7 rules for all business owners to live by
Running a business is hard. Whether it’s finding customers, building a team or managing finances, it can be difficult without the right strategies, expertise and support networks in place to help.
Browse the internet and you’ll find hundreds of tips aimed at helping business owners, so sometimes it can be hard to see the woods for the trees.
However, throughout our 25 years’ experience as a commercial finance broker, we have spoken to and worked closely with thousands of owners and decision makers at different stages of their business lifecycle, hearing about their challenges, goals and funding requirements.
With this insight, we have therefore produced this list of seven tips we think business owners should keep front and centre in their thoughts at all times. If you have any more you think are just as important, please let us know in the comments below.
1. Set yourself clear goals
You know that feeling when it’s Friday evening again and you’ve no idea where the week went? It’s the sign of a busy week, but was it a productive one?
With so many irons in the fire, it’s easy as a business owner to lose sight of the biggest projects and tasks which will bring the most value to the company.
So wherever possible, try to set achievable goals to work towards. Whether it’s a focus for the year or quarter ahead or something more achievement based, such as implementing a new piece of software or improving client retention, it’s up to you. But by having clear objectives and regularly evaluating how your activities have measured up, you and your team can keep focused and adjust goals as required.
2. Build a strong team
With that in mind it’s important to have a strong team around you which you trust and can depend on.
While being able to delegate work to someone you know will do a good job can be a great help, so too is having a close network you can bounce ideas off and who aren’t afraid to critique ideas or propose alternate options.
Focus on the areas of your business which will drive the most success and align with your goals. For instance, if new customer acquisition is important, ensure you invest in suitable sales and marketing staff.
3. Ask for help
It’s OK to admit we can’t do (and we don’t know) everything. In fact, being able to realise or even accept this is a great trait of a successful business owner. So, if you need support on a certain topic or function, don’t be afraid to consult an expert or outsource to specialist agencies.
In the case of advisors, brokers and consultants, their knowledge and expertise can be worth their weight in gold in terms of bringing ideas, concepts or options to the table which you may not have thought of or be aware of.
Outsource agencies, meanwhile, not only ease the resource burden, they can also deliver expertise, flexibility and benefits that in-house staff often can’t. From marketing and IT to security and credit control, there’s a whole host of functions and roles which can be outsourced.
4. Prioritise cash flow
The ongoing economic challenges are only serving to underline just how important cash flow is to businesses. From rising interest rates and high inflation to late payment, it seems that each of the major issues affecting businesses currently are placing further pressure on cash flow.
Whether you’re a start-up, small business or larger, more established company, managing and protecting cash flow should be the number one focus at all times. Poor cash flow is the primary reason businesses fail, and cash flow management is the cornerstone of solid financial management.
So keep a close eye on your cash flow forecasts and be quick to act in the event they reveal a shortfall, for instance by securing external funding. Some funding facilities can also be a great way to help businesses keep cash flowing, should you find cash flow is always a bit tight.
Similarly, tools such as credit insurance protect your cash flow in the event customers don’t pay your invoices on time, whilst investing in solid credit management processes can help to reduce the time it takes customers to pay.
5. Focus on clients
Whereas much of the above focuses on the operational side of running a business, remember that a business can only exist if people are buying your products or services.
Delivering excellence to clients should be a priority at all times, from the goods and services supplied to the way your team interacts with clients at each stage of the customer journey and lifecycle.
So whether it’s investing in your team, a suitable CRM platform, sales and marketing communication software or top of the range production machinery, everything should be geared towards servicing your clients’ needs and exceeding their expectations.
The result will be higher levels of client satisfaction, retention, repeat orders – and, importantly, advocacy, which can be one of the biggest drivers of organic growth in a business.
6. Review your suppliers
Suppliers can have a major bearing on any business’s performance and success. From IT, telecoms and utilities to stationery and finance, businesses depend on their suppliers for a quality level of service and reliability, just as your clients rely on you.
With that in mind it is good practice to regularly review the performance of suppliers, the level of service they’re providing and the overall value to your company. A benchmarking exercise could result in your business switching to a new supplier which can offer a higher quality or more tailored level of service and more value for money.
7. Keep learning
“Every day is a school day.” At least it is if you’re a business owner.
With so much information at our fingertips nowadays, from blogs, webinars, podcasts and social media, it’s always possible to pick up new ideas which can be applied both personally and professionally.
Getting out and networking can also be important in this regard, whether with other experts in your industry or other business owners.
Encourage your team to keep on learning, too, by ensuring they have access to training and resources which will help them get better in their roles – and as people.
By keeping our eyes and ears open, that next piece of advice you receive could be the inspiration that takes your business to the next level.