We hit the 10 year mark this year. Whew! We are feeling relieved to get that milestone out of the way. Did you know that 96% of all small businesses fail within the first 10 years? Thankfully we have experienced great success, a few defeats and learned many lessons along the way all leading to our firm position in the elite 4 percent!
Lesson #1 - Everyone Needs a Little Help.
In the beginning, we all want to (and think we can) do it all ourselves. The reality is no one can do it all. From the right IT person, an accountant, or employees if you’ve got them: let some key people handle the things that are outside your scope of expertise so you can focus on what you are best at. If your budget is tight, interns are a great option for things like social media or general organization. I encourage you to go out and find at least one person who can help you. You’ll be more productive, make more money and be able to afford more people!
Lesson # 2 - It’s a Moving Target.
Goals and benchmarks are always changing for small businesses… and they should. That’s just the way of the world these days in our ever changing business environment. Let it go! Be adaptable. The goals you set last year will look completely different in years to come. Always keep your goals in sight, just close enough to continually review and tweak them as needed.
Lesson # 3 - There’s a Process for Everything
I can’t stress thin one enough. Admittedly, its hard in the beginning. As a new entrepreneur people often run willy-nilly attending to whatever arises minute to minute. STOP, LOOK, LISTEN and design a way to make processes and procedures for everything you do in your business. For us it might be the way a client’s work is processed as it comes in and out of the office. For you it may be the simple use of a calendar or streamlining the way you communicate to staff or a client. It’s all about efficiency which leaves more productive time in your day.
Lesson # 4 – Always Be Marketing
No matter what your budget, this is not an option. It’s a 100% all the time endeavor. As a small business owner myself I know how hard it can be to get away from the desk and go out to promote yourself. It isn’t always about that. It isn’t always about advertising, or social media, or writing a great newsletter to prospects. It is ALL of those things combined with living and breathing your business’ persona. I’m not saying you can’t ever get away from it, just remember you are your business and your business is you. Take that with you everywhere you go. Talk about your business in a positive way. Express to others how much you love it (‘cuz you know you do). Let this permeate everything you do…. success will follow!
Lesson # 5 - There’s Value in Your Numbers.
What do your financials mean to you? As an accountant I bet you’d thought I’d ask that. The answer is everything! When other people ask you how business is you need to know the answer. Small changes can be a big deal in the financials of a small business and being on top of it is crucial. When a key business decision needs to be made you need to know where you stand.
What about taxes? How will you ever plan if you don’t know where you are at? How much do you have in accounts receivable? What are your profit margins? Proper record keeping is vital to any businesses success. These tasks aren’t always simple for a business owner. Ask for help if you need it…. Refer to lesson #1
As we pass our 10 year mark it’s a good time to reflect on these lessons. There are many more we’ve learned and more to come. For now, we feel thankful to have stayed out of the dreadful 96% statistic.