From our founder:
‘Here at InTouch we are dedicated to helping small businesses grow. We try to provide valuable content, great software to help you keep in touch with your contacts, and of course – useful advice.
When starting a business you have so many things to consider – finance, marketing, accounting and documentation… the list goes on. However one particular aspect start-offs often overlook, simply because of the sheer volume of everything else they need to take care of, is advice. Some good old advice from someone who has already been there and done it.
Today we would like to address entrepreneurs everywhere. Whether you are in the midst of setting up your enterprise, you have been in business for a while or the thought of being your own boss has just crossed your mind, this article is for you! For those of you who are interested in the wisdom of established business owners, for those of you in need of advice, or for those of you who simply appreciate a good read, this article is here to help you!
Founder and CEO of InTouch
We know that some of you, dear readers, are small business owners, while others are in the early stages of developing your businesses. We also know that you can learn a lot from each other.
If you are just setting up your own business, you may or may not have a mentor, you may or may not have someone close to you who have walked the same path and has endured all the obstacles you are about to encounter on your way to business success. So we thought: How can we bring you the wisdom of experienced business owners? And we came up with an idea…
For the last two weeks we’ve posed the following question on our social media channels:
‘If you could go back and meet yourself when you were starting your business, which is the one piece of advice you’d give your former self?’
We got some amazing responses! The comments were provided by business owners of both big and small corporations all of whom spoke from experience. The advice we got was an absolute eye-opener and it was really interesting to see what that 1 and only piece of guidance they would have given themselves would have been.
So here you are, the wisdom of business owners:
During the early stages of your business, you may be reluctant to assign important tasks to others. Partnering and hiring people who are talented and skilful would therefore be a key ingredient to success. As much as you know about a subject, there will always be someone out there who knows a little bit more, or has slightly more experience than you. Hire them and assign them responsibilities that you know and trust they would execute even better than you would. If you are starting an accounting business, for instance there may be someone who knows a lot about accounting software, whereas this may not be your forte. Hence, collaborating and allocating them software related tasks would make your team stronger. Bottom line is, you won’t need to do it all by yourself!
Ken and Zack, would have advised themselves about the importance of finance. You need to spend money to make money, so don’t be afraid to throw some at ideas that are worth it. Even at the beginning of your business, when resources are scarce financing projects is a good decision.
Of course, you have to be cautious, however sometimes it is worth loosening the purse strings. Invest in things that will give you an edge, things that will drive immediate revenue, invest in your customers and your sales and marketing.
Kimberly and Ian, would have liked to know more about the power of positivity. Having the right attitude and surrounding yourself with positive people who encourage you rather than bringing you down is very important. As a start-up, you my experience a fair share of disappointments and encounter quite a few obstacles, therefore having the safety net of optimism is crucial. Positive influences and reassurance will absolutely help you grow your business (and keep your sanity too).
Online Uprising and June would have advised their former selves not to sweat the small stuff. Yes, you will encounter difficulties, but you will also enjoy successes. The life of a business owner is a bit of a roller-coaster (especially at the beginning), but we have been reassured – it is all worth it. So keep calm and carry on!
Get a Mentor
A fair share of business owners who we spoke to said that they would have liked to have a mentor. No doubt, having a coach would most certainly help any entrepreneur by providing them with hands on experience. Any piece of advice from a mentor is priceless. Hearing the encouraging and guiding instructions of someone who has walked the path you have chosen to embark on would be more than beneficial. In some cases it could be the difference between success and failure, especially in some very specific industries.
Try and find a mentor. They don’t need to do all the work for you (and they most probably won’t, they have a business of their own to run after all), but do make the most of the time you have with them and absorb every single word that comes out of their mouths. They tend to have relevant entrepreneurial experience, plenty of constructive advice and who would say no to a ‘you can do it’ pep talk.
Heather would have advised herself to invest in a good lawyer. Remember when we said some things are worth spending over? Well this is one of them. Of course this point may be more relevant to some entrepreneurs than others. If you are in an industry where you have a unique name, design, product and service, make sure it is protected. The last thing you would want is someone else stealing your idea under your nose.
If possible, get expert marketing advice. You can have the best product in the branch but how would you sell it if people don’t even know that it exists? If you cannot afford professional marketing help, don’t worry. All is not lost! Nowadays, there are many free marketing resources. Go online and you are bound to find free tutorials, ebooks, articles, blog posts etc. Our blog for instance is the perfect place for such resources.
Also, look at Amazon and other book sellers. There are some great reads on marketing, finance and anything and everything business related. Find something suitable for you, read the reviews and learn.
Harriet would have given herself the advice of planning and organizing. Write a good plan, follow it and evaluate what you have achieved along the way. How would you know you have reached your goal if you haven’t set up one or if you haven’t decided how you are going to measure your progress?
Mat and Dan suggest not to be too happy of your own success while too oblivious about the rest of the world. Keep going, keep pushing, and keep trying, keep striving for something better and bigger. There is always something good waiting to be discovered around the corner. Never settle!
Cheshire Oak Structures’ advice is pretty self-explanatory and spot-on. So is Soujanya’s.
Backup Your Data
Always back up important data and documentation. In today’s day and age when everything is digital, having single copies is not safe. Always keep backups on different devices. Personally, I learned this one the difficult way when I saved a presentation I was working on for weeks on a memory stick that consequently vanished and I lost many of sleepless nights worth of work. So yes, always back up on different devices!
Be True to Your Values
Frank would have given himself not 1, not 2 but 3 pieces of advice and they are all very important for any entrepreneur. Know what your business is about. No matter how complicated it is, you should be able to compress your core benefit in 1 or 2 sentences.
Again, find someone with sales and marketing experience, or at the very least find resources and educate yourself. Trust me, if you build it they will come is not quite the case here. You have got to be a good marketer and seller.
Be confident in yourself and don’t enter into deals and partnerships that are not mutually beneficial. Do not cave in! Negotiate hard and get what you deserve!
Steve and Nelly remind us of the importance of being flexible. Remember that no business operates in vacuum and you will always have to comply with forces bigger than you – competition, industry trends, new legislations coming in. Some of these may be beneficial to you and your company, some of them may be perceived as a threat. Either way have a contingency plan and be flexible. There may come a time when you may have to make a major U-turn. Be prepared and embrace change. DO have set goals, but also be willing to adapt along the way.
Finally, what I think is one of the most insightful and truthful pieces of advice coming from Marie. It will be hard, it will take loads of time and money (probably more than you’ve planned) but do keep on going and never give up. Also, stay on top of technology. It is always better to be an early adaptor in your sector than a late-bloomer.
Unfortunately we could not publish all of the responses we got. Please visit our social media sites and see them for yourselves and leave feedback. Also, if you have a piece of advice you would like to have been given when you were starting your business, do let us know in the comments section below.