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After a long year of grit, hustle and thought-leadership, it’s time for all our youngpreneurs, mumpreneurs and serial entrepreneurs to take a well-earned break from their busy lives of influencing and innovation (just kidding).
What a year. If starting your own business weren’t challenging enough, 2018’s small businesses have had to battle political and economic uncertainty, GDPR, the aftershock of major corporate insolvencies, and UKBF’s ill-advised venture into serif fonts.
Given the current climate, you might expect the attitude on the forums to be fairly grim. Thankfully, the usual mix of sarcasm, no-nonsense advice and silly humour has prevailed instead.
Thank you to everyone who took time to post advice or offer support over the last twelve months; this forum wouldn’t exist without you. And as we head into 2019, remember: if you’re looking to increase your seals, don’t seek more seals – seek better seals.
Here are some of my favourite comments from the last year.
DavidWH on lessons learnt: It's difficult to do as a small business, but I learnt these lessons quite quickly: 1. Say no! If it's not worth your time and effort taking on the job, don't do it.2. Sh*t happens. Things will go wrong – don't beat yourself up about it. Sit down and figure out why it went wrong, and how to stop it going wrong in future.
Mr D on running a business: Running a business is scary, terrifying, annoying, lonely and long hours (for some). It’s also challenging and exhilarating. While stresses can be big, they can be your stresses – they're not imposed by a boss. And business is well worth doing.
Ashley_Price on why cheaper isn't always best: At the end of the day, not every customer wants the cheapest price. Some will pay more just to have it all done for them. Why do you think people pay a lot of money for an accountant to do their tax returns for them, when it would be far cheaper for them to do it themselves?
Tony84 on firing customers: Personally, if I had a customer threatening to leave, I would drop them like a hot potato because life is too short to be stressing out all the time. This month, I’ve turned away two customers and over £2k in income, because one I would not trust as far as I could throw and the other spoke to us like something on his shoe. Part of business (once you're up and running) is not being afraid to turn away customers you do not want.
Obscure on Facebook: Facebook is a platform owned by someone else, over which you have zero control. It's a disaster waiting to happen if your entire business model is dependent on one platform you don't control.
marcus_bond on surviving in retail: We think protecting cash and cutting costs is our best strategy over the next 12 months. As a small business, that's about our only advantage compared with larger companies – we can move quickly.
Chris Ashdown on preserving relationships: Being the hard person in business seldom brings out the best in company relations, hence the old business saying “don't piss me off”.
The Byre on preparing for Brexit: If we crash out of the EU with no deal, no amount of preparation that I may engage in for my business can help. If we get a slow and well-thought-out steady transition deal, I do not need to prepare for any sudden and violent change.
Mark T Jones on prospective meetings: I always set prospects some “homework” to assure they are on side before a meeting. As a minimum, I'd expect them to complete a pretty basic proposal form and send a full set of accounts and bank statements (or a business plan if they're a startup). It's very tempting to ignore your own rules and go for the appointment hoping they will provide the info there – every time I've done this, it has reinforced why the rule is in place.
GTL on taking the plunge: The real answer to your question – to fully satisfy yourself – is, I'm afraid, to take the risk and see.
Chawton on raising prices: Explain that, given your particular circumstances, it isn't economically viable. Go on to explain what price would make it economically viable. It isn't personal. They can either accept that and agree to your new pricing, or look elsewhere. That outcome, again, isn't personal.
Webprojectuk on the realities of business: Give the marketplace what it wants. The marketplace doesn’t care about your passions, desires or needs. I had to learn this the hard way – in fact, I’m still learning every single day.
TODonnell on salary over shares: Startup culture has promoted the idea that you stick with a pig and maybe you'll get shares and such, but you can't eat dreams. Pros get paid. End of.
Nick Grogan on outsourcing: Outsourcing can work well if you know exactly what you want, can express it clearly and don't change your mind too much during development. If you can't do all of the above, then it can cause issues.
KM Tiger on finding value: “Decent and cheap” is a contradiction in terms, and therein lies your problem. Decent will not be cheapest, so you would be better off seeking best value for something that can meet your requirements.
EthicalPR on unique business ideas: Being unique doesn’t automatically equal success. It could spell disaster, as it means there is no demand for the concept.
Blaby Loyal on experience: I can't emphasise enough the need for you to get some hands-on experience before you go ahead with what you’re planning. You'll effectively be getting paid training, and will come into contact with people, suppliers, and other businesses who might prove invaluable to you when you do set up on your own. Good things sometimes take time.
JEREMY HAWKE on forum members:“Five years in business is a long time. Maybe not for the members of this forum, because they are very old and have no hair or teeth.”
Noah on competition: I do not have the energy, time, nor imagination to spare for plotting against competitors (or rather, other businesses currently occupying our market space); just do what you do best and get on with it.
Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!