by Sarah Y. Tse
The phrase “small business” inherently conveys that a business may not have huge capital or enough staffing to operate its different facilities. The numerous facets of a company are all part of what it takes to launch and manage operations: there’s payroll for staff, payment for suppliers, coverage for human resources, the maintenance and cleaning of the building, investment in security services, and much more.
A challenging issue at the beginning will involve staffing. You should begin with a minimal number of employees, taking the time to invest your energy into developing trust and competency in your staff. Once they are trained to be independent in their work, you can then become intentional about delegating responsibilities, feeling confident that they will either meet or exceed your expectations.
However, from the beginning, avoid these two key pitfalls:
- Lack of time management
- Lack of vision or purpose
As the owner, you have many responsibilities over multiple facets of the company, and everything ultimately depends on you. Therefore, focus, focus, focus! Be intentional with your time and how you spend it. To reiterate: train and delegate. Control the use of your time, and know the purpose of your business. Eat, breathe, and sleep your vision, and set goals that will grow and expand the company. Lead your employees by example, and make sure they know their role in fulfilling the company’s mission. Investing in employees, no matter how few or how many, returns dividends to you – it is a valuable long-term investment. This is an integral aspect of controlling your time instead of letting your time control you.
Burnout is another key pitfall. To avoid it, keep your plans in the forefront. Select those tasks that will move you forward toward your end goal, and commit to the work that relates directly to your professional passions and mission. Along the way, prioritize self-care! Be proactive in taking proper emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual care of yourself. After all, you are the backbone of the company! Ask yourself tough questions, and be honest with your self evaluation – are you willing to make personal sacrifices and work long hours? Will you be able to miss holidays and family events, if need be? How inclined will you be to live frugally and set aside personal money for the sake of the business?
As an entrepreneur, the bottom line is that you are starting something from nothing. Begin with basic needs – just enough to get off the ground without accumulating a lot of debt. During my years of experience in this profession, I have met many small business owners who have spent a large chunk of money on luxuries, believing that if they dress and act successful then their business will follow suit. Nothing could be further from the truth! This practice will lead into deep debt, and can be avoided if you launch your company already having reserve funds. In practical terms, you’ll want to store enough cash resources to cover business expenses for six months, just in case something unexpected happens.
In addition to creating a financial safety net, you should also build a support safety net! Surround yourself and your business with avid supporters, whether they be mentors, friends, family, spouses, or investors. If you do not have this network, you will be setting yourself up for failure. Take the time to mentally and emotionally prepare the people who are closest to you, and be honest with them about the risks, commitments, and potential future payoff. Let them know the cost and sacrifice that this venture entails.
To prevent failure, three critical components need to exist in your professional life:
- Strong Work Ethic
These core elements form the backbone of your reputation, and your reputation IS your brand. As oxygen keeps your body alive, your reputation keeps your business thriving. It informs every decision you make, and every training you provide. These three essentials strengthen your company and help build it for longevity.
The survival and longevity of your company is your responsibility. Entrepreneurs must retain ownership of their work, and should never pass off or delegate without being sure beyond any doubt that the person receiving it is honest and competent. I have failed to do this in the past, and have learned indelible lessons from this horrible mistake. There is no shortage of flashy, showy business owners who like to flaunt their glamorous lifestyle. They tend to over-spend, using their funds unwisely. These types hire “established experts,” paying them a significant sum to grow their business overnight so they don’t have to. However, once you pass your ownership to someone else, you lose control of the process.
After learning from my own mistakes, my intent has become to only hire people who believe in my company, set aside their personal agenda, and genuinely want my business to be successful. These workers never make money their predominant concern, and invest their full support in producing valuable product. Business owners, beware of who you hire! Destruction of a business often comes from within. Entrepreneurs and new business owners let their guard down, becoming too careless, trusting, and vulnerable. Do not be naive! As in friendships, trust is built and earned through time and mutual respect. Keep full control of your business! I cannot emphasize this enough.
Finally, know whether or not you’re in the right place! Continually evaluate and ask yourself, “Is this fulfilling to me?” When you find a business that you are passionate about, you will provide excellent services and an outstanding product, because you will value quality over money. I merged my love of reading, books, stationery, paper, and graphic design, and built my business to help people fulfill their self-publishing dreams. I take their vision and create a physical, marketable product, producing their masterpiece by combining all my passions. So, find your niche and give it everything you’ve got!
Sarah Y. Tse is founder and CEO of United Yearbook Company and co-founder and CEO of TSE Worldwide Press. Her latest book is 7 Years on the Front Line: True Stories And Tough Lessons About A Small Business That You Won’t Learn In A Classroom. For more information about Sarah, please visit www.sarahytse.com.