choices… remember to go with your gut feeling and try everything at least once,” Ahmad says.
According to Ahmad, the path to success is different for every business.
“What works well for one business may not work for the other, so try it yourself.
If you fail, take a step back to see how you could have improved and put all of that into your next attempt. Those failures only fuel you to do better: hold your head high and don’t limit yourself.”
The capital challenge
But even with resilience and perseverance, the most common barrier to success in a small business is cashflow. According to research conducted by American Express in 2018, 37% of small business owners were ‘extremely concerned’ about the potential impact that a lack of cashflow could have on the success of their business.
For Emily Jaksch, founder and managing director of HR Gurus, being smart about managing cashflow is the secret to small business success.
“I use an American Express Platinum Business Card instead of an overdraft, which is cheaper, less risky and smarter, not to mention I also get the Membership Rewards points which I transfer to Qantas Frequent Flyer,” Jaksch says.
This type of business card is a charge card, which means it does not have a pre-set spending limit, so is ideal for larger expenses. However, this does not mean unlimited spending: purchases are approved based on a number of factors and card members are required to pay the balance in full each month.
“I use this [card] to pay all my bills – even ATO tax bills – and get a great interest free period, which is a bonus. I find it better than an overdraft from the bank as they typically want you to put your house up and the interest rates are high and start immediately.”
Ten years after founding HR Gurus, Jaksch’s perspective of success has changed considerably.
“To be honest, my big dreams were initially to make millions and have the freedom to travel and work less – It actually sounds comical now to say that,” she says.
After the birth of her son, Jaksch shifted her focus.
“It was no longer about money and status. It was all about trying to find balance so that I could focus on being a mum and a successful business owner.”
Finding fulfilment within
For Jaksch, success is about finding personal fulfilment in her work, and getting the chance to give back.
“For me, I really want to have an impact on all my clients… I honestly want to make a difference in the world, but now it’s also about making my son proud.”
Tom Allwright, founder of boutique luxury adventure company Adventure Abroad, had a similar realisation after founding his small business. Like Jaksch, in the early days his metric of success was whether he could make enough money to support the lifestyle he dreamed of living.
Now, he’s more interested in the impact he has on his clients.
“Our client retention is how we perceive a measurable success rate,” Allwright says.
“The more people we can inspire to do the things that inspire them, the more successful we are as a business. This brings more personal satisfaction than any amount of money in the bank does.”
Through our Global Commercial Services division, American Express offers powerful backing and support that helps companies of all sizes gain financial savings, control and efficiency. We provide a suite of payment and lending products, solutions for travel and everyday business spending, cross border payments, global currency solutions, and business financing.