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Helping Lancashire businesses: Ten top tips for business success

Ten top tips for business success

Lancashire-based HM Network provides SME’s with wide area network, internet connectivity, business telephony and cyber security solutions. Founded in 2013, the firm recently celebrated its tenth anniversary in business.

A recent statistic suggests less than 10 per cent of businesses reach ten years. In fact around 60 per cent have been shown to fail before their third year and in 2013, the year HM Network started, approximately 346,000 new businesses were set up in the UK. If you’re new in business, here are ten key factors that Chris Hunter, the co-founder of HM Network, considers were crucial to business growth and success in the first ten years of trading.

1. Seek support

There is so much support out there for businesses. Take a good look at your local growth hub for what is available in your area. For example Boost is Lancashire’s business growth hub and through them we have had mentoring, training and also support in new product development. Most of this support has been fully funded and we retained the services of our mentor, as they had such an impact on our business.

2. Say no

It is never easy saying no to prospective clients but if you are clear on who you want as a client, then it becomes easier to identify if it’s a good match for both you and them. This lesson was hard to stomach at first but it helped us focus on which businesses really fit in with our service offering.

3. Identify your strengths and weaknesses

While we might all think we are easy to get on with 65 per cent of businesses fail because of conflict between the founders. We engaged Louisa Scanlan a Lumina Learning practitioner, to help us understand each other's strengths and weaknesses and how to use this to our advantage. It has helped us better communicate internally and also helped us build systems and processes that work for us all.

4. Use other’s expertise

This is sometimes easier said than done. As Elsa said in Frozen “let it go”. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. You have to think about the real cost of you doing every single job in a business, rather than what you’re great at. Bring in others to do all those jobs that are not your forte. We have engaged others for tasks including telesales, marketing and admin. Freeing up our time to do what we do best.

5. Build cash reserves

According to Hubspot 82 per cent of the businesses that fail do so because of poor cash flow. We find it useful to have separate accounts for different things. A main account, one for tax and VAT, and bear in mind those unexpected bills for things that crop up along the way. By having a firm grip on your money you’ll sleep much better and greatly reduce the stress of running a business.

6. Don’t have all your eggs in one basket

It’s great having that big client with a household name. However, if they account for more than 50 per cent of your income then it can leave you in a precarious position. We have a spread of different services to a variety of businesses across the UK and further afield to help reduce that risk.

7. Talk like your customer

OK yes, we sell tech products and services and our love for tech spills over into our personal lives too but we understand that not everyone gets as ‘geeked out’ as we do about fibre or connection.  Where possible we talk in plain English. Our clients tell us they love this about us.

8. Learn from times when things don’t quite go to plan

No one is perfect and sometimes errors happen. The whole country goes into lockdown, and a sale falls through. Take the time to reflect on where you could have done things differently and put measures in place to mitigate this happening again.

9. Be prepared for change

When we started out we had a plan of where we wanted to be. However, new suppliers come on board, technology changes, people change and where you work from may change. The great thing about being a small/medium enterprise (SME) is you can be agile and can beat larger organisations with decision making speed and flexibility. In fairness our business has changed considerably since we started ten years ago and we embrace change.

10. Build a business you can sell

Accountants will tell you that if the business is dependent on one person then it is harder to sell to interested parties. Develop systems and processes that mean anyone can take over your business and the business becomes autonomous and self perpetuating. Chris Hunter HM networks About the contributor Chris Hunter co-founded HM Network in 2013 with partner Martin McAleer. . It is a solutions-focused business, bringing new products and services to market, based on customer needs not simply off the shelf services. Its clients are primarily in the UK, but also in the EU and USA. Customer relationships are important to Chris, and this is evident with long term clients including the globally celebrated Aardman Animations. “They say time flies when you are having fun and when you love what you do, it does not feel like a job. I hope you find these tips useful and wish you all the best for your businesses. And here’s to the next decade of HM Network . . . to infinity and beyond!” Chris Hunter.

Boost is helping Lancashire businesses. We have a range of funded support programmes and a team of business advisers you can talk to. To speak to someone from the Growth Hub about business support, contact Boost online or call 0800 488 0057.

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