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How To Survive Year One

Jun 28, 2016 | Operating Your Company

How To Survive Year OneEvery day above ground is a good day. – Scarface

Now that your small business is up and running, cards printed, social media twitting and liking away, and your networking is in full swing. Now comes the disappointments. I’d like to say I’m not trying to be a bummer, but, I am a realist.

Let’s be pragmatic: most small businesses fail in the first year. The stat often thrown around is 90%, but who’s keeping score? (the Small Business Administration, actually)

There are so many reasons why that number is so high. Rather than dwell on those reasons, let’s discuss how to keep expectations manageable and measure your company’s success.

Not Dying Is The Threshold

After all that time, effort, and money it might have taken, your business will fight its toughest uphill battle within the first 12 months. Here are some quick tips to help you survive year one:

Don’t let your early clients run roughshod over you. Yes, these clients are the proverbial first drops in the bucket, but stick to your price point and offerings. And…

Continue being polite. Play hardball, sure, but do it with a smile and without a nasty tone.

Your reputation affects your referrals and vice versa. You’re always marketing the business. Maintaining your composure, no matter what the situation, exhibits professionalism.

This may also be a time you’ll experience some firsts — good and bad ones.

First Time For…Boredom. Phone calls aren’t returned. Only Groupon and spam emails are coming through. The thumbs start to twiddle. If you are feeling a panic brought on by boredom, then it’s time to walk out — not on the business. Just take a walk. Hit the gym. Introduce yourself to a neighboring company. Do something proactive, release those endorphins and build some goodwill. When you return to the office, you should be refreshed, clear-headed and ready to continue.

Hiring. Be sure you can pay your people. Remember, the goal is to pay yourself first.

Firing. It might happen and most owners do not enjoy it. You may be your business’ own HR manager and you may have to be the bearer of bad news for one of your few employees. Take a walk and clear your head after that, too.

Stick to the Plan, or Reassess it

Somewhere around the six-month mark is a fine time to review your business model and see if your plan needs some fine-tuning. This and accounts receivable are how you can measure your success.

If clients are paying on time and hiring you for your primary area of expertise, then stay the course and isolate any areas of improvement.

However, if you’re noticing that the clientele is coming to you for just one of your specialties, then consider changing direction.

For example, maybe you’re operating a party decorating business but you’re being mostly hired for your floral arrangements and centerpieces. If that’s what’s driving the business, and unfortunately not the customizable artwork you pride yourself on, then you have to lead with what has proven to be your new strength. Maybe you market yourself or rename the business as “the Piecemaker.” You’re still a new player in the market, and you will probably be the only one who’ll notice.

You can always change the plan. Sometimes that’s how one succeeds. The business you end up with may not be the one you began. But if you can adapt and keep your ego in check, you can lead a company that rises above the other 90% of small businesses out there.

Contact Brinen & Associates to discuss how your small business can be among the top 10%.


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I formerly worked as a satellite employee from my home state of New Jersey. I ended my employment with my former employer in 2016. In 2018, I was sued by my former employer for $1.1 million in Illinois State Court. I was referred to Brinen & Associates, LLC by a friend who is a client of the firm. Brinen & Associates, LLC came highly recommended. I contacted Joshua Brinen and then had a consultation at his office with his colleague Mark White. Together, Messrs. Brinen and White explained my options...

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