Sustainable Business/Some final advice
It is important to acknowledge that only certain types of people make self-employment a success. Being self-employed is never easy, but it can be one of the most rewarding and satisfying decisions you will ever make. However, there is never any substitute for experience.
Here are our last pieces of advice.
Be realistic about budgets
You may find that at first you never meet your budgets because you tend to inflate the sales you are likely to make and underestimate the expenses. So be tough on your budgets and never believe what others tell you about margins. Only experience will tell you what the real costs and expectations are.
You must personally be able to handle being in a small business. It is not easy and you have to be made of the ‘right stuff’. For your business to succeed your partner and family must be committed to the enterprise as well. Specifically you will need to:
- Be persistent. Never take no for an answer and continually question and go back to people again and again.
- Be really good at what you do. Become the expert.
- Read as much as you can about being in business and what other people have done to succeed. Learning never ends.
- Go on as much training as possible. Attend all the Enterprise Training courses possible, especially in the areas where you lack skills.
- Find a mentor or person with whom you can talk through your business challenges.
- Take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.
Be flexible enough to change what you are doing if this is necessary.
Always invest in good people
If you are going to hire people, hire the best you can afford. People and staff will be the most expensive, rewarding and frustrating investment you will ever make. You’ll probably spend more waking time with your employees than your partner, so you might as well create a healthy, happy and safe work environment that everyone enjoys. Invest in your staff to keep them and to encourage them.
Never forget that if you do not actually get to sell something, then you are not in business. Even if everyone loves what you are doing, unless the dollars come in, you are out. The acid test of any business is cashflow. Many people may give you false hope by saying your idea is brilliant—but they will not use your product or service.
Small steps to big improvement
Remember that Four Fives Rule (end of Chapter 4), where small improvements make a huge difference to the bottom line of your business. Continually seek to improve all aspects of your business by five percent every year.
What the customer wants
Never forget that whatever you do, it is the customer who pays you. If you do not provide what they want, you will not be in business for long. Continue to ask your customers through your market research what they want in case they change their minds over time. If you do not adjust, and one of your competitors does, you may still be wondering what happened long after the cash runs out.
Any experienced business person will tell you that things do not always go perfectly in a business. Planning ahead to manage the risks of the business and the unexpected is another important aspect of being in business. This includes cashflow and working capital management, tax and compliance planning and health and safety issues. It also includes contingency planning for accidents and sickness and contractual disputes (whether with customers, suppliers, or your own staff). Get the best advice you can to help you manage these challenges. Sound planning can help you anticipate or minimise these risks and good business is always about minimising risks while maximising your opportunities.
Sustainable Business practices
Customers will increasingly prefer to do business with companies that are sustainable or environmentally responsible or care about how others are affected by their business.
Your business plan is a road map guiding you to achieve your business and personal goals. Examine your plans at regular intervals to ensure you are on track.
The very process of review may show you that your original goals have changed over time. The changes may well require you to rebuild your plan to reflect a new direction or focus. If that proves to be true for you, simply revisit this ‘do it yourself’ list to assist you in developing your new business plan.
We would stress again the need to take as much advantage as possible of the business training available under the Enterprise Training programme. Visit the website www.business.govt.nz or phone 0800 424 946.
Finally, learn to trust your instinct or ‘gut feeling’ on everything you do. Chances are your ‘feeling’ for what you should do is right. It has probably got you this far. Don’t ignore your own advice now.