I can’t be prouder that I am still running my own business. After the first two years I have doubled my work load and have some great projects in the works. But looking back I do think I underestimated the challenge it would be.
As a web designer for over 12 years I knew how to do my job, but had no idea how to run a business. I think I floated through the first year on adrenaline, stress and the excitement of running something that was mine. I never smiled so wide or frowned so deeply. The second year has been in some ways harder. When you are faced with the same problems as the previous year it can put a strain on your confidence and stamina. Like every business I have suffered through bad cash flow. I have learnt to love beans on toast, when an invoice did not come in on time. That said I don’t want to put people off. I would not change the journey, the lows helped shape the highs, but there are a few things I wish I had known before I started.
This is an important one. There will be times when cash flow is ‘interesting’ or you are dealing with a difficult project. You will wonder if you did the right thing. Stick with it. It will be worth it in the end. Determination and hard work will make your business a success, not just that first spark of a great idea.
When you have the promise of cash, it is easy to be tempted to go out and get that piece of equipment you want, or treat yourself after a job well done. Think carefully before you spend money you do not have yet. The cash is not yours until it is in the bank. Keep some money in reserve, things can change very quickly and you no longer have a guaranteed wage at the end of the month.
Keeping a track of what you have done and what has been successful can keep your spirits high. Knowing why it was successful will allow you to repeat it. Knowing when things are not working at an early stage will save you from disaster.
It is easy to want to keep a brave face in front of family and friends, but sometimes you need to get advice. You don’t have to be a waterfall of all your woes, but support and encouragement will keep you steady and on the right path.
Your friends and family will worry about you even if they don’t know what is going on. Don’t underestimate the strain and stress they will go through with you. Make time for them and show you appreciate the support they offer.
It is easy to get focused on your first business plan and keep driving blindly towards the finish line. Be sure that you are still on the right track at regular intervals. If something is not working don’t be afraid to make a change and look at different directions. Making a change, at the right time, may save your business.
Everyone makes mistakes. Just accept this. Mistakes can be a great lesson. Build on these lessons and you will go a lot further.
There will be times when the only one who truly understands your vision is you. Getting advice is important. Listen carefully to opinions and look at issues from all sides. Sometimes, however, you have to trust your own instincts and just keep moving forward.
Running a business can be a lonely journey. No one understand the problems and successes like other businesses owners. Fine networks that can offer you support and a community to share experiences and ideas. Don’t forget to feed back into these groups as well. You will be surprised how much you have to offer in return.
Take time to mark the wins. Take pictures, pat yourself on the back. You need to enjoy the moments that make the whole thing worth while. Don’t forget to invite the press if they are noteworthy.
I would not have survived without the support and advice from other small business owners. I’m glad to see events like ‘Small Business Saturday’ becoming a part of our calender. All the great businesses we have in the region need your support everyday of the year. Small businesses offer unique and specialised services that are often overlooked or watered down by the big corporate brands. Go out there on Saturday 7th December and put your money where your mouth is. Buy a coffee from an independent cafe. Shop in an independent retailer. Talk to your local small businesses and see if they have any offers on the day. If you are not taking advantage of the brilliant small businesses out there, you are missing out on the passion sweat and tears that make these businesses so great.