There are so many statistics out there about the failures of small businesses. In South Australia alone, only one out of four businesses last longer than three years. This probably explains why I often get asked the question ‘Is it really all worth it?’ and to be honest there are many days when I ask myself the same question. There is no sugar coating it. There are challenges to overcome, sacrifices you make, not to mention the exhausting amount of time and energy you invest into making a business a success. When it is your business, there is the constant pressure of bringing in new clients and work to ensure you continue to build your cash reserves for those months that maybe slow. Trying to juggle this with ensuring your family life isn’t compromised because of the decisions you have made is no easy feat.
As we approach the anniversary of our third year of our business, I look at what we have achieved; the team we have built, the clients we work with, the foundations of our business and of course the relationship I have with my business partner and husband. I am convinced it really is all worth it.
I believe there are a number of key factors that have contributed to us ensuring we are one of those businesses that has survived and continues to thrive:
Good Planning This may take years, but you need to do your research about your industries, markets and services or products you intend to offer. Get as much experience as you can before you go it alone. Put together a strategy, detailing what it is you want to achieve over the first three to five years. Prepare a comprehensive business plan and discuss it with people you trust who will give you the feedback you need. Be realistic as your initial ideas may not be viable.
Set goals and celebrate the small wins – your first job, first employee, first million in revenue….it maybe a fancy dinner with your team or a glass of wine and an ice-cream cake with your family. But reflect on these times. What is the point in being successful if you don’t share the journey with the people you care about?
Surround yourself by values aligned people – and by this I do not mean people that think like you and have the same skillset. You need people who share the same passion and enthusiasm, but bring skills and experience to the team that you don’t have that can help build your business. Invest in these people both personally and professionally.
Know your partners – We are a husband and wife team whom had never worked together, and this had its challenges. Play to your strengths, set boundaries, roles and responsibilities and trust each other’s ability to deliver on the different aspects of the business.
Focus – don’t try to be everything to everyone. Stick to your core services/products and industries. You’re only diluting the quality of what you offer. By staying focused you will build trust, respect and great relationships with your clients. You do not want the reputation of being an organisation who is just in it for the external motivators such as financial success.
Stay positive and resilient – You will encounter many challenges and hurdles. You will make wrong decisions. But it is a journey and it’s about how you respond to this that counts.
Do not rely on the bank – It is amazing how the banks can’t get enough of you when you’re in high income positions within large organisations. But as soon as you are self-employed it is a completely different story and has been our biggest challenge. Ensure you plan (both budget and cashflow) and know how you are going to obtain your funding.
Most businesses are not successful or sustainable by chance or good luck. If you are going to step out and create a business of your own, you are going to invest a lot of blood, sweat and tears and you need to be committed. But above all, make sure that it is something you are really passionate about. I strongly believe that by working smarter rather than harder and focusing on the factors above you will successfully turn your dream into reality.
The upside of owning your own business is that it creates the opportunity to be very rewarding, not just financially, but it creates flexibility and gives you the autonomy to make your own decisions, steer your own ship and move at a fast pace. It also gives you the ability to employ fabulous people who want to be part of the adventure and share the journey.
If you are contemplating going out on your own and you are excited by the possibilities and challenges that you may face, my recommendation would be to give it a go. What is the worst that could happen…..you have to go back into the corporate world and get another job? An opportunity to design your life around your passions is much better than a life of regrets and what could have been. The sacrifices make it all worthwhile and very rewarding for all involved.