The things small business owners wish they’d known before starting out

Majority of those surveyed would reccommend becoming your own boss

Steve Richmond
Tuesday 23 February 2021 11:05 GMT
People starting their own businesses often underestimate just how much paperwork there will be
People starting their own businesses often underestimate just how much paperwork there will be (Getty Images)

Small business owners have revealed the things they wish they knew before starting out, including the importance of being patient – and being prepared to sacrifice things in their personal life.

A survey of 500 UK small and medium enterprise (SME) owners also revealed they would have liked to have appreciated how important sales and marketing is, as well as how much paperwork there will be.

More than one in five wished they’d known how difficult it would be while others would have warned avoided beating themselves up about mistakes.

To those considering starting their own business, advice included not being too downhearted if success isn’t immediate – and don’t try to do everything yourself.

Other tips included trusting your own judgement more and to be prepared to see things through.

A spokesman from accounting software Dext, which commissioned the poll, said: “The hard things about running a business are not the things you probably imagined when starting out. Which is why having a team and support you can rely on is so valuable.

“The learnings of those running SME businesses has been interesting to explore in the research, and what is evident is the emergence of the need for confidence, and to surround yourself with the right kind of expertise such as bookkeepers or financial management advisors.

“There can often be things like paperwork that get in the way of owners doing what they love – but it doesn’t always need to be that way.”

It also emerged just over half thought the leap to start their own business was an easy one – however a quarter initially found it difficult to take the plunge.

And 31 per cent think it would be more difficult to start a business now, than when they did.

Despite this, almost three quarters would recommend becoming their own boss.

The study also revealed 44 per cent felt a lot of business admin got in the way of what they wanted to do when they first launched.

And just over one third admitted they waited longer than they should have to hire experts such as accountants – particularly as they weren’t confident in such areas.

It also emerged respondents felt it took an average of two-and-a-half years to grow their business into a success.

However, in the last 12 months, several said their lack of financial organisation has proved problematic, due to the unexpected change in the business landscape.

The poll, carried out via OnePoll found that following the eventual end of the pandemic, the majority will actively be looking to grow their business within the following year.

General business planning, financial management support from accountants and advice on diversifying the business were seen as the main routes of help that would support business growth – with these areas also being those business owners are most likely to pay for.

Yet more than four in 10 do not use an accountant.

A spokesman from accounting software Dext, added: “In such unusual times, it’s clear to see there is a desire to improve knowledge and expertise within SME businesses around finances and planning.

“The difference having the experience of an expert accountant and the right business systems in place cannot be underestimated.”

Top 30 things business owners wish they had known when starting their business

1.       You shouldn’t beat yourself up when you make mistakes

2.       You need to be patient

3.       Pay attention to the small things

4.       It can be a stressful process

5.      Don’t be too downhearted if success isn’t immediate

6.       How important sales and marketing is

7.       You need to trust your judgement more

8.       Be prepared for sacrifice in your personal and professional life

9.       How much paperwork was involved in the running of a business

10.   Don’t try to do everything yourself

11.   You need to be ready to adapt your business offering

12.   It can be lonely being the founder of a business

13.   You’re not expected to know everything

14.   How difficult it is

15.   You need to be prepared to see things through in the long term

16.   Asking questions and taking opinions is a good thing

17.   To think more about cash flow

18.   It’s ok to make a loss

19.   Building relationships with suppliers is critical

20.   Hiring an accountant or bookkeeper will make your life a lot easier

21.   Take more breaks to maintain your enthusiasm

22.   You will have never done enough research

23.   How important it is to get the right people

24.   Hiring great people isn’t always easy

25.   Connect with other new business owners

26.   Don’t do something that someone else is better at

27.   Focus on one core product

28.   The fact personnel management takes a lot of time

29.   Hire people that are strong at what you are weaker at

30.   You don’t know your product as much as you think you do


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