The Secrets of my success - Britain's bosses reveal all

Forget innovative business ideas, visionary leadership or strategic
thinking - the secret of success for Britain's 3.8 million small business
entrepreneurs is good, old- fashioned hard work.

According to the latest small business survey from leading business finance
firm, Bibby Financial Services, over three quarters of owners and managers
believe that the key to their business success is, quite simply, hard graft.

Having a great product or service was deemed to be the second most critical
factor in business success, with two thirds of entrepreneurs stating that
having a first-class product or service offering is mission critical to
building a strong, successful business.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the third most important key to business success is
to have excellent customer service. 59 per cent of entrepreneurs believe
that happy customers are vital as competition hots up in the marketplace and
customer expectations get higher and higher every year.

When asked what was the one piece of advice they wish they had been given
when they started up in business on their own. Somewhat surprisingly, 12 per
cent of owners and managers said, "don't do it!" This suggests that some
budding entrepreneurs have underestimated just how demanding running their
own business can be.

The general consensus amongst 64 per cent of owners and managers is that the
best possible advice to give aspiring entrepreneurs is to "know your market"
. This could be an indication that many of today's owners and managers have
got their fingers burned at least once in the past by rushing into their new
business venture without checking demand for their product or service or
assessing the competition.

Fifty three per cent of owners and managers wish that someone had given them
the advice: "never promise what you can't deliver" when they started up in
business. Suggesting that many rush in to win new contracts and grow
business and run the risk of over-stretching their resources and
disappointing vital new customers.

David Robertson, Chief Executive of Bibby Financial Services said, "Starting
up your own business is one of the most exciting, exhilarating and
challenging things that you can do. However, it is not for the faint hearted
and is not to be entered into lightly. Like having children, running your
own business is a massive commitment that requires strict discipline,
nurturing, bags of love and your constant attention. Of the 400,000 or so
businesses that start up in the UK every year, a fifth of these will cease
trading in the first 12 months - proof if any was needed, that starting up
on your own is not as easy as it would first appear. It goes without saying
that being a successful entrepreneur is all about motivation, tenacity and
creative flair but it requires much more than that - you need a good
business plan and a solid financial foundation with access to flexible cash
flow solutions as and when your business needs them."

Bibby Financial Services has developed the following useful pointers to
assist aspiring entrepreneurs who are thinking of starting up in business:

(1) Roll up your sleeves - running your own business involves hard work and
particularly in the early stages, may require burning the candle at both
ends to get off to a good start.

(2) Have a plan - understand and plan exactly what your growth objectives
are. A good business plan will help you stay on course by ensuring that you
capture long-term objectives and forecasts on paper.

(3) Get your finances right - cash flow is the lifeblood of business and you
will need a readily available source of flexible finance to see you through.
Investigate alternative funding options such as factoring and invoice
discounting to ensure you don't over-extend yourself

(4) Understand your market - make sure you check the demand for your product
or service and assess the competition. If no competition exists, you should
examine why that is the case.

(5) Up your game - put quality first and be passionate and proud of your
product. Work to create a product or service that is better and different
from the competition - lead the way, don't follow.

(6) Hire the best - surround yourself with a bright enthusiastic team who
share your vision, commitment and complement your skills set.

(7) Control costs - whatever business you are in, it is always important to
have very strong financial controls.

(8) Show customers you care - get a dialogue going with your customers and
positively encourage feedback. Set up a customer hotline, create an online
feedback form or phone key customers to get a better understanding of their
requirements and the issues they face.

(9) Go that extra mile - always strive to exceed your customer's
expectations such as promising delivery within 12 working days, but actually
delivering in seven. However, a word of caution - never promise what you can
't deliver, always stick to your promises.

(10) Be ambitious - don't be afraid to take risks now and then to grow your
business, being too risk averse may mean that you lose out on excellent
opportunities and thwart your business' success.

David Robertson concludes, "With the economy on the up, manufacturing out of
the doldrums of recent years and business confidence in general, soaring,
never has there been a better time to think about starting up in business.
By following some of the tips above, budding entrepreneurs will ensure that
they get their new business venture off to a great start."

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