Five things I would have done differently in my small business 

Tom Skinner, managing director of marketing company Go Up, reveals what he would have changed if he could have started again.

Encouraging a proper lunch break is something Skinner wishes he'd done

Encouraging a proper lunch break is something Skinner wishes he'd done

Hindsight can seem a bit of a pointless indulgence to a start-up owner. With staggeringly high fail rates, most start-ups only get one chance and whatever lessons we learn as we go along we may not get to apply for quite some time.

So here’s a chance to share some of my ‘if only’ moments with future business growers.

The top five things we would have done differently at Go Up if there were ‘a second time around’:

1. Used a virtual office service

When you’ve just got your fledgling company off the ground, you want to be the one picking up the phone every time.

Every call is a potential new inbound client and you want them to know you’re putting all of your energy towards your business.

But is that really the message you’re sending by being both the director and the secretary? And what about all those times you’re already on the other line or you’re meeting clients?

Thankfully for us, it turned out well even though we found ourselves frantically juggling phones at times.

But If we did get to do it again we would have strongly considered roping in the services of a virtual office. Having the use of a virtual secretary to take calls and forward messages when we’re out or when we want to put 100 per cent of our efforts towards getting a site live, would have been a far more efficient allocation of tasks.

2. Been less concerned about location

When we set up our office we made a concerted effort to choose an address that would resonate with our intended client base and reflect our image.

As we’ve grown, we’ve found this is less important than we thought. Given that getting from one point to another anywhere in London takes about 45 minutes (often longer), it is difficult to justify paying more for a ‘good location’ when it has no real bearing on your accessibility.

If we started again, we’d be on the lookout for spaces a bit less central that offer better value – more space and a greener setting.

3. Encouraged real lunch breaks

Early on in the life of our business we decided to invest in standing desks for the office.

We’re all active people and being desk-bound for upwards of eight hours a day wasn’t doing our backs any favours.

I have no doubt this has already significantly benefited the overall quality of the work experience for our team.

But we could probably have done more. Few of us take proper lunch breaks and we often end up mindlessly chewing on a bagel, catching up on email.

Not having structured lunch breaks is a missed opportunity to take a real break from the glare of the screen, share ideas and to do a proper reset.

Of course having a formalised lunch hour every day is simply not always practical.

What we could have done (and probably will still do), is to designate days to have group lunches and to occasionally introduce lunch hour exercise sessions that could range from a walk in the park to getting some basic office fitness guidance from one of our clients who runs fitness instructor courses. Having showers next to our office is an additional godsend for those who want to cycle in or go for a run at lunch.

4. Bought second-hand office furniture

There’s nothing quite like a sparkly new office with untarnished out-of-the-box furniture to beckon you to your workstation.

When you’re just starting up a company though, chances are your first office space will be a shoebox-sized hole and no amount of flashy furniture can change that.

When we started we should have scoured the web for second hand furniture rather than buying brand new.

There are clearance companies that reuse and sell entirely decent office furniture that need to be removed from disused spaces. It’s eco friendly and frankly, much kinder on your wallet.

5. Used a business plan writer

Of course like most start-ups, we were born from a very clear business idea and well-thought-out approach.

We knew exactly what we wanted to achieve and how we wanted to go about it. We also diligently spent time hashing out our SWOT factors. What we didn’t do was write it all down.

A business plan writer could have helped give more structure to our concept and having a tangible plan would have been helpful when we started recruiting more staff.

Having said all that, there are many things we’ve done right. We have enabled a great many businesses and a number of charities to reach out to their audience and fully communicate the significance of their product or service by getting them ranking in top positions on Google and designing and building websites that fully conveyed their expertise or showcased their wares. So while we may have taken a few different turns, our overall direction would still have been: Go Up.

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