Top tips for small businesses after a decade running one

I started QED Skincare in 2008. I had been working as a pharmacist in a busy pharmacy all day, parenting my kids in the early mornings, afternoons and evenings. I was exhausted. Did I go to sleep at night? Nope. I was also exhilarated and excited. I knew that I was onto something. Late into the night, you would see the lights of our kitchen burning as I formulated my skincare products for sensitive skin – a typical small business start: You do what you can when you can and with what you have.

Over the course of the next decade, I continued to formulate products, opened a clinic and was working crazy hours, all whilst loving raising a young family. Although I wanted to expand the business, I knew my kids would grow up too fast and didn’t want to miss out on that. I woke up one morning and my boys were taller than me (I am 6 ft, so they are huge) and it was time. It was now or never. I had a true-life “Aha” moment recognising that I didn’t have the skills I needed to expand. It was time to introduce a new skill set into the business in the way of a General Manager. This was a major milestone for QED and we have not looked back since.

The biggest trap for a small-business owner is that you become a firefighter. You become so busy putting out “spot fires”, dealing with whatever mini or major crisis pops up, from a blown globe to an absent staff member. And there is no time, energy or brain space left to contemplate the big-picture. Besides, you are too attached to be objective.

After many years in business, it is tough to summon the early exhilaration in order to create the endless motivation required for lift-off. And that’s when you need to take a long, hard look at yourself. Identifying your skills and weaknesses can be confronting, yet so valuable. Bringing in fresh eyes and complementary skill sets can really drive growth. Creating a structure of positive, specialist co-workers is not just brilliant for growth but actually critical for survival.

Juggling cashflow is a constant headache. I am a naturally cautious person, so this is a biggie. Having said that, some of the costs of doing business are cheaper today than it was when I started QED. Design tools like Canva and availability of short-run printing, allow us to turn around new marketing concepts quickly, promote them on our socials and website with little expense and reach an audience we could have only dreamt of.

Lastly, the biggest challenge we face is being the best at what we do – all the time. Maintaining that same sense of energy at every touchpoint and making sure your brand doesn’t become stale. We live in a world where things are changing all the time and we need to adapt accordingly. There is never time to be complacent and just as you have done one thing really well, you have to be planning the next and then the next…this can be exhausting, it is exhausting.

My top five tips for small business to avoid becoming stale are:

  1. Identify your skills/weaknesses and surround yourself with people that can fill in the gaps.
  2. Become accountable as if you are an employee of your own company.
  3. Continue to be money-savvy and understand what you should be paying for and what you don’t need to pay for.
  4. Don’t be frightened of taking that next step.
  5. Leave the ego at home, take criticism and just get on with it.

Shoshana Eisner, Founder, QED Skincare

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