Running your own business requires you to make important decisions almost on a daily basis. If you are running it on your own or are in charge of a small team, sometimes I think it’s a good idea to draw from other business owners’ experiences. I believe the more you know, the better. Your knowledge will help you to navigate your business in the direction you want to take it. When I interviewed Holly Tucker, MBE for our ESTILA Volume 6. bookazine (get it here), we discussed three tips for small business owners which, I think, are gold.
Now, you might think that the tips are quite generic, or basic and obvious but trust me, they are not!! Think about each point really hard. Ask yourself questions and be honest with yourself when you answer them.
Holly’s 3 top tips for small business owners:
1/ KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER
She says: “Remember it’s about the quality of customer over quantity. Understand who your customer is and how best you can serve them.”
This is something which I see many brands are not doing very well, especially the “understanding” bit. This can happen to any business at any stage. Either you start off with an idea about who your customer is or as you grow you try to broaden your customer base and therefore lose the understanding in the process. In both cases, lack of understanding seriously affects your communication, marketing and PR. You start to wonder how come your customer is not responding.
I think one of the best case studies at the moment around is M&S. To me, they tried too hard to tap into and attract a broader customer base, but in the process they lost touch with their core customer. As a dedicated fan, I want to see M&S to be brought back to what it was. The way they spoke to me years ago through their timeless and quality collections. Show me that they understand my needs when I’m looking for a great classic staple piece that I can add effortlessly in my wardrobe.
On the other hand, you have brands such as Nike or Amazon. Go and visit their website or store to understand better what they are doing well in terms of how they speak to their customers and why they promote specific products. If you analyse them a bit you will immediately notice who they are speaking to and it becomes obvious that they understand their customers inside out.
So the biggest lesson here is to communicate with your customers. Find out what makes them tick. Don’t guess. Once you know that you will be able to speak to them in a language they respond to.
2/ LISTEN TO YOUR GUT
Holly says: “You will find yourself making difficult decisions. When you’re not sure which way to go, listen to your gut instinct, it’s your internal compass that will never let you down.”
How many times you made a decision and you had a very subtle nagging voice or feeling that something is off? Rational thinking and justification can suppress our gut and we don’t listen to it. Later on we find out that actually we were “right”. But then it’s too late.
So the lesson here is – if you find yourself in a situation which you’re not sure about, step away, block out all the noise and listen to your gut.
3/ THE BIG WHY
She says: “Ask yourself the big question at the very start; what sort of business do you want to build? One to sell, one to retire into, for family to take over or to pay for the holidays? Ultimately, the answers to this question will decide what sort of business you build. You will be surprised by the fact that lots of people never ask themselves the big question.”
I think this is the biggest problem I see around me. Many businesses are set up without having a long-term vision and an exit strategy. And I understand, it’s very difficult to see in the future. From my experience it takes time to work it out, it was a mindset shift I had to make, since I’m not naturally a great believer in future planning or visualisation. For me, it’s much easier to visualise short-term rather than long-term. Additionally, I’m one of those people who live in the present, I don’t like looking back or forward. But over the past year or so I’ve been practising visualisation and daring to “see the future” more often. As a result, I’m making decisions based on the outcome – where I want to get to – rather than evaluating and reacting the current situation.
So the lesson here is work out the big why and how you’re planning to exit your business. This is will give you clarity and focus. Your vision will become your navigator.
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