Small company owners regret not getting their business foundations right

Business owners say that, if they could start their company again, they wouldn't rush in so quickly, research finds.

When asked if there was anything they would do differently if given the chance to start up their business again, a fifth (21per cent) say they would have taken more time to get the foundations right, according to a study by Direct Line for Business.

Mistakes learnt from rushing in at the start include failing to build a pipeline of work before leaving full time employment, failing to have enough products at launch and doing more research before starting.

One respondent states that given their time again they would ‘go easy on the bright ideas, even though sticking with what’s profitable does get boring’.

The second most popular piece of advice SME owners would give themselves would be to manage their finances better (17 per cent) and improve their planning (17 per cent).

The key financial advice involves charging more, securing investment upfront and getting a better control on cash flow. 

One in nine (11 per cent) small business owners say they would have asked for help from either a mentor or a business partner, while 5 per cent say that they would have done more marketing of their product or service.

One in five (19 per cent) respondents, however, claim that there was nothing they would have changed about the way they had set up their enterprise.

Nick Breton, head of Direct Line for Business says the research shows that people should not be deterred from starting up their own businesses.

‘With the average SME taking 18 months to turn a profit, this should encourage those in the early stages of developing a business, or those who are considering a start-up, to persevere with their business plan.

‘However they are to be reminded that success can certainly be aided by the best possible preparation in the early stages of starting up.’

Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation adds, ‘One of the great benefits of running your own business is the ability to learn as you go along. You can’t possibly know everything at the outset but turning to an adviser or mentor can help.

‘Small business owners are incredibly resilient, while also being flexible to change and this is shown in these results as entrepreneurs confirm that things don’t always go according to the business plan!’

The research also looks at the length of time it took a small business to turn a profit. With the average age of businesses taking part in the study standing at four and a half years, respondents claim that it had taken them 18 months before the business started making money.

Profitability was achieved slightly quicker among sole traders (one year and five months), while businesses with a larger employee base and therefore higher outgoings took longer to start making profits.

Businesses employing between six and ten staff take an average of two years and three months to turn a profit and those employing more than 11 people taking two years and seven months.

Further reading on starting a business

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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