The first five years of running a business are notoriously challenging.
It takes time to build a solid client base when you’re being stretched in all directions, and relationships within the business can be tested in such close-knit environments.
At my consulting firm, Fortitude Dynamics, and in previous ventures, I’ve certainly felt the peaks and troughs of starting my own business. As we’ve grown, we’ve had some immense highs but there have also been moments where we’ve felt the pressure.
Growing a business takes great strength and determination, but beyond this there are some practical steps you can take to help calibrate your development from start-up to established enterprise.
Set clear objectives and deadlines
In practice it can feel counter-intuitive to identify and consolidate clear goals with regards to your business. It’s tempting to take each day as it comes: in the start-up phase, any source of revenue feels like an achievement. Circumstances can also shift very quickly, and it’s often easier to simply tell your business partner or colleague (or yourself) what you should be doing as and when the need becomes evident.
But while it’s important to stay agile, with any type of project your chances of success are greatly increased if you keep defining (and redefining, if necessary) your objectives in writing.
How much revenue are you aiming to generate over the course of the next year? What are your monthly targets? What does your ‘dream’ client portfolio look like?
By answering such questions clearly and thoroughly – for example in a document which you can keep referring to – you’ll set yourself on a steady course for growth and stability.
The popularity of the gig economy is increasing, as is the proliferation of millennials who seek greater levels of career freedom. This makes farming out some of your to-do list to a freelancer a veritable option for your firm, giving you time to focus on more business-critical tasks.
As long as you effectively manage your freelancer and the work that they do, this option can help you spread the load in those early growth stages, without you having to take on the cost of a full-blown hire.
Invest in talent
One drawback of freelance hires, however, is that they can’t always do the work for you when you need it.
It’s therefore worth considering investing in a talented full-time hire.
In order to attract the right kind of person (and keep them), you should put a good enough offer on the table to tempt potential employees away from bigger brands. This will involve spending a little more than you might have anticipated, for example offering them a slightly higher salary, unlimited holiday or a small equity stake in the business (or all three).
Although this move will feel like a big financial hit to your firm, it will pay off in the long run. You can’t grow unless there are enough proficient hands on deck in the first place, and you need to make your new hire feel like a big enough stakeholder in the business to prevent them from going elsewhere.
Give yourself breaks
Remember the old saying about waiting ages for a bus, then lots of them coming at once? It can often feel like that in a start-up – it’s frustrating when things don’t go as planned, and you can become anxious waiting for things to get resolved.
At moments like this, it’s time to stop waiting for the proverbial bus and do something to take your mind off it. Go away on a long weekend, or take the afternoon off. Granted, it’s important not to take your finger off the pulse, but sometimes a little time off does wonders for helping you gain perspective and generate new ideas.
Monika Juneja is the managing director of Fortitude Dynamics.