With well over a million ‘mumpreneurs’ already established in the UK and the number growing every year, we spoke to Susan Payton, founder of The Business of Mums, who has these top ten tips to help you survive the crucial first 18 months in business.
How to Survive the First 18 Months in Business
According to Bloomberg, a whopping 80% of start up businesses fail within the first 18 months. Research shows this is often down to critical factors such as lack of funds or lack of demand. So what measures can you put in place to increase the odds of you taking your business beyond the first couple of years?
1) CHECK OUT WHAT BUSINESS SUPPORT IS AVAILABLE IN YOUR AREA – Get all the help you can. A good place to start is your local college, university and council, with some offering everything from desk space and meeting rooms to mentoring programmes, bootcamps and workshops. Much of it is heavily-subsidised or even free. Also consider getting a mentor. According to the Institute of Enterprise & Entrepreneurs, business owners with a mentor are 25% more likely to succeed. Find your nearest government-backed mentoring programme at mentorsme.co.uk.
2) MAKE SURE YOU WILL HAVE CUSTOMERS – Keep your costs low until you know for sure there is a market for what you are offering, and always stay on top of your numbers. The Lean Start Up is a must read for anyone thinking about starting a business. Author Eric Ries suggests that, rather than traditional market research methods that rely on asking customers what they want (which they don’t always know!), a far more effective method is to continuously test, adapt, adjust and trial your products, continually monitoring feedback, to learn what customers will buy.
3) PARTNER UP – Partnering up with other businesses can work in so many ways and create excellent PR opportunities. Whether putting a package of goods or services together with another business to attract more customers, sharing stands at trade events, creating joint marketing materials, offering each other’s customers discounts or doing joint ventures together, collaboration can be hugely successful and beneficial for all.
4) BECOME AN EXPERT – Most people understand the importance of having an online presence these days, but it is also critical that you know how to use tools like social media and blogging effectively. The focus needs to be on giving value, contributing and sharing useful information, writing great content and, in doing so, becoming an ‘expert’ in your field. Publishing good content allows your ideas to get seen and helps you create ownership and authority over your chosen niche.
5) PR – No-one is going to buy your product or service if they don’t know about it, but there are lots of low-cost and even free ways of marketing your new business and getting press coverage, including customer testimonials (preferably video), free editorial in magazines, social media, email marketing, newsletters, blogs, online directories, networking groups, business events & trade fairs, as well as giving talks and free samples. Getting PR will be even easier once you have mastered no.4 !
- Government Grants – see if you might qualify for one at ukbusinessgrants.org
- Start Up Loans – startuploans.co.uk is a government-backed initiative that provides affordable finance and free mentoring
- Crowdfunding (where a number of people put in small amounts to raise capital for a business) – an ever-popular source of finance for entrepreneurs, with more than 180 crowdfunding websites popping up in the UK in the last four years and over 9 million people investing in more than 650,000 projects across the country. See crowdfunder.co.uk
7) HIRE SMART – It is impossible to do everything yourself, so it is important to know what your strengths are, what only you can bring to the business, and what you can outsource. Before outsourcing to anyone, make sure they understand your business and goals and that they are the right people to go on that journey with you. Consider using freelancers or hiring an apprentice. The government will fund 100% of the training costs for apprentices under 19, contribute towards the costs of training an apprentice 19 and over, and you may be eligible for a £1,500 grant if you are a small business.
8) WORK PRODUCTIVELY – Being busy is easy, being productive takes practice. If you get distracted by your phone constantly buzzing or facebook posts popping up, put it on silent and only check it every couple of hours or so. Declutter your workspace to help clear your mind. Use the times that you’re most productive to complete important tasks that need your full attention. Set deadlines to keep you focused.
9) MAKE ROOM TO GROW – It is easy to get so busy working in your business day to day, that you don’t take time out to track your progress and direction, keep an eye on trends and changes in your market, recognise if and when you need to change direction, get feedback from customers, collect testimonials and have sound strategies in place to retain customers and incentives to refer their friends. There are growth accelerator programmes available from the government at gov.uk
10) WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH – Keep clear about the results you are working for. There will be challenges and obstacles, but as long as you are clear on why you started your business and what you want from it long term, you can get through the tough bits. Make time to switch off and relax so that you can come back feeling refreshed. Be kind to yourself and accept that things won’t always (and often don’t) go to plan.
Check out Inspiring Stories of Success at thebusinessofmums.com to see how other ordinary mums are doing something they love, the challenges they have faced and the lessons they have learned.