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Top Tips (for small businesses)

My top tips for Small Business owners and entrepreneurs is hopefully more valuable than the illustrative tip used in the header. I remember constantly being told not to leave my job in advertising and start up my first company, MAID, and was given all number of reasons why. I ignored the naysayers, obviously, and MAID went on to become the world leader in online information. I had a similar experience with my second business, Venda, which I started just after the dot com bust. Venda pioneered cloud eCommerce and went on to become European market leader but setting up a platform for eCommerce just after the dot com bubble had burst, I was told, was a terrible idea because ‘no one was going to use eCommerce now!’ How wrong they were.

So here are my top tips. I hope they are helpful.

1. Start a business for the right reasons

Starting a business is not easy. It puts immense pressure on you and your family and friends so you need to do it for the right reasons. And those reasons need to be based on passion and vision. It is essential that you are passionate about what you want to achieve and be clear about what the result will yield – it should not be just about money, it should be about delivering a service or product that is new or better than what’s out there.

2.…But don’t be afraid to take risks

Just do it! Go for it! There will never be a perfect time to leave your secure job, risk your salary, take a chance on an idea which might not work but with the right commitment to succeed, you will make a success of it.

3. Make a solid plan

Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, said ‘Starting your own business is like jumping off a cliff and building the plane that will fly you to safety on the way down’. I think that is an excellent quote because it is my experience too. You need all the resourcefulness and nous to be successful but you can do it if you start with a plan. Before you jump off that cliff, make sure you plan every tiny detail and take into account every probability so that you know where you are going and how you will get there. Undoubtedly nothing will go according to plan but every time something changes, modify the plan accordingly to see where it now takes you.

4. Put the customer first

If you have an idea, find a way to put it in front of customers as soon as possible. You need to get feedback from the customer; as what you think is a great product, may not be what the customers want. Ultimately if you meet a customer need, you will be successful.

5. Get great people around you

By surrounding yourself with the right team you can fill gaps in your skillset so that you can be excellent in all areas of the business. By having good, capable people in your team, they will ensure that your vision is executed the way you want. By having subpar people in your team, you will often spend much of your time covering their tracks and re-doing their work to the level or quality you expect – you don’t have time for that! Also, make sure that your team reflect you and the brand of the business. They should look and be the company!

6. Make sure you don’t run out of money!

An obvious tip but one that can catch you out. It is clearly easier said than done but cash is the oxygen of any business and cash flow is equally important. When running your business, watching your cash is the only survival technique that is guaranteed to work – if you plan accordingly. The cash flow forecast will always give you a date when you are out, so make sure you get revenue, investment or reduce overhead to push it out as long as possible. Of course, the easiest way to take the pressure off is to make a profit!

….and finally, take control and never give up

Follow YOUR vision. Don’t be too stubborn to accept help, advice and guidance from those that have succeeded before you, but it’s essential that you are the captain of your own ship. Neither success nor failure is predetermined, but once you have established in your own mind where you want your business to go, follow that vision, trust your own instincts and work like hell until you get to where you want to be.

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