Last week, we welcomed 18 of our start-up and small business customers into Sage HQ for our first ever Customer Focus Week.
The aim was to help us get closer to our customers and learn first-hand how our products and services are making a difference to their businesses.
From chatting to customers it was evident that start-ups and small business owners have all been on a steep learning curve when it comes to growing and establishing their businesses and as a result they have lots of useful insight and advice that could be beneficial for others.
We asked our customers about their biggest challenges and what advice they would give to people starting a business, here’s what they had to say …
Top things you cannot live without in your business
Brand identity - “Our name and heritage is really important and has helped us build a unique brand.” Kenspeckle Fudge
Business support – “Project NE helped us secure funding to grow our business.” Great Time Events
Online payment system – “Sage Pay has made it more convenient for our customers to pay for classes and easier for us to process payments.” Puddleducks
Staff – “My staff are very important to the business to help build relationships and rapport with our customers.” Cramlington Ford
Technology – “Everything within the business has some link back to technology, without this the logistics would be far greater, for example, paying staff paying staff through our software is very easy and a simple job to complete.” Anarchy Brew Co
Contacts – “Since I have moved away from a high street location I depend on the word of mouth and recommendations and support from other local businesses and wedding venues.” Wedding flowers for you
Biggest business challenges
Product development – “Developing the shelf life of our products was hard, we needed longevity to make the business more viable going from a 5 week shelf life to 5 months has really helped.” Kenspeckle Fudge
Marketing – “Differentiating ourselves from the competition has been hard, we’ve had to find our USP (unique selling point) and shout about it.” Great Time Events
Premises – “Finding premises in local area that was affordable and fit for purpose was hard but research and perseverance paid off and we secured premises with less rent and more footfall!” Iced Flair
Funding – “We’ve received lottery funding but it has always been a challenge to get funding and still is.” High Force Centre
Managing accounts – “Learning how to manage accounts, the business was well established when I got into it with my father. This was something that was important to me but took a little while to get used to.” Home from Home
Customers – “Finding repeat business and getting the name out there can sometimes be hard. I work a regular round on an industrial estate going into the offices and factories that don’t have a source of good coffee on site.” Coffee Supreme
Best pieces of business advice they’ve been given
“Never give up, keep on going”- given to Great Time Events by Richard Branson
“Only do something that both parties will get something out of.” – given to Operation Fitness by James Caan
“Keep it simple, don’t try and do too much or please everyone” – given to Iced Flair by another business owner
“Be Yourself.” – given to the owner of Behind The Scenes Beauty by her mum
“Do your research!” – given to the owner of Mia Sposa Bridal Boutique by her brother
“Stay focused and watch your cash flow.” – given to the owner of Baggers Originals by a business adviser
“Stay on top of your finances.” – given to Home from Home owner by her business partner, who is also her dad!
Tackling your own business challenges
It’s always good to learn from your own mistakes but sometimes it’s good to hear how others have tackled the same issues and try to avoid making the same mistakes yourself. You can also browse our business resources area for advice and information on common business challenges such as managing your cash flow, using social media effectively and processing VAT to name a few!