Surviving your first year -- tips for small business owners


(NC) -- Many successful entrepreneurs can tell you that starting a business can be extremely rewarding but that it can also be stressful.

“Everyone who starts a business enters with excitement and aspirations for success and while no two businesses are the same, success can be difficult to predict,” says Kim Ulmer, vice-president, Small Business, RBC. “Many factors can contribute to the success of your business, but it's important to understand that building a successful, profitable business takes patience, determination and focus.”

Ulmer offers some tips that can be applied to any new business, increasing your chance of success:

• Make a planCreating a business plan is essential to the survival of any business. It will help you identify your customers, your market, your competition, and other important aspects of your business. It will also help you identify potential opportunities and obstacles that might not have occurred to you. As your business grows, it will serve as the yardstick against which you can measure your business performance and make sure you're staying on the right track.

• Establish a support network – Business owners tend to be independent-minded and are more inclined to solve problems on their own. However, it is important to not be shy when it comes to asking for advice. You'll be surprised how many are willing to share industry information or serve as a sounding board for your ideas. Other people to consider for your professional network include suppliers, customers, accountants, lawyers, and financial advisors.

• Be a student of your business – To be successful, your business needs to stand out among the competition. Your "unique selling proposition" may be your product or service, price, selection, or any number of things. Whatever it is, you need to understand the market, and know what your competition is doing, to ensure that whatever you are offering is more appealing to your customers than anything else out there. Research online, join industry associations and most importantly, talk to your clients.

• Keep an eye on your cash flow – Without a clear picture of your daily sales revenue and expenses, you won't know how much your business is making. That's why keeping an eye on your cash flow is crucial. It's also essential for forecasting, as your predictions and planning are based on what happened today. Over time your forecasting will become more accurate, so you can plan for fluctuations in your business due to seasonal or economic factors. It will also help you determine how much cash you need in reserve to keep you in the black through slower periods.

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