The first year or two for a start-up can be incredibly rewarding as you establish and build the business. It can also be busy, frustrating and lonely for a business owner.
Staying positive, focused and motivated to excel is important for your own success as well as helping to motivate your employees.
Get business news first
Sign up to SmartCompany’s daily newsletter
With that in mind, here are my top five tips for keeping the spring in your step in the start-up years.
1. Draw on your mentors
Having like-minded people who are enthusiastic and support your goals and dreams is important. When the going gets tough, it’s helpful to have someone to turn to that brings relevant experience and insight into business.
Mentors provide their knowledge, experience and support when you need to make an important decision and are unsure about which way to go. They’ll provide insights and arm you with confidence to carry on.
Your mentors should be positive people that you can celebrate the wins with. Taking the time to stop and enjoy the successes and reflect on how you’ve progressed is important in keeping your energy and enthusiasm levels high.
Your mentors should be a source of encouragement, but also provide a reality check when required.
2. Choose your customers wisely.
You’ll spend a lot of time with your customers, so be clear about the ones you want to work with versus those that aren’t your ideal for your business.
What are the characteristics of your ideal customer? They buy your product or service, but how often will they return and how much do they spend? How well do they understand and value the key differentiators you bring to the market?
Will they pay you on time or erode your profit margin by being a bad payer or needing excessive reassurance that their purchase was the right one.
While it can be tempting to take any sale when you’re building the business, customers that aren’t the best fit, can be difficult to manage and unfulfilling to work with.
On the other hand, your ideal customers can be rewarding to deal with from both a financial and a non-financial point of view.
3. Play to your strengths
While SME business owners initially need to play the role of an entire organisational structure on their own (marketing, human resources, financial management, IT and fulfilment), in reality no one person is likely to enjoy or excel in all the skill sets a business requires.
It’s valuable to recognise this and devise a plan to address these needs for the business’ benefit. Consider the tools, resources or systems you might be able to put in place, to more efficiently address these needs or help with handing them over to a member of your team.
Systemising a process means someone else can more readily learn how to perform that task for you.
Outsourcing allows you to bring specialist skills and knowledge to your business to achieve better results in less time.
This provides a higher return on investment than you can by persevering with something you don’t enjoy or aren’t equipped to handle. The added bonus is you’ll free up time to put your own expertise to better use within the business.
4. Know your numbers
If there’s one thing that keeps business owners awake at night, it’s sure to be cash. To combat this, you need to understand your cashflow and future commitments.
Having systems in place to monitor your cash will help to ensure you have it available when you need it, to meet your obligations.
In addition to knowing your cashflow, there are other numbers you need to know as well.
Measuring and monitoring key performance indicators that are tied to your business plan, will show how far you’ve come in the areas most important to you.
Break your targets down into manageable short-term goals, over a 90 day period for instance.
You might wrap a theme around the targets and be creative with how you direct your focus.
Visual reminders work well, whether they are dashboard reports on the homepage of your sales or accounting system, or a growth chart on a wall in full view of your team.
Seeing daily reminders and movements encourages competitive spirit and keeps you focused and energised.
Celebrate the little wins along the way, when you sign a new client or close a sale above a certain dollar value, as well as when you achieve the 90 day targets.
Once you’ve hit the targets, stretch yourself by setting new ones that are more ambitious but still attainable and then enjoy the sense of achievement when you hit those.
5. Remember why you’re doing all this
Every business owner should have a strong personal sense of purpose and reason why they went into business in the first place.
For most business owners it’s usually about achieving financial security and independence, satisfying their entrepreneurial flair, achieving work/life balance, controlling their own destiny or pursing excellence by delivering something new or better than what’s currently available.
Whatever your personal reason for going into business, make sure you acknowledge and enjoy seeing it come to fruition by keeping in mind where you started and how far you’ve come.
Creating the right conditions, staying focused and celebrating all the little wins for you and the business, will help keep the spring in your step and make the journey more enjoyable along the way.
Marc Peskett is a director of MPR Group a Melbourne based firm that provides business advisory services as well as tax, outsourced accounting, grants support and financial services to fast growing small to medium enterprises. MPR Group is a member of the Proactive Accountants Network. You can follow Marc on Twitter @mpeskett