7 tips for a successful first year of business

Taking the plunge and setting up your own business is the start of an exhilarating ride, but it can be a stressful one for the first year.

Shaelene Hancock works with hundreds of franchisees as part of her role as Franchisee Business Development Manager at First Class Accounts.

Every day she helps new franchisees through the tough times and is there to celebrate all their wins too.

We caught up with her and asked for her top tips on getting through the first year of business unscathed (or at least as unscathed as possible).


1. Own your reputation


“Good customer service is an absolute must in growing your business if you said you’ll get back to someone make sure you do,” said Hancock.

“People remember how they were treated and will refer you because of it…or what you didn’t do.”


2. Shake up your sales talk


“Change the focus from ‘selling’ to looking at providing a solution for the client,” said Hancock.

“Selling can be scary, but thinking about it from your client’s perspective and trying to solve their problem takes the pressure off you, as you’re not ‘selling’.

“What you’re doing is creating an opportunity for people to buy what they want and what they need from you.”


3. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals


“If your client is happy with your work, they’re usually keen to refer you, but often life gets in the way, and they may not actively seek out people to recommend your services to,” said Hancock.

“You’ll be more successful if you have a referral process in place, so people are not only rewarded for recommending you, but it becomes an automatic habit in your business.”

READ: 6 tips to get referrals 


4. Know your numbers


“It’s vital to avoid unnecessary stress or nasty surprises,” said Hancock.

“Cash flow is one of the significant problems that small business owners can have, but knowing your numbers or working with a good bookkeeper, who can help you with this, alleviates the stress.

“Start by working out and understanding your numbers, the profit you do make and the profit you’d like to make, then look at how many customers you need to achieve this and your conversion rates.

“By breaking it down and knowing your numbers you get a sense of control and a clear plan of action that you can refer to.”


5. Set goals and review them regularly


“Accountability is key here. Make sure you’re sticking to your plan. If you know you’re not that great at sticking to goals on your own, find an accountability partner, a coach or a system that keeps you in check,” said Hancock.

“Are you procrastinating, are you wasting your time doing jobs that aren’t going to bring you the best results?

“Once you take out the hours of the week for sleeping, eating and the basics of life, you still have about 100 hours left to spend between work and leisure.

The question is what are you achieving in your 100 hours and are you prepared to change some things for the success of your business?”


6. Don’t get too overwhelmed with marketing and social media


“You need to take the time to figure out what works for you and your business – and it might not be every social media channel,” said Hancock.

“You are much better off doing one or two well, rather than five badly!

READ: Do I need to be on all the social media platforms?

“You need to think about the way your customers are going to be searching for your services and how you can showcase yourself as an expert in your field.

“At the end of the day though, you have to give something a try to know if it works or doesn’t, so get active online, be seen and grow your profile.”


7. Know your brand


“This one ties so many things together – from sales to marketing to growing your offering. Know what you do differently, so you know your value,” said Hancock.

“Importantly know your ‘why’ – why do you do what you do, why is it going to make a difference in your client’s lives and how can you get that message out.

“When you are clear about your brand, your message, your priorities, your why – it allows you to stay on track with your marketing, growing your business and what you offer to your customers.

“It also helps you to avoid being distracted by the next ‘bright sparkly object’, which may take you off track from growing your business.”