I started my first business when I was 11. Like most kids, I just wanted to earn some money and so one day made some business cards offering to clean people’s cars in the neighbourhood. I branched out into other things. We lived near the sea, and so I would collect shells and, in my spare time, make cards and hair clips which I could sell. I was fortunate to have an great network to tap into of neighbours and my parents’ friends. I was the youngest of five girls, so I would drag their unsuspecting friends into buying whatever I had on offer. You may think that doesn’t count, but regardless of how informal and small it was, I had to follow the basic business principles.
Since then, I have continued to run my own businesses. Whether they have been entirely for-profit or social enterprises, they all require the same five things. The majority of small businesses fail, and I think some qualities we can adopt genuinely serve to build a healthier and more resilient company. I call them the 5 “C’s”; commitment, consistency, collaboration, communication, and challenge.
When one comes up with an idea for a business, it is such a thrilling and exciting moment – anything seems possible. The reality is a little different, and that’s not a bad thing. Suddenly our idea is put to the test, and there can be a lot at stake, and embracing these qualities can make all the difference.
Commitment: Setting up a business is going to test your commitment. Commitment is as much about being solution driven as it is about sticking things out when the going gets tough. It is being committed to your idea or goal to the point where you find solutions to the inevitable challenges that arise because you are determined to realise your vision. When you dedicate time and energy to something, it attracts more opportunities and new ideas. When you feel tired and unmotivated, commitment is what pushes you to find ways to reignite the passion and energy that once came so easily. It is another way of building trust internally and with your customer base.
Consistency is a discipline that builds a solid foundation for you to work from. It will also build trust between you and your customers. Being aligned to your core values and being consistent in upholding them will give you strength and support in challenging times. It will also enable you to keep things in check. Owning a business often means you will have to be a jack of all trades and oversee all areas, even when it is not your area of expertise. That’s a bonus as you will have much greater oversight of how your business is doing and broaden your skills set.
Communication: As with all relationships, communication is vital, and there is no difference when running your own business. Perhaps the most critical part of communication is to listen. It allows you the opportunity to reflect, consider, and question your ideas. Building honest communication with staff and customers alike is what embeds trust and loyalty. Trust me; loyal customers are essential to the growth of your business. Happy staff members are the face of your brand. When there are trust and honest communication, it creates a safe and vibrant working space.
Collaboration: As much as the idea for your business may be yours, it will take collaboration with other parties to bring it to life. Who you choose to collaborate with is crucial and can be one of the driving forces for your success and failure! What is important is that you offer one another a win-win situation. If one person feels they are giving more than what they are receiving, inevitably, this will lead to division. Collaboration is about knowledge sharing, growing together, making connections, and creating a strong network around you.
Challenge: Try not to be afraid of challenges. They provide some of the best learning opportunities and test your resourcefulness to seek solutions and your resilience to push through. If the same challenge seems to rear its head, this is a message to say you need to look at the problem differently. Often, we use the same strategies over and over again only to find the same poor outcomes. Embracing challenges will get you to the next level. Think out of the box, be flexible, ask a lot of questions, and be honest with your answers. It may be that you need to make significant changes to your business. If you have contemplated your options, these changes may be precisely what you need to do to move out of a crisis and drive your business to success.