What mindsets do successful business owners have in common?
Keeping all the plates spinning as a small business owner can be difficult but rewarding. There are 5.5 million small businesses in the UK, operating across all industries, and each has its own way of doing things.
But is there a certain mindset that business owners have in common? And what fuels their creative fires? We spoke to a range of small business owners to find out.
Picking the brains of micro business owners
Of the 5.5 million small businesses in the UK, 5.2 million are micro businesses. The government classes these businesses as ‘micro entities’ if any two of the following points apply:
- a turnover of no more than £632,000
- no more than £316,000 on the balance sheet
- 10 employees or less
These are the backbone businesses of Britain, the cafes, gift shops, salons, mechanics, and any of those small shops and services we use from time to time.
We thought it would be a good idea to pick the brains of a few micro business owners to see what makes them tick and how their experiences related.
A positive outlook is a must
Coming top of the ‘important mindset’ checklist was having a positive attitude, followed by being motivated, passionate, self-sufficient and willing to create something bigger within the local community.
It’s common for micro business owners to be family run and a lot of business owners are passionate about their ventures because it’s something they created and can pass down to future generations. In 2018, it was recorded that family-run businesses make up around 87.6% of private-sector firms.
A former micro business owner who knows the importance of this is Les Roberts.
He is now Senior Content Manager at Bionic, but he used to run a tearoom with his dad in the seaside town of West Kirby, in Wirral.
Les says drive, determination and self-belief are key: “I think you’ve got to be driven and you’ve got to believe in your own idea. You’ve got to be strong-willed.”
Kadija Nakhli is a CRM manager at Bionic and owns a juice bar in London with her sister. She thinks being approachable, yet firm is essential to any business owner's toolkit. Positivity is also a huge asset when maintaining a business and is an important mindset.
“I feel like me and my sister balance each other out. I’m the more positive ‘let’s just do it’ one. I’d say it’s also important to be firm with staff and your own decisions. But also, be that person people feel comfortable coming to as an employer.”
But what else do you need to be an effective business owner?
It helps to be versatile
Lots of business owners find their skills spread over different roles within the business, so they need to be able to cope and wear multiple hats to succeed.
For example, if you run a small, independent gift shop that sells cards, homeware and trinkets, you'll be doing much more than simply overseeing the everyday running of your shop. You’ll most likely be liaising with suppliers, ordering stock, greeting customers, and keeping on top of your finances. If you have any employees, you'll also need to deal with the HR side of things too.
It’s common for business owners to be more hands-on in a smaller environment until they grow and take on more staff. So, to thrive, you need to adopt a versatile mindset and be willing to work hard at jobs you might not have officially signed up for.
If you don’t have the funds to employ an accountant at the start of your business journey, then you might need to do it yourself. Keep an open mind and always try to be enthusiastic about doing whatever it takes to succeed, this will set you in good stead for future growth.
Something Les and Kadija (and no doubt a lot of other business owners) agree on is having a positive mindset. It’s an important attribute and will help you tackle issues with ease.
Of course, you must be realistic, but staying sunny will help you look on the bright side of running a business, celebrate highs and keep calm in a crisis. If you have staff, you want to be the kind of figure they look to when facing problems; someone they can ask for advice.
Abbey Booth who runs Stories with Clothes, a personal stylist microbusiness said her expert knowledge is useful but her positivity drives everything she does for her customers.
“I think because I’ve got so much experience in styling and I’m highly qualified, that’s what makes the business unique. But I’ve also got so much positive energy. I think that’s a real superpower and people respond to that.”
Being positive also allows you to see failings as an opportunity to learn and better yourself. Let’s use the gift shop example again - maybe you bought a whole load of handcrafted scented candles from a new supplier but found there was no customer interest after a few months.
Yes, it’s annoying you spent money on a product that hasn’t landed with your audience, but this could be a perfect opportunity to reassess what your customers like and how you can best cater for them.
This can help you to learn more about your customers too. When they come in, ask them what their favourite product is in your shop or if there is anything they wished you sold. Gaining an insight into their shopping habits will help you tailor your stock to what they want to buy.
Make sure you’re self-sufficient
As mentioned above, business owners must often carry out multiple jobs at a time. So, you need to be self-sufficient and come up with fresh ideas to keep your business interesting. Obviously, you’ll need to order stock and rely on suppliers in some capacity but try to think of ways to do things yourself.
Develop the way you make money, could you branch out and create revenue somewhere else? Say you owned a café or little restaurant, could you become your own main supplier and grow most of your own ingredients, herbs, or spices? Maybe you could partner with a local coffee roaster and stock their coffee in return for them helping you out. Always be thinking of ways you can meet your own business needs and make it a priority.
Jo Tiller, who runs her own clothing brand The Social Club said doing everything herself is challenging but she wouldn’t change it for the world.
“It takes a lot of my free time” Jo told us “Posting content, ordering stock, handwriting notes to customers, website upkeep. It’s just me so it’s a lot to balance. But I love it, it’s become such an infectious brand.”
Some business owners start up to improve their work/life balance and get more time with their families. But you need to be prepared to put in some long hours and be motivated to make it work.
Duarte Garces, who runs One Handy Man in southeast London, had this to say: “I started my business so I could work closer to where I live in Bromley” says Duarte when we quizzed him on his start-up venture “I also wanted to be able to do things the way I wanted and not the way bigger companies do, only thinking in profits.”
Many business owners like Duarte love building their businesses up and seeing how much their customers value them, but motivation is key.
There’s no point in starting a business but seeing it fail because you don’t put the hard work in. Running a business may come with perks like being your own boss, setting your own hours (in theory, at least), and potentially creating something special. But on the other hand, if you are lax and don’t keep up the hard work it will inevitably show.
Another great mindset to adopt is being passionate about your business. Make your business revolve around something you genuinely care about that way it doesn’t feel like a job.
Elaine Roberts - who runs the sustainable skincare business Wild and Pure - set up her company selling all-natural first aid kits in a bid to educate others on using nature rather than chemicals for everyday ailments.
“I’ve always been anti-disposable, so everything in the kit is recyclable or refillable. That’s how the kit was created. But before the kit was the website and that’s all about how to live naturally, what we should eat, what we should wear, how we should live our lives without synthetic foods and chemicals.” She explains.
Being passionate about your business and its cause will really help you stay motivated and keep the momentum going.
Focus on becoming aspirational
Be bigger than your business, always be curious and try to come up with different ways to achieve more. A lot of businesses share a common thought process, and that’s about creating a community.
Elaine from Wild and Pure has set up a Facebook and WhatsApp group as an extension of her website and has been doing well.
“The groups are about sharing advice, all the information I share is relevant to the business, so it covers things like natural healing, the most effective types of weeds, foraging and what’s in season. The website is a sort of natural living. It encompasses the same thing really.”
Abbey of Stories with Clothes also said putting on workshops helps create that sense of community.
“The workshops really took off when I launched them. I think partly because people were looking for a connection during lockdown, there was a lot of change in people’s lives, a lot of people gained or lost weight and wanted to find out more about their new body shape”.
How can Bionic help make running your business easier?
Being a business owner can be tough, but the benefits of running your own business largely outweigh the struggles and make them worth it.
If you’re passionate about your business, willing to put in the hard work, positive and motivated, then you should be able to tackle any unexpected issues that come your way.