Let’s Build A Successful Business!

In our last post we went into where you are in comparison with where you want to be, the gap between, the various justifications given and some empowering questions.

Next we’re going to look at your answers to those questions and see how we can:

  • Build them into great stories that will resonate with your potential customers
  • Get those stories out to where your potential customers work, rest and/ or play!

But first we’re going have a quick look at where you fit into the business scene.

Small Business Statistics


The diagram above represents the the percentage breakdown of businesses in the UK as at Spring 2003 (figures from the DTI). The picture hasn’t altered hugely since then. Updated figures (November 2011) from the FSB show (among other things) that:

  • There are 4.5 million small businesses in the UK
  • SMEs account for 99 per cent of of all enterprise int he UK, 58.8 per cent of private sector employment and 48.8 per cent of private sector turnover
  • SMEs employed an estimated 13.8 million people and had an estimated combined annual turnover of £1,500 billion
  • Businesses with employees account for a quarter of all enterprises – a fall of 29,000 since 2010
  • The number of sole proprietorships increased by 87,000 in 2010 and the number of companies, 6,000

As an aside, I can sort of understand why “Medium” sized businesses were lumped in with “Small” but I cannot for the life of me work out why “Micro” and “Sole Traders” – the biggest combined group by far (should they ever decide to band together and create their own union, watch out!) – should all be under the SME nomenclature, but I guess that’s just one of life’s little mysteries… I’m guessing that sole traders and micros are included in the figure of 4.5 million for small businesses above…

So, since businesses with employees account for only a quarter of all enterprises now in UK PLC 2011 (and, if you look at the pie chart, what’s the betting that 95% of them are micros with under 10 employees?) together with the remaining Sole Traders three quarters we see who must be contributing hugely to the effort of keeping the economy afloat! And I’m sure the same applies to all ‘free’ countries across the globe.

Looked at that way, it’s not just ourselves we owe to be successful, is it? So let’s get to it!

Do You Have a Marketable Niche?

As you’re reading this to yourself you’re either going to be thinking “nitch” (west of the Pond) or “neesh” (east); doesn’t matter which because, either way what we’re looking at here is the market sector that you’ve carved out as your very own!

And it’s important to realise and acknowledge that you’re probably not the first in it, won’t be the last, but you’re the only one to bring what you bring to it and your customers – and it’s something that’s valuable to them.

Another point to bear in mind is that the niche you choose/ have chosen may not be the one you end up in – again, it doesn’t matter – don’t let inertia and indecision sink you – (once you’ve answered your Empowering Questions to your satisfaction) just get on and take action! Because, answering your Empowering Questions should also have provided answers in the affirmative to the following three questions:

  1. Can you justify and carve out your very own differential within this niche?
  2. Is it lucrative?
  3. Does it have potential to grow?

Then we can move on to ideas and examples of what action to be taking, always with the idea of gaining and increasing profitable business…

Win, Keep and Grow Profitable Business

Okay, if there’s you on your own or you plus a handful in your company, the odds of one of you being ace at sales and marketing are, realistically likely to be quite small, yet we want to build a fan-and-customer base as quickly as possible, don’t we? So let’s start with just three ideas – I’m sure you’ll come up with loads more.

Go networking – How?

  • Face-to-face
  • Phone
  • Skype
  • Online

Go networking – Where?

Where your target audience hangs out and while there are likely to be in the frame of mind where they’re open to business ideas and opportunities.

If you don’t know where and when that is, you need to do your research and find out…

Speaking, anyone?

I know, people’s fear of public speaking has been well documented, but think about it for a minute:

If you’ve been a member of any kind of business network you’ll have been through the, at times, excruciating spotlight being on you when you delivered your elevator pitch. I honestly believe that I defy any kind of public speaking to be worse than that!

Career advisors in my day were cr*p and I doubt they’re much better now. Why not think about speaking to groups of school youngsters for 5 or 10 minutes at a time about your business, who it helps, why you started it, how you’re growing it, how it’s evolving, the type of people you envision being involved in it… Sure, kids can ask some tough questions but they’re usually sincere, cut through the BS and can really make us think and recover our own enthusiasm :-)

If you turn out to be any good at this, people will probably soon start finding you, which could lead to…

Leading Trusted Authority Interviews

I’d say: Take this activity seriously but not yourself! It’s useful to have at least a Top Line Agenda in advance purely to ensure that your slot ‘flows’ and you can get your main points in as well as those of the interviewer. Bearing in mind the only time interviewers are likely to be actively looking to trip you up is if you’re in a highly political limelight for your subject – I think we can cast that one aside… for now, anyway 😉

What else?

“How long’s a piece of string?” comes to mind. We haven’t touched on Blogging, Emailing, Telemarketing, Teleseminars and Webinars to name just a few… What have you used to good effect? What do you fancy learning more about?

Linda Mattacks - Small Business Training

PS: Coming soon: Pricing and charging
PPS: I’m not doing “sign up to be on my mailing list” for the moment – I’m doing “Call me” instead 😉

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14 Responses to “Let’s Build A Successful Business!”

  1. Ray Casey says:

    Hello Anita
    Great article, I found many people do not have good clarity as to what they want from there business and how to actually make it grow. You covered that very well. The second problem people don’t really faceis the real cost in building a successful business. Mant tend to underestimate the out going and over estimate the income so make the entire business experience a drain on then mentally and financially. Again this comes back to business Clarity when first starting to set your business plan. Really enjoyed your article thanks.

  2. Hi Anita

    Great to see you here!

    Folks, I don’t usually do this but, when you have a moment, why don’t you click on Anita’s name at the top of her comment. You’ll be taken to her website and you might be tempted by some of her gorgeous and unique offerings 😉

  3. Hi Christine

    “I think that since the banks became sales outlets for financial products rather than places where you could share your triumphs and challenges, there is a big gap.” Oh, my ouch – but so true! And I think you may have just provided me with the key to a rant/ opinion piece to follow up my current post over on Birds http://www.birdsontheblog.co.uk/goodbye-obesity-lets-be-top-of-a-different-league/

    If I do it, I’ll credit you :-)

  4. Comprehensive post as usual Linda, and I agree the services and support available or small businesses is inadequate and not improving.

    There are certain basics needs, skills and processes that all businesses need regardless of their niche, and having those easily available would make a real difference. I think that since the banks became sales outlets for financial products rather than places where you could share your triumphs and challenges, there is a big gap. I remember my bank manager when I first started in business, over 25 years ago, being a great help and full of useful ideas that didn’t involve buying insurance or suchlike. He was not a businessman, but he had sound ‘numbers’ knowledge, and what’s more he used to come out to visit me!”

    Hoping to change that lack of proper guidance with new initiatives and getting to talk to people who can make different things happen!

  5. Anita says:

    Hi Linda,

    Through some research it looks like those who are in my niche , have done very well, by exhibiting at the large RHS shows such as Chelsea and Hampton Court, unfortunately the prices are just sky high, as in I nearly choked when I saw the price 😉 and there is the fact that many exhibitions are really not something I can do physically, so I am considering alternatives. I really need to work on confidence, I really respect people like you, Sarah, Yolanda etc.. and wish I had your skills. I am hoping to improve as I need to push myself forward much more, to exhibit and see if I can get my cards/gifts into other shops etc… All part of my plan for 2012 :)

  6. My niche is oversaturated (fitness), so I try to set myself apart in various ways. I could certainly do more… thanks for the informative post!

  7. Hi Sarah
    Tell me about it.

    Business Link has just relaunched online. I’m guessing its remit is start ups and small business growth. I was asked to preview the tools on offer. By day three or so pre launch last week – still being unable to access the site development I’d almost given up. When I finally got a glimpse I saw that folk are actually being directed to a LinkedIn group for interactive forum stuff…

    Until government offices work with people who understand the needs of sole traders, micro and small businesses – rather than civil servant employees or equivalent (and please don’t get me started on quangos :-( ) I really don’t think anything will change radically for the better.

  8. Sarah Arrow says:

    @Mary – love Sir Ken :) he’s a great thinker, and I enjoy his creativity talks for TED etc.

    @Linda, sole traders make up so a huge amount of the workforce yet have so little say in how the laws and regulations affect them, disproportionate?

  9. Hi Lisa

    Funnily enough I was talking earlier today to someone, following up on our brief conversation at the everywoman conference where we met at the beginning of this month.

    This lady runs a cleaning franchise as well as two networks locally. She attracts potential members by word of mouth and keeps them by the quality of the experience she heps to provide them with. She reckons your reputation is what comes back to you from people you don’t know – I’m cobbling her words :-( but that’s the gist of it.

  10. Lisa says:

    True – we don’t have to be the only one in our niche – we’re different in some way, and that will connect with the people who are our “right customers”.

    I’ve had great success via in-person networking and speaking locally. You don’t always see the ROI immediately – but you plant the seed and you’d be surprised how people come back months or years later. And it helps when they see your name or face in multiple places.

  11. Hi Yolanda

    Thank you, Ma’am!

    Yes, competition in a niche is great!

    One of the ‘tricks’ people often miss is that where there’s competition there’s also the potential for collaboration. Provided you can establish trust and there’s no element of nicking each others clients you could each win business by banding together when it made sense that neither would have had a look in at as a sole trader. At the very least you could each go on holiday knowing you had someone looking after your clients 😉

  12. Hi Mary
    One of the biggest disappointments that some of my clients have had to face is that when they can tick the boxes for 1. and 2. but then find they can’t make a living by doing it (whatever ‘it’ is for them) – and, in my experience, it can be for a variety of reasons.

    One had taken redundancy from his position as an IT Project Manager at a bank in one of the vast rounds of job shedding. Good people skills, hypnotherapy and Master NLP Practitioner courses under his belt had convinced him he could make a positive difference and a good living as Coach.

    He might have made a success of it eventually but signs after the first six months (which was when I met him) weren’t brilliant. He hated the amount of time spent on his own – he’d taken the corporate world camaraderie for granted before – and found he was ‘climbing the walls’ after anything more than a day at a time. He hated the fact that in order to bring in clients he should be out networking all hours on the business front and felt positively guilty if he just went out to socialise with his mates. And so on…

    He discovered he wasn’t really cut out to be working on his own – entrepreneur, businessman, sole trader – whatever we want to call it – not at that stage of his life, anyway. We got him back into IT Project Management on a contract basis before his money had entirely ran out but an awful lot of heartache could have been avoided if he’d have thought of more aspects and implications before taking his leap…

  13. Yolanda says:

    Yes I agree with Mary, in fact competition in a niche means the niche is working! Differentiation is the key to making it work for you. I also agree with getting out there in some way, either speaking or just joining groups to meet like-minded people.

    Loved the stats!

  14. I appreciate the point you make about how we don’t have to be the one and only in our niche to be successful. Each of us brings unique gifts and skills.

    I’ve just been listening to the audiobook The Element by Sir Ken Robinson, and I think you and he would agree that we can be most successful when we find the intersection of 1. what we’re best at and 2. what we love most.

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