I absolutely love my job, particularly as I have the freedom of being my own boss. However, running a small business can be tough at the best of times. I first started Greyhound Creative in April 2020 during the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. That certainly had its challenges and the odds were against us… running a video production and photography business during a time where people couldn’t meet up – looking back I’m not quite sure what I was thinking, though I’m hugely grateful we managed to adapt and survive through it. Those days of strict isolation are behind us, but now we find ourselves facing a different problem, a recession. This, paired with the haunting stat: ‘Almost 60% of small businesses fail in their first three years of life’ makes life really tough for anybody trying to be their own boss. Here is an account of my experiences running a small business for almost three years, how I split my time spinning many plates at once in an attempt to survive the odds – hopefully this will provide some guidance to anybody thinking of doing the same.
Budgeting & Financial Forecasting
There are so many costs a business must manage and offset in order to survive, most of which will be accounted for in this list. In my experience, the most important thing is to manage cash flow, knowing exactly what is coming in and what is going out in order to keep the business afloat. Since implementing a piece of advice I received from Stuart Dantzic (CEO of Caribbean Blinds) regarding the importance of forecasting your finances at any level of business – it is something I now do on a regular basis after slacking on that front for two years and it actually helps me to sleep at night. Forecasting is so important as a result of other businesses also all closely managing cash flow, it is common practice that an outgoing invoice will be settled 30+ days later. This is an obvious problem when it comes to managing finance because in most cases, you will pay for goods before even receiving them and your staff & suppliers’ wages need to be paid on time. This can be combatted by receiving the correct financial support ahead of time, utilising business loans where necessary for growth. I started this agency with nothing more than a borrowed camera and an old computer, having invested well over £10,000 in equipment alone per annum since we began. Despite being obsessed with emerging technology that can help make our services better, it is important that we invest only in what is necessary for growth and is affordable.
Sales, Marketing & Accounts
Most of our clients to date have been with us for long periods of time. This is partly thanks to businesses’ ongoing need for fresh and professional content and otherwise thanks to our continued determination to deliver a fantastic service at great value. However, as a growing business with big ambitions we must always try to expand our client roster by marketing and positioning our brand in the best way we can. This can put a large stress on coming up with new ways for the business to put in front of the right people – this could be taking time to create our own content for social media, networking/cold calling local businesses that might require our services or finding new ways to advertise.
Maintaining relationships is another big part of a small business owners daily routine. As I write this essay, we are fast approaching the festive period and so we will make sure we thank our current clients, suppliers and employees, making them feel valued for the support they have given us over the past year (and beyond in some cases). As part of our marketing strategy, we spend time networking as much as possible. I often find formal networking events an intimidating atmosphere as a shaggy haired, introverted 23 year old as the room is often filled with established businessmen and businesswomen beyond my years – those from a different era of business that may not see the benefit of what modern services we provide. However, it is certainly a beneficial exercise, putting oneself in a room with local people in the right mind space to do business.
We are constantly evolving and making changes to the brand, including our need to keep on top of our website and blog. This is our main shop front so we spend a lot of time making sure that everything sets the right tone; is stylish, on-brand and continues to function. As for blog posts, keeping LinkedIn fresh and doing our monthly bit for our website’s SEO is really important. Content is king when it comes to marketing our business & it is commonplace for me to spend an evening or a weekend thinking of, writing or creating content.
As a small business owner/entrepreneur starting out, you quite often have to be the jack of all trades, as you can see above. This extends further, as you may have to keep on top of all of the admin and accounts in your spare time. This will mean reading up on all of the gov.uk guidance, making sure you are lawfully and efficiently filing your tax returns.
Whilst ensuring the business is running efficiently at present, my head is also constantly filled with thoughts about the future growth of the business, what that may look like and how we are going to get there.
Employee & Freelancer relationships
At Greyhound Creative, we have two employees as well as a large group of creative freelancers we reach out to when we need to deliver specialist jobs we aren’t qualified to do with our own in-house team. This means that I have to manage the staff’s workload; look after their well-being, their performance, all whilst ensuring they are briefed correctly for a project. I recently read a story about a freelancer being white-labelled as a camera operator three months ahead of a two week shoot abroad, only to find out a week before he was meant to fly that the production company without telling him had hired somebody in the native country to cut costs. This type of behaviour is completely unacceptable and we will always look after our freelance staff as if they were part of our core team. One thing I was told by Peter Wilson (CEO, Cory Brothers), was to have a firm mission statement in place for your business. This applies to a businesses staff as he advised to make sure all of which know what the company mission is, and to embody it.
Having done this for nearly three years, I find the following expression to be accurate: ‘the more you know, the more you realise how much you don’t know’. For this reason, personal development for me and our team is incredibly important.
As owner of a small business, I have to push myself out of my comfort zone more often than not, though it is something I am extremely grateful for – though not perhaps at the time. I am also currently in my fifth (of six) years of an undergraduate degree with the OU in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Not only does the degree have a direct impact on my relationship with the business but also keeps me motivated and sharp. Following the end of this degree I will continuing with my further education, taking on an MBA (Master of Business Administration). I also often participate in online courses to learn how to better create videos, as well as being part of geeky forums that talk about all things camera tech.
Outside of work, I play football once a week which has proven to be an incredible confidence and morale booster and even a good networking tool. I love my job and I am so proud of how far the business has come. However, it is easy to get overwhelmed by all of the things that are present on this list. It is not irregular that I will have a sleepless night or an anxious morning over any or all of the above. This is why it is important to look after yourself no matter what position you are in so that you don’t burnout.
It is important for us to give some of our time away to support community causes in Suffolk that matter to us. This is because I was given a lot of support from our local community when I first started out and still continue to feel the benefits of that support. Next week, our team will spend a day fronting a stall at West Suffolk College’s art day, giving the college students industry advice and offering work experience placements to those who show interest. We also heavily subsidise costs for community and charitable projects that we care for.
Most importantly, I have to continue to do my job creating engaging and beautiful videos. This is because the services we deliver are the top priority of our businesses’ operation. Telling stories through video creation is what I love and why I started this company. I believe that passion is the most important part of running a small business and that alone has the power to drive you to work as hard as necessary to make it work.
A wise friend with many moons of experience recently told me that as a business grows, it gets easier to manage. I’m not sure I believe him and perhaps it was just reassurance to keep me going. For this reason, I believe that part of a small businesses success can be helped by having a business mentor as well as friends and family that you can ask for assistance in all areas of your life. I believe that the statistic: ’Almost 60% of small businesses fail in their first three years of life’ is so high because of the amount of time it takes to settle into your business and gain momentum. A solid growth strategy that includes getting assistance from other professionals doing jobs that you can’t will speed up this process and eliminate some of the trial and error that new businesses face. We are no exception, having rebranded only a year after our founding and having only recently just invested time into a website that reflects everything we can deliver as a creative agency. Researching the market, finding the right suppliers and putting yourself out there are three crucial parts of starting a new business. Make sure y For business support, make use of local organisations, one of which is MENTA Business Support. They offer networking, free training, access to grants, space and more.
Being your own boss is host to such a large range of benefits, allowing you to lots of freedom but the decision should not be taken lightly. If you need assistance with branding, need a website, video or some photographs we would love to help, you can get in contact with us here.