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How to keep your business afloat

It's tough out there, but you can avoid failing in business by steering clear of these common mistakes

While research shows that small business failure rates in South Africa have dropped from 4,9% to 3,89%, we still have one of the highest failure rates for SMEs in the first few years. Executive coach Simone Le Hane says businesses fail because they make common mistakes in the early years.

“Many entrepreneurs are unable to overcome the challenges they face,” she says. “It’s crucial to analyse industry and economic trends and to act on them. It’s also important to keep learning and improving your management, leadership and financial skills.”

Le Hane offers the following tips to achieve entrepreneurial success and keep your business growing:

Research your competition
It’s important to research your competitors on a regular basis. You need to know who they are and what their offering is in order to have a competitive edge and offer something no one else does. Whether it’s a better price, service, product quality or experience, differentiating yourself from others in the same sector will enable you to increase your sales, and cement your place in the market.

Hone in on your target market
Once you understand your competition, focus on understanding exactly what type of customer you’re seeking to attract. Use market research to determine who they are, where they live, hang out, what they read and their social media habits. When you have a clear image of your target market, you will know how best to reach them.
How to keep your business afloat
Market and network
It isn’t necessary to have a huge marketing budget in the early days of your business, but you do need to self-promote. Utilise tools such as social media groups and forums to reach like-minded people and contribute to industry topics. Network at trade-shows and conferences to get to know key players in the industry, meet potential clients or collaborate with like-minded business owners.

Use Facebook and Twitter to profile your company. Start a company page and build a community by posting industry-related articles and links, offer specials and giveaways and ask for feedback, and then follow-up on your clients’ needs.
Ask for help
A new business owner is often responsible for all aspects of the business in the early stages. It’s important to find a mentor who has accomplished what you are looking to do. If you’re struggling with a specific aspect of running your business, it’s crucial to ask for help. If finance or marketing is a weak point, read business books or attend a short course. Up-skilling can only help your business.

Most businesses lack resources and funding in the early stages. If it makes business sense, it’s a good idea to partner with businesses that offer complementary services, where you could share resources, potential leads and clients.

Be resilient
Resilience is a key factor to business success. It’s inevitable that you will make mistakes, so learn from them and move on. All businesses will experience peaks and valleys, so it’s important to be passionate about what you’re selling. Believe in yourself and your product.
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