What I wish I'd known a year ago...

Leadership and education symbol on black backgroundHindsight is a great thing. As we start another year, it’s easy to look back and wish you’d done things differently. Five business owners tell us what they wish they had known last January and why it would have really helped their firm grow or saved them money

  • “It’s worth spending time choosing the right accountant.”

Sara Drawwater from Something BeckonsSara Drawwater from marketing agency Something Beckons had some false starts getting to grips with her business finances: “We chose our accountants because we had a friend there, but we didn’t consider whether they fitted our business. We’re mostly web-based and we work in the UK and Africa. But our accountants were extremely traditional. It wasn’t a good fit.

“We didn’t get the right advice from our accountants, and that had a negative effect on our business. We should have spent more time choosing accountants who really understood our business, vision and needs.”

  • “Social media works best with other forms of networking.”

Kapil Kapur from Fingertips Intelligence“It’s best to use social media alongside other forms of networking, rather than in isolation,” says Kapil Kapur, the database expert behind Fingertips Intelligence and Simply Spreadsheets.

“For instance, I go to networking events in and around London. But it took me time to realise that social media is a good way to follow up with people I meet. It’s much sharper than sending out bland emails.

“Social media has brought me new business, too. For instance, I got an email from someone wanting a quote. They first found my details on the website PeoplePerHour.com. Then they Googled my name and found my profile on the LinkedIn social network. Only then did they contact me.”

  • “Cheap advertising isn’t always good advertising.”

Kathryn King, wedding stylistBristol-based wedding stylist Kathryn King thinks she should have said “no” to offers of cheap advertising in unsuitable publications. “I wasted so much money on ads. It might only be £50 here or £100 there, but it adds up,” she warns.

“I took the sales calls and believed what they told me. I put an advert in one title after promises it would go out in Bristol, but when I received the invoice I realised it had appeared in a Hampshire publication.

“I’ve realised now that there’s a reason the space is ‘cheap’ and ‘available’. And I’ve rationalised my advertising, focusing on areas which I know work.”

  • “Don’t overlook graduates when recruiting.”

Cara Sayer - managing director of SnoozeShade“I’m just about to recruit and I wish I hadn’t left it a year,” says Cara Sayer, managing director of SnoozeShade (Really Simple Ideas Ltd), a blackout blind for prams and pushchairs.

“Last year I was partly put off by cost, but I also thought I needed somebody who was very experienced. But now I’ve realised a graduate recruit will suit my needs. I just need someone who is enthusiastic and not necessarily that experienced. Someone who is on the same wave length as me and who will get things done is more important. When you’re running your own business it’s important that your staff will do things the way that you would do them — they are an extension of you.

“I wish I’d invested in a full-time recruit a year ago. If I’d taken on a graduate then recruiting wouldn’t have been as expensive as I’d imagined.”

  • “Always put a proper agreement in place when outsourcing work.”

HomeSellQuickly.com“I decided to outsource my website build,” explains Craig Martyn, who runs HomeSellQuickly.com. “I found a contractor through oDesk, but we ran into some problems. Although I already had reliable web hosting, the contractor decided to host my new site for me.

“It then stopped working and he wanted to charge extra to fix it. Because he controlled the hosting, he effectively hijacked my site. If I’d had access to it, I could have got it fixed by someone else.

“My mistake was not having an agreement in place which covered hosting. With websites you should specify where the site is to be hosted and ensure you retain ownership over all code, content and images.

“Make sure you know all the passwords so you can access everything. And as you can’t anticipate every eventuality, specify how you’ll handle unforeseen issues too.”

Popular content related to business hindsight: