My first year of business

What I learnt in my first year of business

Business failures in the first year are well documented – Forbes quotes a ratio of 80% SME business closure within the first 18 months.

However, the first year of business is an opportunity to learn countless lessons; even if failure does occur it is simply a step closer to success down the line and it is for this reason that the lessons learned in the first 12 months of business are so important.

Here are a few of the most valuable.

Embrace the numbers

Starting with a numbers-oriented business plan is your first step.

Research suggests SMEs with a business plan are more than twice as likely to achieve their goals as those without (69% versus 31%).

Solving the common problem of a poor business plan includes learning how to effectively use financial management software, utilising a professional you trust for a second opinion, or taking advantage of a credible organisation that provides help for SMEs.

Cheap ways to gauge information on which to base your business plan can come from social media – allowing you to crowd-source your market research for free.

The first year of business is an opportunity to learn countless lessons; even if failure does occur, it is simply a step closer to success down the line.

Infrastructure is king

The key lesson here is to adopt technology and a framework that suits your business needs.

Common SME infrastructure updates include replacing old computers and general technology with newer versions, investing in staff training programs and engaging with consumers via apps. The ability to connect with a broad range of customers in a way that engages and informs is key; look for business solutions that will help your business in the long run.

Make time for yourself

The creative areas of the brain are best utilised when we are relaxed or distracted from a common thought pattern, which makes the concept of time away from your business a vital one.

Outsourcing or using additional technology are viable solutions that can alleviate your workload while you take time off. An American Express study found that 60% of SME owners were planning on holidaying in 2014 compared to just 49% in 2013, reinforcing the idea that a successful business is one in which the owners recharge.

Consider a yoga retreat or a mindfulness program to escape and reset.

Network your worth

It’s not what you know, but who you know. Connecting with your peers is vital for success.

Begin with asking yourself key questions: are you looking for business partners, suppliers, information, or employees?

Once this is established, forge your own links. Collaboration among SMEs drives the ‘connection economy’, allowing you to start small through creating LinkedIn groups with your peers, as well as explore larger options of existing networking sites on both a private and governmental level. With web conferencing on the rise and increase of crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter, creativity is key.

When it comes to the success of a first-year SME, the key lesson is that you are the master of your own destiny.

That isn’t to say you are always in charge or even always correct. Rather, you have the ability to focus your energy on aspects of your organisation that most need it.

A first-year business is challenging, but with the right tools and the right attitude, every challenge can be overcome.