Business acumen is a combination of being good with numbers and managing people
In a recent survey run by SmallBusiness.co.uk, small business owners were asked to share what they would do differently if they were to turn back time and start their small business again. Over twenty percent of all business owners came back with a single answer: they regretted not taking the time to lay the groundwork for their business.
Regrets for some, however, are great lessons that we can learn from. With that in mind, here are five other common regrets experienced by small business owners, showcasing things to avoid when starting your own business.
Not asking for advice and feedback
When running your own business, that vision for the future and fire in your heart to succeed is desperately important, but it isn’t the only thing that is important. It’s all too easy to see an endgame – to see where you want to take your business – and run with it. However, what you want may not be what everybody else wants.
Everyone is different, and a great idea to you may not be as impressive to everyone else. By not asking for feedback and advice from potential customers and experts in the business sector you are entering, you risk floundering in mediocrity because you didn’t stop to find out if what your business is doing is really worth doing; and if not, what you can do to improve on your idea.
Asking for advice is also vital in avoiding mistakes that other business owners have already made. Talking to experienced business owners who can help you steer clear of potential calamities – ones they themselves experienced – is something few small business owners do, but many wish they had.
Hiring the wrong people
We all like to help people out; friends, family or just somebody down on their luck. We also don’t like to expend too much energy on things like hiring a new employee when we already have a business to run. A combination of both of these, or just one on its own, can lead to a hire that isn’t exactly perfect for your business.
This is a path many business owners before you have a walked, bringing in a sibling that need a job for example. Sure, they may be able to handle the job, but it is likely they don’t have the exact qualifications required to help your business succeed. Employees are the greatest asset a business can have, which is why it is so important to get the right people for the job.
This is not to say that you cannot hire a family member or friend, but it is to say that you should only hire them if they are right for the position. It may take a little extra time and effort to find the exact match for the job, but in the long term, it is likely to offer a much better payoff than a quick or inappropriate hire.
Never making enough time for family
We all know and love that grumpy old yellow billionaire, C. Montgomery Burns.The business magnate of the Simpsons universe, Mr Burns is known for operating the somewhat safe nuclear power plant; a business he continues to run even after surviving a gunshot wound to the chest at the tender age of 118. Mr Burns put everything into his business, and in the episode C.E.D’oh, the character confesses that his success cost him his fiancé, who died of loneliness (and rabies).
This scenario is not just the stuff of a fiction however, and busy workers regularly find themselves torn between work commitments and family. This is a problem experienced more severely by small business owners than any other, often because of the time and dedication it takes to start and maintain a small business.
While everything worth doing requires some form of sacrifice along the way, there are ways you can strike a healthier balance between work and family. Following the advice of business owners detailed at the start of this article, and not rushing to get everything done too quickly, is a good start.
Not hiring an accountant
Leading on from our last point about making time for family, one thing that absorbs a lot of time – which could be spent with loved ones – is managing small business finance. Dealing with money and the books is a tough and complicated aspect of owning a small business, and a common regret amongst business owners is not getting help from a professional.
Hiring an accountant not only has benefits tied to time, but it also ensures that mistakes aren’t made when it comes to managing money. Poor financial management can not only lead to regrets but the total collapse of a business.
There is a simple solution to this problem, which is seek expert financial counsel when running your own business. This doesn’t mean you have to employ a full-time accountant however, as many accountants work as contractors; meaning you need only pay for help as and when you need it.
Not being bold enough
Starting your own business is almost always a gamble. For your business to succeed, you need a lot of things to go in your favour: customer interest, third-party investment, reliable suppliers, strong employees, etc. However, once you reach a manageable, stable point in your business’s lifespan, it’s common to stick with that stability and play it safe.
By this we mean that you stop taking risks on large projects with bigger payoffs, or you don’t go for business expansions because you are unsure of how it will turn out. In the moment, it seems like the best option, maintaining status quo and avoiding potential mistakes. As an aged business owner looking back over your career though, playing it safe may well be one of the biggest regrets you have. Where would it have taken you? and how different could things really be?
You cannot really develop in the business world if you don’t take risks every now and then. All successful people have a story about when they became a somebody, and almost all of these stories start with a risk.
Russell Smith, a chartered accountant from Leeds in the UK, is a small business owner with over a decade of experience operating his own firm.
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