I started my first business Energise, a brand and digital agency, when the GFC was in full swing 10 years ago. I’ve now launched a second business, SME School, during COVID so I certainly understand the twists, turns and cyclones for small business. However, my great redeemer was doing a few things really well which have proven invaluable to weather the storm. So let’s get talking…
Doing something super well or being trained in something new is not enough to build a business.
My expertise is in marketing, having worked in corporates like Westfield, Sky City and Westpac for 20 years prior to starting my business. However, this alone was not enough. You also need to be hyper passionate about what you do. It’s something you live and breathe and could spend hours talking about. I started SME School this year based on a lifelong dream to start my own school. I started life as a school teacher and have always yearned to deliver a more pragmatic, practical style of learning. This is what fuels my fire.
Starting and growing a business can be very lonely and damn hard work. You need a deep-seated, unshakable belief that your business will be successful (as you will be challenged many times on this from your accountant to even your children!). Perseverance and determination will be your friends throughout this journey. In my early days, I had times with little to no cashflow and a crap sales pipeline (2 recipes for disaster) but I dug deep, reminded myself why I was in this game and picked up the phone…
You need customers to sell to. Without them, your business will not scale nor will your reputation. As a business owner you need to master the art of selling. I had never sold anything before starting Energise but I knew I needed to learn fast if my business had any hope. After doing some training (similar to what we provide at SME School) I then developed my own style of selling. I don’t think it will win me any awards, but it’s grown my businesses. As a tip for those new to sales, ‘NO I’m not interested’ is code for ‘I am not ready yet’. Mindset changes like this help with the next sales call…
Segmentation of the market is key. In NZ, we think everyone is our customer (team of 5 million) however not everyone wants your products and services. It’s never a good idea to take a broad, scattergun approach to marketing because its inefficient and costly. It’s smarter to target customers who have a need for what you do. Defining your ideal customer will help you prioritise your time and marketing $$$$. Often clients tell me nothing they have done has ever worked whether it’s been with social media, advertising, paid search etc. When I have drilled down further it’s because they have not been speaking to the right people with the right problems.
And lastly, get support. Whether it’s a mentor who has successfully walked your same journey or a partner whose skills are complimentary to your own or perhaps a collective think tank like an Advisory Board. They will help you grow quicker and faster than you can on your own. As Kiwis we seem hell bent on working things out on our own. This can be punishingly slow and often we miss out on opportunities as we’ve missed the start line.
So winding this up, the deal breakers for your success are passion, determination, support seeking, with a dash of sales aptitude and a super clear obsession for your ideal customer – no more guessing!
If you enjoyed reading this straight talking article and want to know more about growing your business without the jargon, visit our website www.smeschool.co.nz to sign up for action-able marketing and digital tips and insights
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