Alana Swain offers up seven essential basics for business owners to get right if they want to succeed in business in 2024.
Launching a successful business is exhilarating but far from easy. However, in the land of duct tape, number 8 wire and Sir Ed, good old Kiwi ingenuity means we find a way. And those looking for the secrets to success should note that the difference between a struggling startup and a profitable enterprise comes down to getting the ‘boring’ basics right.
Sticking to the essentials stacks the odds (ever) in your favour for the long haul, even – or perhaps especially – when you’re just setting out.
1. Choose your people
You’re a reflection of the people you spend the most time with (including social media), so choose well. Look to other businesspeople for support, encouragement, knowledge, and insights. Business ownership is a lonely path, and only those who know, know. And when the time comes, pay it forward!
2. If possible, start as a side hustle
Adulting is tough. Running a business is big-time adulting. ‘Cashflow, cashflow, cashflow’ applies to every startup, so if your business starts up as a side hustle…well, you’ve got an independent cash generator keeping those bills at bay. Watch the cash reserves (and learn how to), be mindful of how and where you invest your capital, and don’t set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm.
3. Know your numbers
A lot of online advice is based on overseas models of finance. New Zealand works differently and credit facilities work different for business. It’s all about the money, so know what’s happening with the pennies and the dollars take care of themselves. Build your financial acumen; while accountants are important, it’s also really important that you’re confident around your business finances too. The best business owners know what’s going on with the money and make informed decisions strategically and on the go. You’ll worry less when you have visibility. You can’t run a successful business being money blind.
4. Planning matters
The secret formula for success is consistency. The ‘boring’ stuff like planning based on accurate and realistic information, being super clear on what you’re going to do (and what you’re not going to do). Establish, then work towards those goals. Consistently.
Super unsexy, sure. But do the mahi and the treats follow; an hour spent planning in business will save 10.
5. Learn to sell
It’s not as icky as you think. Marketing jargon aside, you need to understand who your customer is and what their problems are that you solve. Got that? Good, now go straight to those people and tell them about you! Not on Facebook or the ‘Gram’ (necessarily) but directly. Engage, be persistent but not annoying, make it easy for them to do business with you.
In today’s social media-obsessed world, make yourself stand out by standing out; in the old days, they called it ‘shoe leather’. It works even better today, because your competitors are all posting to the Gram – while you call on your clients and potential clients.
Marketing yourself is hard, sure. But it works. When you start out, often the thing you have up your sleeve is time. So, use that well. Get on the phone, send a value-add email, call in on a customer or new connection with coffee. Remind them of your presence and your services. People do business with people.
6. The glamour is fleeting (the grind is not)
There are life changing, wickedly great things about being in business. But boundless optimism quickly becomes “farrrrk, I’m overthinking this”, “shoot this is rough” or “whhhhhhyyy is no-one buying” and ‘OMG where’s the cashflow?’.
Stay focused, keep your eye on the prize, and realise that if this was easy, everyone would be doing it. The grit comes from choosing to do the boring stuff and the awkwardness of making those sales calls (you’ll get used to it!). In being smart and making every hour count. Consciously choose who you learn from, and don’t let the relentless Facebook and Google ads distract from your mission.
7. Back yourself
Business is a series of skills that you too can, and must, learn. Some are uncomfortable (sell!) But having a growth mindset is one of those essential ingredients for success. Think you can’t do it? You’re probably right.
Flip the thinking and add in a magic “yet”. As in “I haven’t learnt how to do that yet”.
You’re on this path, and so back yourself. Get expert help, sure, but at the end of the day it all comes down to YOU and what you do with it.
And bear in mind, if you’re doing this right… you’ll probably be the worst boss you’ve ever had. You must be, because in backing yourself, your expectations of getting even the hardest mahi done – the things you really don’t like doing (SELLING!) takes motivation, determination, and discipline.
BUT. The good news: It’s worth it!