6 Things Small Business Owners Wish They’d Known Before They Started
Learning from those who came before you is a great way to prepare for what’s to come. Find out what seasoned small business owners wish they’d known before starting. Learn from their experiences and make your own startup phase smoother.
Business is a constant learning curve. Many small business owners will attest to the reality that every day will bring you something new, whether exciting, challenging or both. There are, however, some common, consistent factors that aspiring small business owners should know before starting their journey.
Let’s discuss what some successful business owners recommend to those starting their entrepreneurial journey — from testing business ideas to employee relationships.
1. Hone in on your business’ message to attract the right customers
Having a great product or service is only half the equation. The other half is attracting the customer who wants to buy it from you.
Your business’ brand is its identifier. It’s what sets it apart from other businesses doing something similar in the same market. How you portray your brand will ultimately determine your clientele. So, what makes your business unique?
If I had known the importance of nailing my messaging and mission statement from the start, I could have avoided a lot of wasted time.
—Jas Rawlinson, Book Coach and Resilience Speaker
Your business’ mission statement includes:
Keep in mind that your business can’t be everyone’s cup of tea. So, focus on you and your professional ambitions. What do you want to achieve? What do you want to offer and how? Successful small businesses often only provide a small range of really well-done products or services, rather than an extensive range that only reaches mediocre status.
[It] makes life so much easier and successful than trying to serve everyone…
— Jill Woods, Owner of Practice Momentum
So, ask yourself some questions: Who is your dream customer? What kind of person are they? What do they value?
Consistently branding your business to fit this target market will help you attract the right customers to your business. Impressing a smaller group of people can also lead to a more positive word-of-mouth experience. This is especially beneficial in the beginning when your paid and social media marketing strategies are still in its infancy stages.
Initially when you don’t have funds for marketing, your business will rely on word of mouth. I still think word of mouth is very important. It’s about trusted relationships.
— Joanne Ryan, Owner of InfoDec Communications
Remember: sometimes honing in on your business’ speciality can take time. You may spend months trying to please a broader spectrum before you find your real target market.
Small business marketing can be difficult, but not impossible! Pay attention, take note of what works and what doesn’t and learn from your experience.
2. Expect slow cash flow when starting out
It’s no secret that a business’s cash flow is very low (if not almost non-existent) in the early stages. You’re new to the market, you’re still trying to establish your systems and procedures, and your customers don’t know you yet! This means long working hours, late nights and sacrifices.
In order for me to stop teaching and invest solely in my dream while raising our family, we knew that there would have to be no up-front costs invested.
—Dr Allison Greenland, owner of Leap into Literacy
Don’t worry! You’re still learning, and no one expects you to be an entrepreneurial genius overnight (if ever).
The learning never ends. Whether it’s business, personal life and the whole entrepreneurial journey.
— Prosper M. Taruvinga, Founder and Online Prosperity Consultant at Livelong Digital Pty Ltd
What’s essential to have during this first period of possibly slow business, low exposure and minimal excess cash is the passion that pushed you to start the journey.
Startups often have no income in the early stages, so if you are truly passionate about your field, it gives you fuel to run through the first dry months.
Next, we’ll take a look at some low-cost methods to help you get the ball rolling.
3. Start small
Instead of making your new business your be-all-end-all straight off the bat, why not make it an after-hours gig or side hustle? Yes, it means a longer working week and a slower start. But, it also means you’ll continue to have a regular income to supplement your expenses while you get your new business off the ground. A great way to slow-start your business and get an indication of market interest is taking your product or service to a local market.
Go to your local Sunday market, set up a stall, and see if you can sell your product or service to strangers on the street. If you can go down to the Sunday markets and sell it to a few people, that’ll give you an indication whether your idea can fly on a bigger and bigger scale.
4. Good business starts at home
If your product or service isn’t local Sunday market appropriate, stay at home! Most home business ideas involve minimal set-up. They often run completely online, and require no expenditure on property. All you’ll need is a good Wifi connection, solid organisational skills and self-discipline and you’re good to go!
I began by tutoring from my dining room table, then moved onto renting out spaces in church halls, and then started my first centre in 2016.
— Dr Allison Greenland, owner of Leap into Literacy
New businesses take time to thrive. Everyone starts somewhere. Remember:
In business, we’ve got to be nimble, we’ve got to be adaptable, and respond to what the market wants.
5. Know your strengths
We can’t know everything (as much as we wish otherwise). Your past work experience, education and natural affinity to certain skills will shape what parts of your business will come naturally, and what parts will leave you stumped.
Some aspects came naturally, especially those related to sales and marketing since my undergrad and previous work experience centred around those. Other aspects needed a lot more work.
—Dr Allison Greenland, founder of Leap into Literacy
Educating yourself in business essentials is a great way to build confidence when starting a business. Whether in marketing, finance, or management, there’s a training opportunity out there for it all! According to many small business owners, educating yourself in business finance and systems is an incredibly beneficial move when starting your business.
It is surprising how many little mistakes you can make when you don’t know all the ins and outs of business finance.
—Dr Allison Greenland, founder of Leap into Literacy
6. Know when to ask for help
Sometimes, however, it’s more practical to ask for help – to outsource.
Do not try to do it all yourself. Creating a team around me has been one of the best things I have done to grow and develop the business.
— Jill Woods, Owner of Practice Momentum
Your skills and interests are what brought you to this point! It’s okay to admit that your strengths lie in some areas while not in others.
If you’re in creative industries, like me who’s background is marketing, you may not have a clue about the numbers behind the operations, so the first thing I did was source a bookkeeper.
— Joanne Ryan, owner of Infodec Communications
Despite basic knowledge, sometimes professional help is a smarter long term investment for your business (and your time!).
I wish I had known that it is cheaper to outsource the things you don’t know how to do, rather than figuring it out yourself…. Your time is also valuable.
— Amanda Lacey, Owner of boutique PR and communications firm POPCOM
Starting your own business will bring unexpected events, both good and bad. However, the professional satisfaction you can receive from being your own boss is worth it! But learning the basics on the job takes a lot of time and in the long run, money.
What I wish I would have known before starting the business was that you really learn everything in every department being the business owner. The first year was a year of learning for me.
— Elly, Owner of Milk and Butter Media
Getting the basics down before you start investing and outsourcing is a great way to gain confidence in yourself!
Share what you love, and the money will follow.
Getting the basics down before you start investing and outsourcing is a great way to gain confidence.
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