The Marketing Shop opened for business two years ago, on the 18th April 2011 – and today we’re celebrating our second successful year in business.
Working for yourself can mean you experience all manner of emotions. It can be challenging, scary, exhilerating, daunting, exciting, tiring, liberating and at times pretty much like a rollercoaster but overall, the journey of the entrepreneur is enjoyable!
So, as we’re heading into our third year in business I thought for today’s post it would be good to share a few pointers with those of you starting out on or already on the journey of being the small business owner.
- Get involved – in the past few months I’ve spoken to Start-Ups at Dublin City Enterprise Board group on Digital Marketing. I’ve become an Ambassador for Business Women Can with Ulster Bank / Small Business Can. I’ve continued to be involved with SME Community – on one occasion speaking to Bobby Kerr on Newstalk along with Debi Harper of Tus Nua Designs on behalf of the group. These type of roles will involve time away from the desk, might involve a few late nights taking care of admin so that an event runs smoothly or that a presentation goes to plan – and generally won’t be reflected in your bottom line. It is however for you to consider the benefits attached to getting involved in programmes that would enable you to meet with and learn from peers, or indeed others who have more experience in business than you.
- Network – by all means you should bring your business cards but don’t go to every networking event with the sole purpose of telling everybody what you do and why they should hire you, it’s quite probably going to work against you. Approach networking events with the intention to meet up with people, even specific people if you’ve managed to secure a copy of the attendee list beforehand. Go along, participate and connect with people. You might be extremely lucky and find a room full of people who do need your services although chances are you won’t, but you just don’t know who they know or what they can do for you do you?
- Outsource – there are very few of us who are skilled in every role that a small business or start-up needs. Depending on your business you might have a retail premises or office and/or website. Then there’s social media. And stationary. And accounts. And VAT returns. And marketing. And HR. And a whole lot more too. If the best use of your time is in creating products for sale or working in your store, why wouldn’t you let somebody else take care of the accounts or the admin so that you can focus on what makes you money?
- Get the processes right – Excel, Powerpoint and Word are fantastic and realistically no office should be without. But they’re not necessarily built for covering every task you need. Early on we decided to use an accounting programme that comes at a small monthly charge but it sends reminders for us, simplifies the VAT returns and allows us to easily keep track of cashflow – and has saved us many many hours of time. A number of the programmes for social media or email for example start with a basic/free model but we’ve found that in some cases a small investment in the software applications relevant to your business more than covers the cost in efficiencies in your business every time.
- Stay educated – not every business changes as quickly as social media but it is important that you allocate time to ensuring you’re up to speed on everything that relates to your industry. From ensuring that changes in legislation applicable to your business are implemented to getting to grips with what’s hot with your target market, it is important to keep learning. Enterprise Boards can be wonderful resources for low cost programmes that make a significant difference to you, along with local chambers or business associations. Even where you don’t plan to manage your social media or do your own accounts, a little knowledge ensures that you’ll delegate to the right person.
- Change can be good – you know what your business is but sometimes no matter how much research you’ve done, something happens that’s beyond your control and forces you to change direction. Estate agents who once sold plenty of houses in boom times quite probably focus on the rental sector now. Retailers were once dependant on bricks and mortar stores but can trade quite happily from an ecommerce website. Personally we’ve adapted in some areas, with more changes ahead but it’s all been really positive even though my elevator pitch might vary now to what it was two years ago.
- Ask for help – you might not have the budget right now to pay for what you’d like but there’s a wealth of experience out there, particularly on the web and social media and lots of wonderful people who are quite happy to share the benefit of their experience with you – without a fee. But if you don’t ask for help nobody but you knows you need help.
Overall the journey of the SME is an exciting one and definitely one we’re hoping to enjoy for many more years to come.