Supports for Small Business
It is often when you think you are at the end of your tether, that you are at the start of success. When you climb a mountain, you feel most tired and exhausted, just before you reach the summit and then feel your very best.
Too often people give up right before the finish line, usually because they cannot see the line and at the point when pressure is at its worst. The pain, the stress and the drive you experience, is what makes the achievement all the more satisfying. And it will make you a stronger, more fullfilled, more interesting, possibly more scarred human being. That self development process you went through is what will underpin your success going forward. Think of the war stories you can tell, the lessons learned, the ‘real’ friends you made or identified, the advice you can pass on to others and the strength of character you have developed. Stay the course and make the dream a reality. Learn to believe and then to achieve and then to teach others how to do the same thing.
Some people push themselves through sport, others in business or academics, many through charity or helping others. It is in the act of helping others that we find the best parts of ourselves. When my Dad died we had a wake at home and the people who came to pay their respects talked about what he did for them, how he helped them and why he made a difference to their lives. Not one said he had a great car or huge business or wonderful assets. He had a nice, modest home, nothing showy and where he spent most of his time in his final short years, so it was amazing to have all these strangers say these things. Somehow, he quietly helped these people and his own struggles had to be the educational basis that he used to help or advise others. He certainly was not handing out money, because he did not have it to give away. But he did have a wealth of experience and a willingness to listen.
Kay Heneghan, my great Aunt in Castlebar, a retired librarian, had an attitude of giving away everything she ever received. Because she was such a generous person, she seemed to receive gifts on a very regular basis, but just as regularly she gave these away to people who could use them. Kay was a very happy lady, who lived a very long life and touched everybody she met. People who had emigrated decades earlier, would visit on their return to pay their respects and you would wonder how many of them got the price of a ticket from Kay or more importantly, got connected with someone in Philly or New Jersey who could offer a starter job or a bed for the first month. Kay had no internet, but she had her own network that worked well for her. If Kays network was her net worth, then she was truly a wealthy lady. Kay would always encourage people to reach for their dreams and then to finish what they started. She believed in them and fueled their own self belief. She acted as an advisor, a sounding board and a mentor. She had worked for many years as a librarian, but also ran the family supermarket and helped with the family guest house. She had a mix of experiences, that, combined with her voracious reading, put her in a position to advise well. Her demeanour meant that she did all this in a way that was understood and appreciated. She did not lecture, she simply encouraged people all the way to success.
Obviously, when you start anything you do need a plan, to identify that there is a market, have a budget, have the resources, then commit to getting it done. Make sure you add systems and metrics, to make the business work and assess its success. People say follow your passion or your dream, which sounds great, but if your dream is to sell sunglasses in Donegal, you will have a very limited local market, so plan for online or export sales. Not every dream is a logical or profitable business venture. Talk to a mentor at the start or even join or create a Mastermind group. Get advice, ask for direction, engage with people who have done it all before. The veterans will be happy to share with you their experience, knowledge, tips etc.
Supports for Small Business Solopreneurs, Entrepreneurs and SMEs.
Support can come in many forms, but the best would be the mentors or advisors. If you cannot identify a suitable mentor, contact the Local Enterprise Office and ask them for a name. Likewise banks offer business advice from their own inhouse business team, so ask at your bank. The best way to talk to these people is to attend business networking events at your local Chamber of Commerce or local business network, of which there are many. Enterprise Europe Network help people looking for partners, new products or technologies across Europe. This is the largest SME network in the world.
Small business support can also be found at ISME Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association and SFA Small Firms Association.
ISME – independent representative association for small businesses with about 10000 members and supported by IBEC which represents large businesses
SFA – Small firms association with 8000 members who fund its activities
Networks for Entrepreneurs
Structured business networks are a great place to find advice and support, so check out any local ones. You may have a local BNI or Women in Business Network or maybe you have an association for your business. By all means ask at your local chamber offices. Most of these are free or have small attendance stroke membership fees.
Supports for Small Business – tips:
1. Talk to players who have trodden the track before you. Ask for advice and then LISTEN to it.
2. Avoid the polishing. Do not wait until everything is perfect before you launch. Get to market early and improvise where you have to, then improve your product or service as you get feedback. Real action in the market will help you identify what is needed, a lot better than you guessing what the market needs. Try a Beta version, most software companies do it and for good reason.
3. Plan, commit, measure.
4. Celebrate every success along the way.
Finish what you started, but remember that you are not alone. As you struggle through the initial challenges, be aware that so many people have scaled these heights before you. Be open, reach out and get support. Talk to people and listen twice as much, but never bottle up the stresses, as they are a part of the challenge. The tightness in the stomach, the lack of sleep, the sweats, the fear of failure, the setbacks, the lonliness, they are not just your issues. No sir or madam, these are the hurdles that afflict every athlete or entrepreneur. Embrace the challenge, join the team, work together and finish what you started, so that you too can help some aspiring person who is on the track just behind you.
Please do send any useful tips or links that you may have for entrepreneurs or ask any questions that you want answered, that we have not covered here.