It has been nearly four years since I set up my own business. It is an achievement for any business to reach this point.

Therefore as we head full speed towards the summer holidays, ensure you take “time out” to review your plans and come back with vigour, energy and the objective of getting your business working for you.

Thirty per cent of new businesses fail during their first two years of trading; fifty per cent during the first five years and 66 per cent during the first  10, according to the  Small Business Association (SBA) .

I’ve survived the tricky start-up years; now seems like an appropriate time to reflect on the lessons learned and to look ahead to the next stage of business growth.

If you are a business that is just starting or are even established, below are some tips to ensure your business thrives.

Navigating a route to success

There are many challenges encountered by start-up businesses. Here are some ideas to help you successfully avoid some of the common pitfalls.

  • Set SMART objectives on a regular basis. Make these targets ambitious and aim for the stars.
  • One tip is to work to a 90-day plan . When faced with a long to-do list, ask yourself: what could I do today or tomorrow that will make a difference to my business this month.
    Have a plan then review actuals versus budgets and do something different to rectify any variances.
    Ask yourself every Friday afternoon: What went well this week? What didn’t go so well? What am I going to do differently next week? And just do it.
  • Outsource or delegate tasks. You cannot do everything yourself, remember, no one can be a master of all things.
  • Surround yourself with a like-minded support network  – running a business can be a very lonely place. Ensure that you surround yourself with supportive people.
  • Find out  how to get your product or service to market  – if you don't feel confident to do this yourself, confide in a marketing or sales specialist.
  • Get out there   – network; be sociable; go to seminars, events and expos. Learn from others and get yourself known in your marketplace.
  • Your customers are your best salespeople  – make sure they become advocates.
    Ask them for testimonials and case studies to build your business's social proofing
    Keep in close contact with these customers, as they are likely to have many contacts they could introduce and refer you to.
  • Bounce back  from falls and disappointments quickly – as James Dyson once said, “If you haven’t failed, you are not trying hard enough”.
  • Keep a close eye on your finances  and future working capital requirements.
    Ensure that you use accountancy software such as Xero, QuickBooks or Sage One.
    Create and have current robust KPIs at your fingertips; this helps when you apply for funding, or having to go to the bank to finance growth.
    Having the information you need to hand demonstrates that you know how to successfully run a business.

Next steps to successfully grow your business

You’ve survived those tricky first years of trading. Take some time to identify what you need to do next to help the business flourish.

In the first few years, you may have said “yes” to every opportunity; now, it is about chasing margin, not turnover, learn to say “no”.

Continue to measure and review performance  - monitor sales revenue by customer or by sector; monitor margins and associated costs.

Focus. Know where you make your money. Do more of those pieces of work that make higher margins and have the least hassle factor.

Target marketing activities  to the types of clients/customers where there is high margin and low hassle business (could you budget to spend 10-12 per cent of turnover on promotional activities?).

Build relationships  with strategic partners – businesses who are selling something different to you, but to the same target market.

You could complement each other and grow together.

Continue to outsource non-core activities  (marketing, social media, website development, accountancy/book keeping, HR, etc).

Then, you can spend your time (both strategically and on an operational basis) on the tasks that generate high income and revenue.

It may seem expensive to pay someone £25-£50 per hour or £400 per day to do something you could do yourself, but free up more of your non-productive time and you’ll be surprised what new business you can generate.

Build the team. Recruit for potential as industry/sector skills and knowledge you can train.

Develop someone with the right fit for your business and invest in individuals who match your values and can help you obtain and service high-value clients.

For example, if sales aren’t your strong point, recruit a business development executive who can get to know your business and your customers and be ready to develop any new opportunities.

Systemise your business processes. Invest in IT software to secure processes and take human interaction out of as many tasks as possible. This helps with consistency; customers get a common service level that is robust and also allows you to step out of the business.

Consider Electronic Resource Planning (ERP), stock ordering/management systems and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. There are many on the market.

Finally, but really importantly...

Get time away from work  and get the business working for you. Working long hours, seven days a week does not make you more productive or effective. This is not a business, just a chore! Ensure you don’t become a slave to the tasks and needs of your business.

So, plan your down-time in the diary now . Plan your family holidays and put these dates in your diary first. 

Work around these; if not, you may not take your holidays and compromise on the most important relationships in your life.

If you are looking to grow your business, Business Doctors Cumbria offer a free business health check where we can help you to set a clear vision to understand the steps you need to take to fulfil your aspirations.

Contact Peter Fleming 0845 163 1490 or 07966 686112 or email .

Or click here to view our website for other services we can offer you.