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Simply Business Small Business Ambassador, Baroness Karren Brady CBE, is one of the UK’s most successful businesswomen. Since beginning her career over thirty years ago, she’s developed a reputation for business success – so much so that she received a CBE for her contributions to entrepreneurship and women in business.
During our recent business Q&A webinar, Baroness Brady shared some of her top tips for running a successful business. Keep reading to see what she had to say.
When starting a new business, your primary focuses are likely to be turning a profit in your first year and securing a solid customer base. Baroness Brady’s advice on how to do this is simple: “There's two tricks to building a business: grow sales and cut costs. If you focus on those two things in your first year then you'll be able to sustain a business.
“Every single cost you have in your company – look at it. How can you get that cost down? I always believe in the old adage – don't ask, you don't get. If a supplier gives you a price, offer them half and work backwards from there. Be really focused and ruthless on keeping your costs down.”
But what about growing that customer base? The Baroness recommends using social media to grow your business's profile.
“In terms of driving customers, use every platform you can. Social media is a great way to engage with customers, to sample new products, to test new products, to build rapport, and build relationships. So never miss an opportunity to sell your business and never miss an opportunity to cut a cost.”
No matter what your business is, Baroness Brady believes the key to successful business development is having clear values and communicating a clear purpose to your customers.
“In terms of business success, it's about having a product. And alongside having a good product, you need to have values and a purpose that your customers can really buy into.
“If you're ambitious, you’ll not settle for anything other than what you want, and if you have a good product with values and purpose, you'll often have business success.”
Whilst your product or service will differ depending on your business, there are some standard business guidelines for strengthening your values and purpose as a company. Having a good mission statement and vision statement can be helpful both internally and externally, because if your team understands your purpose, so will your customers.
You can also use this as an opportunity to clearly define your brand. This can be helpful for attracting new customers and even in product or business development.
Baroness Brady may have decades of business experience, but she believes that everyone has the ability to recognise and learn from their gut instinct – even if they’re just starting out in the business world.
“Gut instinct is your mechanism where you know you've been in that situation before and you know what the outcome is. And you build a gut instinct by building up from your successes and your failures – and those tend to lead you down the right path.”
But how do you react when you feel this way? Baroness Brady’s solution is simple: “When you're building a business and you're feeling slightly burnt out or you don't know where to start, I think it's really important to take a step back.
“Think about why you started this business in the first place, what your goals are, what your successes are. And start to think about how you build back up to where you want to be.”
Need help identifying your business goals? Take a look at our useful guide.
If you’re looking to secure funding for your small business, Baroness Brady believes the key is creating a solid business plan first: “Someone who’s passionate and has resilience…they will always lend you money if you have a good business plan – there are plenty of grants that you can tap into.
“You can also talk to your suppliers or your customers about pre-paying for things to help you with cash flow. Sometimes simply chasing those payments generates the cash you need to invest in your own business.”
As our Small Business Ambassador, the Baroness highlighted our Business Boost competition – which is offering a £25,000 business grant to one UK small business owner.
On Business Boost, Baroness Brady says: “Applications are open until 11th October. We have a panel of judges, myself being one. We're looking for businesses that need this boost to help them either grow their business or sustain their business.”
No matter how you choose to find funding, you can follow Baroness Brady’s advice by creating a strong business plan with the help of our guide.
If you’re an entrepreneur looking to go self-employed for the first time, the Baroness recommends starting with a side hustle. Working a side hustle allows you to start your business around your existing commitments – whether this be parenting or an existing job.
On starting a side hustle, Baroness Brady says: “You can see if it has legs before you throw your whole life savings in, to see if it will work. Start marketing, start building up a website.
“Start working out a lot about yourself and you’ll find that you're resilient, you're determined, you're forceful, and you're motivational – and all of those things will help you.”
It’s natural to be afraid of failure – but Baroness Brady wants us to reevaluate what failure is, as well as what we learn from it. Things can go wrong anywhere in life – including in business management. What’s important is how we react to it.
Baroness Brady says: “A failure is only a failure if it ultimately stops you achieving what you set out to achieve. Other than that, it's just a bump in the road.
“You get lots of bumps in the road when you're running a business and they do tend to iron themselves out as you gain more experience and you learn newer ways of doing things. But before success, people do get temporary defeat and sometimes they do get total failure.
“What's really important is how you react when that happens to you. If that stops you in your tracks and you cannot go forward, then that's a real problem.”
Baroness Brady undoubtedly understands the importance of hard work – but she also recognises the importance of rewarding yourself when things go well. When asked how she stays motivated and focused, her best business advice is:
“It’s important to set some time for yourself once you've achieved a goal – some sort of reward. So for some people it might be a vacation or it might be a day off. You're rewarding yourself for the success that you've achieved.”
When it comes to rewarding yourself, you know better than anyone what will motivate you. But this can also apply to your employees when you run a small business. For some inspiration, take a look at our guide to rewarding employees.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given? Let us know in the comments below.
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Rosanna Parrish is a Copywriter at Simply Business, specialising in legal and HR content. Trained at London College of Communication, she has been creating content professionally for eight years at publications across the UK and Spain. Starting her career in health insurance, she also worked in education marketing before returning to the insurance world. Rosanna also writes about wellbeing in the workplace. She lives by the sea and does her best writing in coffee shops.
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