Starting a business can be one of the scariest and most exciting steps of your life.
But there’s a lot more to getting your start-up out of the starting blocks than you might think.
We wanted to get the scoop on what makes a small business successful, so we reached out to a few thriving entrepreneurs who have seen it all before for their best small business advice.
With insights from Director and Marketing and Business Coach Jessica Osborn, Director and Business Insurance Broker John Catibog, and Founder of HART Home Décor and Girl with a Hart Styling Tiffany Jade Benn, we share what makes or breaks a small business.
Small Business Advice For Start-Ups
You’ve probably copped a lot of unsolicited small business advice from friends, family, and acquaintances about your budding business.
It seems everyone becomes an expert and offers their two cents as soon as you swing the idea of a start-up.
Here are some tips from actual experts who have years of experience under their belt.
Just Get Started
You know what they say: There’s no time like the present.
If you’ve got a great idea in the works, why put it off? Successful entrepreneurs know it’s all about being gutsy and taking action while everyone else sit in the wings.
“Just get started,” says Tiffany. “Don’t wait for the time to be right because it never will be.”
“Network as much as you can (if you don’t like networking, get to like it fast) and learn from as many people as you can. Build as many relationships as possible outside of your four walls.”
So while putting plan into practice may sound like an obvious one, you still need that extra kick to make that first brave move.
“Screw it – just do it. Give it a go. You may fall flat on your face, but you pick yourself up and keep trying until you succeed. ”
– Richard Branson
Keep It Simple
Don’t try to do everything at once. Start small with simple, realistic goals and work your way up.
“Keep it really simple,” advises Jessica. “So many business owners try to leap ahead and get to their end vision straight away.”
“But it’s much better to build a solid foundation in a small niche, figure out all the efficiencies of your processes and optimise your marketing funnel, then scale it from there. Focus on one target customer profile to begin with so you can get to market sooner, and build brand awareness.”
No one becomes a success overnight (except maybe Katy Perry’s left shark), so don’t go chasin’ waterfalls prematurely.
Focus On One Idea At A Time
While you may be tempted to chase all those avenues at once, it’s better to put 100% into one great idea than share your focus and energy across several.
“Entrepreneurs love having a million ideas on the go,” John explains. “They’re great at coming up with new ideas and spreading their attention.
“You become okay at many things but never great at one. So focus on one thing, become the best at it and give it everything you’ve got.”
Choose one idea to pursue and go for it without the distractions of other projects.
“An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it.”
– Roy Ash
Do What You’re Great At And Outsource The Rest
There may come a time when you realise you can’t do it all. And that’s OK.
Something all our entrepreneurs agreed on is that outsourcing is a great way to save you time on the tasks you’re not familiar with or passionate about, so you can spend more time on the important stuff.
Jessica says: “Do what you’re most comfortable and confident with and outsource the rest. You will grow your business faster if you focus on your core skill set and on growth activities, rather than struggling with the unknown. Of course you need to find the balance between budget and time – the first things I look to outsource are the technical ones where you need a skilled person such as accounts, website design, and copywriting.”
Tiffany agrees: “It’s a great idea as it gives you time to focus on the important stuff. Spending your time on things like bookkeeping and admin is a waste of your time; let someone else do it.”
John recommends ensuring you have enough revenue before hiring.
“Early on you have lots of time but little money,” he says. “Do as much as you can by yourself in the early stages.”
“This will help you understand every part of your business. Once you grow and you have more money and less time, then start looking at what you can outsource.”
Rest If You Need To – And You Will Need To
That’s right – even passionate, perfectionist, five-coffees-a-day entrepreneurs need to take a break here and there.
John agrees it’s time we slowed down and stopped glorifying busyness: “It’s important to take breaks and recharge your batteries because you’re no good to anybody when you burn out.”
“I fell for the delusion of “struggle porn” that many ‘gurus’ sensationalise. I ran on adrenaline until I felt burnout. You’re not a machine – and even machines wear out. Schedule regular breaks, even short ones, and give your body and mind time to recover to function at your best.”
Mistakes To Avoid
And with the must-dos come the uh-ohs you should avoid on your journey to entrepreneurial success.
Starting With The Key Goal To Make Money
If you’re only in it for the money, you’re not setting yourself up for success.
“Businesses don’t exist to make money,” Jessica states. “They exist to provide someone with something they need.”
Tiffany agrees this is one of the most common mistakes made by entrepreneurs.
“[Making money] is the hardest thing ever and it will take a lot longer to make some than you think,” she says.
“Don’t worry about being successful but work toward being significant and the success will naturally follow.”
– Oprah Winfrey
Targeting A Market That’s Too Broad
Jessica explains many start-ups make this mistake.
“They think about all the potential buyers and try to appeal to everyone instead of working out who they really want to sell to and tailoring their business to attract them,” she says.
Identifying your specific target market is key to developing effective marketing strategies and communication. At the end of the day, these are the people most likely to buy your product – so don’t waste your time, money, and efforts on the wrong audience.
Thinking Achieving A Work-Life Balance Is Easy
We’ve all heard a work-life balance is a must to maintain a successful business (and your sanity). But too often entrepreneurs aren’t expecting their early days to be quite so tough.
“It’s truly hard to bring balance and for the most part you won’t have it,” says Tiffany. “As your business grows you may be able to bring more in as you will be calling the shots, but in the early stages you will be working your butt off, so be prepared for that. No social life, missing out on all the things your friends are doing – just get used to it for a while. It will all come back to you.”
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