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Nov 12, 2019

Hindsight: What Business Owners Wish They Would Have Done Differently

They say hindsight is 20-20. If you only would have known. As a business owner, you may already have a few things you wish you knew. Would you have hired that one person? Perhaps you would have started your company sooner. While it is important to look back, reflect and learn from these decisions, it is also important to realize that, when you are at the end of your business ownership, your wishes may be much different.

There are many things business owners wish they would have done differently. Here are some common themes that seem to come to light.

Getting Help Sooner

Many business owners start with a desire to build a company from the ground up on their own. It may be admirable, but it may not be exactly what helped your business to thrive. Instead, many business owners realize that if they could do it again that they would have hired on more help sooner. Some would have turned to a mentor sooner. They would have networked with other business owners more readily to pull them into their company.

Laura Vigar is a Kelowna Chamber Board Director and the Founder & CEO of Watson’s Hound Lounge – an innovative pet daycare and grooming business in Kelowna.

“Be clear on determining what help you need," says Laura. "How it is going to add value to your business and making sure adding that help is within your budget as a new business and that you have the time to commit to it.”

It's also important to address problems sooner rather than later. There’s plenty that can go wrong at any stage of business, especially in the beginning. A new hire can turn out to not be a good fit. Problems with your supply-chain can set you back. Technical/equipment issues can be ongoing and highly disruptive. It’s tempting to “patch” issues or even put them off for later, but some of those might issues can fester like a wound and cause big problems down the road.

They Would Have Done More Locally

It goes without saying that every business relies on its community to grow and thrive. Even online companies still need to hire from a local talent pool and build their business with the support of local suppliers. But, not all companies give back. Giving back to the community does not have to be a challenge – doing simple things on a routine basis can help to make a big difference in the community. Not only does supporting the community make you feel good, the offshoot is it can often lead to valuable business contacts and relationships. 

"It is important to me personally and as a small business owner to consciously support local small businesses when purchasing our supplies and seeking service providers," says Laura. "Since we started Watson's Hound Lounge in 2013, we have donated our space to local rescue organizations that have held multiple pet adopt-a-thons. We have also collected and matched donated toys for kids at Christmas and give quarterly to local not-for-profit organizations."

How to Know When You Are Ready

They say timing is everything - well Robert Scott has a thing or two to say on this subject. Robert is also a Kelowna Chamber Board Director and coaches businesses on setting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Robert says he is often surprised to find that many small businesses have no way of tracking or measuring success or possible signs of trouble when they are in their early stages of growth. Here, he offers additional advice on how to approach the launching of your new business. 

"While some people behave like bulls in a china shop and rush to form companies only to have them fail within a year or two, others wait until everything is ‘perfect’," says Robert. "Too much preparation wastes time and other valuable resources. How is perfection recognized when the product or service hasn’t even made it to market yet? On the other hand, nothing beats seeking out the best advice, use of mentors, membership of peer groups and taking the time to ensure your boat is ready to sail before it is put in the water. Also take time to find the best employees. Particularly in a start-up situation, they will be partners rather than merely employees, someone with whom you will share confidential information, work long hours and share dreams with. Getting off to a good start is essential and will help to reduce stress and costly mistakes."

The Risk Question

Many business owners wonder about risk. For some, taking on too much risk is just too much of a worry. For others, it is all about not taking enough. When you are there, at the end of your life, you'll want to have taken that risk and experienced perhaps not only the thrill of the ride but also the struggles.

As you work to build your business, reach out. Embrace the community. Support each other. Provide mentorship opportunities. By taking these steps, you can solidify your business model now and learn from the mistakes and wishes of those business owners that came before you. It may be exactly what you need to push your business forward that extra level.