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Lessons from seasoned business owners

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But it’s even better if you can be aware of the pitfalls and learn the lessons before you start the journey, by learning from others who’ve already ‘been there, done that’.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing

But it’s even better if you can be aware of the pitfalls and learn the lessons before you start the journey, by learning from others who’ve already ‘been there, done that’.

That’s why a survey which interviewed several hundred SME business owners about what they would do differently if they could start again is not only interesting, but is a useful checkpoint for people who are thinking about starting up their own business. The survey, “If only I knew then what I know now”disclaimer, was conducted by US-based business advisory company The Alternative Board, but is just as relevant to Kiwi businesses as it is to those in the States.

Entrepreneurs given the chance to do it again say they would focus less on their product and more on strategic business planning, sales and marketing, and getting the right guidance.

Only 2% said a better product would have made a difference to the success of their business. Instead factors like “investing more money in the early stage of building the business” and spending more time on strategic planning were seen as critical.

The Alternative Board Chief Executive Jason Zickerman says more than a third of small business owners said they would increase spending on marketing and brand development, and a similar number would have set up a lead development system earlier.

“80% of our business owner respondents discovered that client development is significantly more important than product or service development,” Zickerman says. Meanwhile, 20% would have invested more in hiring and training staff.

The advice from seasoned business owners for newly minted entrepreneurs is “find your customers, surround yourself with smart people and make use of your team”, Zickerman says.

Asked what they should have done more often, the top response, from 38% of business owners, was “delegate to others”.

Meanwhile, getting “better coaches and mentors” was chosen as a critical element for 24% of entrepreneurs.

From focusing too much on the product to not investing enough in hiring staff, it may seem that there are lots of pitfalls to avoid as a new business owner. But help is at hand. You’ll find links to useful information on some of the topics throughout this article. And if you want to talk to someone about your business, simply talk to an ANZ Business Specialist or book an A-Z Review - a complimentary evaluation of your financial situation and your goals, in order to identify a tailored solution for your business.

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Business Pulse Survey by The Alternative Board, January 2015.