Getting good business advice is a valuable thing and over the years I’ve heard a lot from just about everybody; advisors, banks, people running successful companies, people who’ve got no idea on running businesses but somehow want to pitch in – everybody I tell you!

Truly good biz advice is like a gem or gold dust so treasure it, savour it and incorporate it into your business. Most recently on a train journey from Hong Kong into the depths of the China, Gem and I gleaned some of the best insider knowledge we could have asked for from one of the largest retailers in the UK.

We sat in front of a team discussing the pitfalls of manufacturing your own line overseas –its not relevant to today’s post but it was enlightening for our business, as we are right in the throes of doing just that, keep your eyes wide open is my point!

I never stop learning it doesn’t end when you leave college in fact I think a day doesn’t go by without me learning something new from clients, staff, the web, networking, a meeting – I try to absorb as much info as I possibly can.

In today’s post I’ve filtered out all the stuff I’ve heard over the years and given you the most invaluable tips that have stood us in good stead. Not just that they propelled my business into what it is today!

Understand your financials

No matter if you’re the creative and you don’t want to think about the numbers you need to think about the numbers. For the first few years I refused to concentrate on them (more fool me) they bored me, I wanted to concentrate on the fun stuff (i.e. finding products) I did not want to sit in meetings discussing balance sheets. How things have changed, nowadays I’m all over them not intimately like our accountants but each week I know what we’ve taken. Each week I know if we’ve succeeded expectations or are behind. Each month I know if we are up or down on the same month as the last year. I’ll implement changes accordingly depending on what the numbers tell me. Know your numbers I say it’s the only thing in the long run that will keep you alive!

Invest in people

You should always employ people who are better than you at certain jobs. You can’t run the business, do the marketing, design the website, strategize, do the books, package up the products. Employ the best people you possibly can to do those things and if you’re staff aren’t motivated or passionate then get staff who are! Employing people who are better than you is a long-standing formula for success!

Hard work is your number one advantage

Have you guys heard of the 10,000-hour rule? The theory hard work balances out all those advantages of privilege, intelligence, right place at the right time etc. Malcolm Gladwell articulated this advice in his book, Outliers that it takes 10,000 of dedicated practice to master a specific task before you get really good at it.

Yes it sounds overly simplified and by practising at something for 10,000 hours doesn’t necessary guarantee you success – but I agree with his overall point that natural ability requires a huge investment of time. Hard work as I say above is your number one advantage!

Analyse what the masses are doing and then go and do the exact opposite.

With my business we didn’t intentionally think outside of the box it sort of happened organically. Bored with what was out there we set out to find and design a selection of drool worthy products that literally make your jaw hit the floor! We don’t follow trends we follow our hearts.  We’re not in a panic say if some big retailer is touting pastels and we’re touting inky sludgy bottom of the lake type hues. We stand by what we sell no matter if that is different from everybody else.

The minute you start following the herd and doing what they are doing is the minute you fail. Your business has to have a strong point of difference otherwise it won’t survive. USP (unique selling point) as anyone is the biz will tell you is what sets you apart from products to design so in a nutshell you’ve got to stand out . If you’re not take some time and figure out how you can do just that, By standing out I don’t mean quirky or weird lets say you’re a coffee shop and your USP is that you sell the best single estate coffee beans anyone with the finest non pasteurised milk around, that’s what I’m talking about!

Failure is key to Success

I’m not sure why (particularly in the UK) we are so darn scared of failing at things – stark contrast to the Americans whose attitude I find incredibly liberating. Failing at stuff is part and parcel of your journey it will make your business strong and you’ll learn from it. We all fail and if you’re in a place right now where your business is not doing so well than rather than giving up clear a few hours and figure out what the problem is . Are you taking enough money? Do you need more brand awareness? Are the products right? Does the design of your website reflect your brand?  Are the press aware of your brand if not why not? Is it too generic? Hard tough questions to answer and sometimes you might have to put your hands in the air and go you know what this business is never going to earn the money to give me the lifestyle I envisaged, the products are never going to wow enough people to make a living.  There is nothing wrong in failing and starting again – the direction may be different but you’ve learnt from this.

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