Survive and thrive in your first year in business
A guest blog by Matthew Goude, Zincbooks - a proactive accountant specialising in supporting those businesses in the trades.
Having been asked to write a blog on a finance theme in the current climate, the easiest thing to do would have been to write a long list of the different Coronavirus financial support measures.
However, with my accountancy practice turning one last week, I thought I would go through the lessons learned in the first year and how you might be able to put some of these lessons to good use in your own business.
Have a financial plan
Being an accountant, it would have been remiss of me not to have this at the top of the list! It started on a spreadsheet but quickly graduated to a cashflow planning app called Float.
From day one I have known exactly what is expected to come into the business and what is going out.
Having the ability to forecast lots of different scenarios and the impact it will have on cashflow has been so important in tracking progress. Cash is king in any business, but particularly in a start-up business. Modelling different scenarios has helped me to evaluate investment opportunities and their potential impact on the growth of the business.
Plan, plan, plan
Running a business can be a lonely place. It can sometimes be very difficult to stay focussed on a task and often a morning or afternoon can pass and you haven’t achieved what you wanted to.
Very early on I realised that I needed to plan every day. Planning it the night before has been great in allowing me to switch off from work at the end of a day and be ready to go the next day. This daily plan has now expanded to a weekly and monthly plan, so I can set goals on a weekly and monthly view. I wasn’t one for lists before running my own business but certainly nothing beats the feeling of ticking a job off on a list now!
Joining a networking group has been invaluable. Not just in terms of getting referrals, but also for helping to get the business up and running. Having a group of people who have been through the same growth curve being so willing to share their experience has been such a big help. Without this support, I would have fallen into some of the traps that many new business owners no doubt get lured into.
Getting new business referrals from networking is great but that comes with time. For me, the real power of networking has been to build a network of trusted advisers that I can refer to for support and advice. Sometimes it’s a nice reminder that you’re not in it alone and your challenges are those that many others will have faced.
Over 70% of my business has come through referrals, either through existing clients or from networking groups. It clearly works. If you are visible, good at what you do and are prepared to give help and support to others then the referrals will come.
Mistakes will happen, learn from it, but don’t beat yourself up about it
Running a business involves spinning many plates. You will be the IT, finance, sales, marketing and managing director. Chances are, like me, you will not be an expert in many of these fields.
Don’t be surprised when sometimes things don’t go as planned. I’ve learnt that print advertising has got me nothing (well nothing that I can actually measure). Has it cost me some money to learn that lesson? Yes. Could I keep giving myself a kick about it? Again, yes, but that isn’t going to help.
There are enough challenges in getting a business up and running without giving yourself a hard time about things you’ve tried.
Set a test budget for a piece of marketing activity or ask subject matter experts in your network for their view on what to do. Ask for a trial before jumping into a contract for some software. That should help to ensure that your mistakes won’t be too costly.
Have a target market
Having a niche definitely divides opinion. Does it restrict the potential size of your market? Can it be hard to pick which market to target?
For me, having a niche (trades) has helped to grow the business more quickly than if I had no niche. I am able to easily define what my ideal client looks like and what my referral partners should look for.
It has also helped me to build an excellent set of referral partners who work with people in the same niche. Those connections have only come about because people know that I specialise with trades and they have had this in their mind when they have networked with others with the same target market.
Had I been an accountancy practice without a specialism, I doubt that these connections would have been formed.
Enjoy the ride
Running a business can be a rollercoaster, but enjoy the ride.
Like me, you’ve got into this because you want to set your own course and build something that you can call your own. There will be ups and downs on the journey but if you are good at what you do and are prepared to give back to others, it will go a long way to helping you grow the business that you want.
Matthew Goude is the owner of Zincbooks, a chartered accountancy and tax advisory business based in Northampton. Zincbooks prides itself on providing excellent customer service and tax advice to its wide range of clients. By taking the time to understand our client's short and long term objectives, we are able to provide solutions and advice to help to meet those objectives. Zincbooks has invested heavily in the latest accounting software in order to make our clients' lives easier and to give them time back.
If you are looking for a forward-thinking accountant to look after your finances, then get in touch with Matt - https://www.zincbooks.co.uk