There’s no shortage of business advice, the challenge is to know what to listen to and what to ignore.
I’ve now been running my own business – The Old Station Nursery – for nearly 10 years and in some ways it feels like there has never been life without it! I’d always been told that after running your own business you become almost unemployable, such is the difference between working for someone else, taking proper holidays and switching off at the end of the day. However, the flip side is being in control of your life (mostly), enjoying great flexibility and the real buzz of knowing that you are making it happen yourself.
Over the years I have been given lots of advice and have read many articles and books on management and business in general. There is certainly no shortage of popular wisdom, but sometimes it’s a challenge to know what to listen to and what to ignore. I think I’ve learnt as much from hearing people admit their mistakes as I have gained from ‘good’ advice. I listened to one ex-Dragon’s Den contestant who grew an initially successful business, but then succumbed to too much advice and felt compelled to grow a large head office team with numerous functions, whilst the actual production and sales side of the company really couldn’t support that level of cost. I have always kept my company very tight and we have a large operating base with very small head office function and have resisted the urge to take on too many additional staff, as the cost has to be covered somewhere. When outsiders challenged this, I could hear the speaker telling me about her experience, which ultimately lead to a forced sale, and it helped me to stay firm.
However, good advice is invaluable and there are a couple of pieces which I was given by a good friend in business which have helped a great deal. Firstly, surround yourself with positive people. Business is hard work and you will often have tough times. You do not need to be surrounded by doubters or people who will question your commitment; yes, it is good to have a reality check now and then and a team who will examine your processes, but you do need upbeat, positive people to help you to succeed.
It is also important to know yourself, to know what you are good at and even more importantly, what you are not so good at. If you are not a detail person, like me, then make sure your team complement your skills. I have a great finance manager, who fills in the gaps that I leave on the financial planning side. That doesn’t mean I can be blind to the whole subject, but it does mean that I can concentrate on strategic plans while she looks after the incredibly important detail of company finances.
Finally, if I dare be so bold as to give one piece of advice to anyone launching their own business, it is to value sheer determination and to keep going. I have frequently felt like my daughter’s hamster, running in a wheel to stop myself from falling over! Business is challenging, frantic, rewarding and fun, but if you stop too long to consider what you are doing, you may fall over. Keep going through the tough bits and eventually the good times will come…honestly!
About Sarah Steel
Sarah founded The Old Station Nursery Ltd in 2002, after a search for high quality local childcare left her thinking that there was a gap in the market. It has been a challenging 9 years since then, but has undoubtedly been a success story. The company now runs 13 day nurseries across the UK and has been recognised with a number of industry and business awards.