If you had the chance to live your life over again, what would you do differently? Most small business owners wouldn’t change a thing — at least, not when it comes to their businesses.
Some 82 percent of small business owners in the most recent SurePayroll Scorecard have no regrets about when they started their businesses; in fact, 10 percent wish they had started their businesses earlier. Only 3 percent wish they had waited for the economy to improve before starting their businesses.
The small business owners who participated in the nationwide survey are happy with their businesses today, and 80 percent are optimistic about the future of the U.S. economy in general. However, these entrepreneurs also admit there were some things they didn’t expect when they started out.
- Almost three in 10 respondents (28 percent) say the economy has had a much bigger impact on their business than they ever expected.
- 24 percent say they didn’t realize the toll business ownership would take on their personal lives and health.
- 21 percent say changing government regulations had an unexpectedly large effect on their businesses.
- 10 percent say their business location had a bigger effect on their business than they expected.
What do small business owners wish they had understood better when they started their businesses? The top answers are:
- Administrative and regulatory requirements (34 percent)
- How to hire the right people (26 percent)
- How to better manage their time (19 percent)
- The need for capital and how to raise it (14 percent)
It’s also important to thoroughly understand what you’re up against when starting a business. More than one-quarter (26 percent) of respondents say a better understanding of customer behavior would have been helpful when they launched their companies. Sixteen percent wish they had known more about customer demand for their service or product; many also wished they had a better understanding of the competitive landscape earlier.
If you haven’t yet started your business or are still in the planning stages, take a lesson from the entrepreneurs in the survey.
- Do your homework. You think you’ve got a great idea, but will your customers think so, too? Conduct market research to see who your competitors are, what your target customers are like and whether they will actually buy your product or service.
- Know the administrative and regulatory requirements you need to meet. These can range from licenses and permits to local zoning regulations and record-keeping requirements. Once you’re up and running, keep on top of changes to local, state and federal government regulations that affect your business.
- Have adequate capital. Insufficient capital is a key reason for business failure. Create a budget and financial projections for your new business, and figure out where you can save money and where you need to spend. Don’t forget to take your own income into account: You may have to go without a salary for a year or longer until your business starts making a profit.
- Watch economic indicators. Keeping tabs on the local, regional and national economy, as well as the world economy, will help you plan for the future of your business. It will also help you make smarter decisions about everything from the suppliers you choose to the types of employees you hire.
- Don’t underestimate the power of location. I’ve seen some great businesses fail solely because they chose a location that didn’t have enough foot traffic or lacked adequate parking. If the rent on a location seems too good to be true, there’s probably a reason for that.
- Make time for yourself. Entrepreneurship is all-encompassing and can eat up 24 hours of your day if you let it. But in order for your business to thrive and grow, you’ve got to be mentally and physically fit. Manage your time wisely, being sure to set aside enough hours in the day for rest, exercise, a healthy diet and time with the people you care about.
- Last, but not least, get help. One-quarter (25 percent) of respondents regretted not experiencing the benefits of having a great mentor. A good mentor can make your life so much easier — he or she can help you cut through red tape, get the capital you need, find the perfect location and more. Two of my favorite places to get business advice are from the experts at SCORE and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Both organizations provide free business consulting from experienced entrepreneurs and business professionals. Find your local office online to learn more.
(Disclosure: SCORE is a client of my company.)