How to succeed in small business: Tom Caesar provides his thoughts
Tom Caesar started Positive Lending Solutions with his father in 2009, from a spare room in their home in Adelaide. In 2016, the company won the Telstra South Australian Small Business of the year, and in 2018 the business now boasts over 80 employees.
Here’s Tom’s advice on how you can make your small business successful.
Getting started in business
“Running a small business takes grit and determination, especially if it’s your first time as a business owner,” says Tom.
Setting up a business is a glorified dream that is very different to the reality any aspiring business owner is about to face. You need to be prepared to give up your social life, weeknights, sports, gym sessions and anything else that might be a hobby.
Those are the sacrifices that allows the small percentage of business owners to survive the first 12 months.
“Getting a mentor will help you set realistic expectations at this stage. When you are passionate about your business, the hard work be worthwhile.”
Moving your business forward
Once you’ve got some initial momentum and a steady income coming in, it’s time to think about how you can improve your offering, and serve more people.
“Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth referrals. Your customers will talk, whether they are happy or disgruntled with your service. Your best growth weapon is to have happy customers.”
Knowing your customers is one essential element of this – you want to be there when they want your service. This might mean adjusting your annual holidays to fit in with customers, or creating a website or a mobile app where customers can access your business.
Things to watch out for when running a small business
Unfortunately, having a good idea doesn’t guarantee your success. There’s a lot of hard work and luck involved, as well as access to the right knowledge at the right time.
Getting the advice of people who’ve been there before can make all the difference – you’ll help yourself by allowing yourself to learn from their mistakes.
“It’s essential to build a culture of honesty in the workplace. Not every new employee will work out, but see this as an opportunity to expose your business to new ideas and build a positive culture, rather than being despondent about a failed hire.”
When it comes to taking advice, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts. This applies to hiring employees, as well as marketing and business innovation.
The balance sheet
During the first eight years, Tom and Mark didn’t borrow money for the business, ploughing all of their profits back into business growth. For them, this strategy paid off, though Tom does admit there was a moment there when the credit cards were maxed out.
While it’s important to keep a steady turnover, it’s essential to keep changing, whether that means adopting new technology, introducing new products or trying new marketing strategies.
“Dedicate a portion of your profits to business innovation. Investing in changes that automate parts of the process and reduce operating costs are highly likely to benefit you by improving the efficiency of your business operation.”
Setting your KPIs and a time-frame for success or failure will ensure you protect your business model, and you can always return to what’s working before trying a different strategy.