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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Opinion > FPB

Making the right decisions from the start

By Ian Cass, managing director at the Forum of Private Business | 16:57 Wednesday 11th April 2018

It's never been an easy ride running a small or micro business.

Most SME owners are managed by entrepreneurs who have great visions, but then need to turn their ideas and aspirations into reality.

They are forced to be generalists, meaning rather than joining a big business and specialising, they start their own and the buck stops with them. Small business owners are the finance, sales, marketing, HR, purchasing and legal teams, while simultaneously carrying out the small role of being CEO. They have to do it all themselves or decide to buy in support.

Having run a number of businesses myself, I knew that as soon as something cropped up — however little I knew about the subject — my initial response was to try to do it myself. Delegating or talking to someone with experience didn't even make an appearance on my list. Time is the ultimate pressure for a lot of small business owners and many work 9 to 5 'officially' on their business and then early mornings, evenings and weekends 'unofficially'.

And then there's money. A lot of business owners don't earn the living wage, in many cases paying staff and subcontractors more than they pay themselves. These days the margins for small businesses are being squeezed and this makes them more vulnerable to things like late payments and to larger businesses demanding higher discounts from their supply chain.

Small and micro businesses need support and there are four simple steps that you can take as a business owner to help.

1. State of mind: A positive attitude and a real belief in what you are doing helps immensely. Passion in what you are doing translates into sales and also creates belief in other people.

2. Surround yourself with good people: You can learn a lot from other businesses in the same situation. Join a good trade organisation – whether that's the Forum of Private Business or another – it will save you time and money in the long run. Same when it comes to your bank, make a conscious decision to bank with someone who is on your side.

3. Training: The pace of change in business today is greater than ever before and technology is driving this. Business people have to reskill and retrain throughout their business lives. Make sure you create an environment where you and your staff are constantly learning. The futurist Alvin Toffler said: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who can't read and write, but those who can't learn, unlearn and relearn.”

4. Stand up and be counted: It's important that we make sure the voice of small and micro business is heard and, more importantly, acted on. Be proactive, talk to government and share your issues and solutions, it will make a difference to you and your peers.

At the forum, we're constantly looking for new ways to help businesses prosper and flourish, including our recent partnership with Metro Bank, which will provide the bank's business customers with free access to our online resources and helpline. The more organisations with similar outlooks that come together to support business, the more we can help businesses make the right decisions from the start.

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