4 years in business, 10 lessons learnt

April 23, 2013 2013

birthday

How time flies when you're having fun - Optimum PAYE is 4 years old this month !

Every adjective you can think of would describe the last 4 years for us, including: exciting, scarey, challenging, successful, satisfying, demoralising, up, down, easy, hard, invigorating, tiring, etc, etc. Being in business is certainly not always plain sailing, especially during a recession, but the key to survival and success we have found is to accept the rough with the smooth and to learn from every single experience that comes along.

So what are the key lessons that we have learned from over the last 4 years and which have shaped our business into what it is?

Lesson 1 - Relationships are the key

Many people say this but it's actually true. Strong relationships are what makes everything happen. Securing work, getting paid, having great conversations, adding value, having fun while you're working even, all come from good relationships with clients and contacts. Get this right and you're more than half way there.

Lesson 2 - Effort pays dividends (usually)

 Like most things in life you get out of business what you put in. Work hard, keep in touch with that contact, go the extra mile for that client, put yourself about even when you don't want to, and things will happen eventually. It doesn't always turn out that way, we've flogged a few dead horses along the way, but more often than not it does.

Lesson 3 - Invest your time wisely

Following on from 2, use your time very, very wisely. It is very easy to go down blind alleys chasing those horses we like to flog and time is the one thing that businesses are always short of. Plan your day, week, business development, everything, and learn to say "no" if you think a meeting or proposal is a waste of time.

Lesson 4 - Timing is everything (but be patient)

Being in the right place at the right time is often luck but it is often possible to influence things so that you are there, or at least in the client's thoughts, at the precise time when they are ready to "press the button". In the current climate, patience is definitely needed, don't rush things, be in tune with the client's needs and you'll hopefully get there eventually.

Lesson 5 - Don't ignore the small clients

The natural reaction is to chase the "big" money, i.e. the "big" clients and in some cases that can be the right approach. However, our largest projects in our time in business have been from much smaller businesses. They may be small companies but they can still have big issues. Don't ignore this market !

 

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Lesson 6 - collect that cash !

No matter how robust your business is, if you don't have strong invoicing and cash collection procedures,  it is always going to be an uphill battle to survive.

Get invoices out in time, don't be scared to "chase" late payers, make sure that engagement terms are bulletproof and do have formal processes in place to take things further for the "won't pay" or "can't pay" clients and be prepared to follow these through if necessary to the legal side.

Lesson 7 - Networking is crucial, but choose wisely

Similar to point 3. Networking is a vital part of being in business. Work isn't going to magic its way to your desk without you lifting a finger. Get out there, meet people, you never know who you might bump into or strike up a relationship with. That said, though, not all networking is good for business - it may be a good laugh and enjoyable but are you really going to get any business out of it? Try different things but don't just attend an event or group out of habit. Is it the right type of group for you, are attendees the right type of business or contact you might be able to work with or for, is the format right for your personality type, etc etc.

Lesson 8 - Content is king for Google

Forget all the complicated SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) stuff involving algorithms, keywords, etc. If your website has great content, Google will find you ! It certainly works for us ! Maybe we should be keeping that quiet........

Lesson 9 - Have a healthy cautiousness

By that we mean don't be naive. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is ! In tax terms this includes clients telling you that things are okay for tax, or HMRC has "agreed" everything. Don't always take things at face value or accept everything you are told. Sometimes, you need to roll up the sleeves and get "dirty" to make your own judgements.

Lesson 10 - Don't be bullied

Being in business is not for the faint hearted !! There will be situations where someone else, or another business, will try to get away with things or do something that is detrimental to your business. Don't let them bully you !! You really need to have the confidence to stand up to any and all bullies you come across in business otherwise you won't last very long. For the tax advisors amongst us, this includes sticking to principles and ethical guidelines and also not allowing clients to bully you into changing your technical view and professional opinions just because they don't like it.

 

Cheers !

 

 

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