Why running a micro business needn’t mean huge financial targets 

Entrepreneur Tina Boden discusses why sometimes it's best for owners of modestly-sized companies to keep their dreams small.

The reality of running a micro-business is that it helps you realise that you need to assess success in units that are easily measured to ensure you stay motivated and inspired to continue driving yourself and your business forward on a daily basis.

Why then does the government, when talking about business start-ups, always seem to focus on high growth? Translated into layman’s terms this means those registering for VAT (turning over more than £77,000) and employing staff.

How many starting out on the road to self-employment will be grateful just to generate enough money to cover their personal survival income?

Most of those new business owners soon realise that it is less about the starting up and more about the keeping going that is important. If you have survived the first year in business that is a success in itself, well done! Now the challenge is to keep going.

What makes people start their own business?

Do those going into business see themselves as the next Alan Sugar or Deborah Meaden as many would have you believe? Once established do they measure their success by the amount of money they have in the bank, the number of bedrooms in their house or the value of the car in their garage?

My experience is that no, they don’t.

Let’s use my entrepreneurial parents as an example. They bought their first business, a pub, when I was two years old. Mum wore casual clothes, she was the chef, Dad worked front of house and always wore a tie; we went on holiday to the Mediterranean in October, when it rained, and they discovered the Canaries and bought a small apartment there which they still own 35 years later – nothing flash, just a measure of their success.

When I was 11 they bought a derelict vicarage on the Yorkshire Coast that they converted to a country house hotel – this property became a money pit and drained them of all they had achieved financially but they continued on, driven by a determination to make it work. They did not recover completely from the debt they incurred until they sold the business, but they won awards for customer service and had repeat customers that loved what they created – happy customers to them were a measure of their success.

When I was 20 years old the hotel was sold, Mum and I bought a property letting and management business which we grew through the early 90’s when work was low and interest rates were high, offering a good customer service, something my parents had instilled in me. The business was runner up in the National Association of Estate Agents Office of the Year Award in 1999, the year after I bought my Mum out and gave birth to my second child. She and Dad bought another pub with my brother and sister-in-law.

Mum and Dad are now in their early 70’s and retired. They still enjoy each other’s company after all the years of working together and continue to inspire me because they have never been motivated by money, just a desire to have a good quality of life. They had businesses that were our homes and were always there for us as we grew up.

It’s actually great to be just doing ‘ok’.

In reality it’s not necessarily about turning over millions, pitching to Dragons or finding yourself at the end of Alan Sugar’s pointy finger; you don’t have to ensure you are keeping up with the Joneses. What is important is that your business gives you exactly what you need, both professionally and personally. If that’s a few hundred pounds or a few hundred thousand pounds, it really doesn’t matter, as long as it is making you happy.

With increasing pressures on micro-businesses from the tough economic climate, coupled with the mounting pressures to make businesses a huge success, I am really concerned that little credit is being given for the biggest achievement of all, which is getting a business to market and actually making sustainable sales. I think it’s terrible that many micro-business owners feel pressure to hit the £100,000 annual turnover mark and that anything less means they haven’t quite made it yet.

People may think that running a micro-business is easy. Not many people to oversee, low overheads. However, I would say the reverse is true. As a micro-business owner, you have many more ‘hats’ to juggle. I want people to recognise and give themselves credit for how much they have already achieved while also inspiring them to keep pressing on to achieve their ultimate ambitions, whatever they may be.

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