Slow down and don't undercharge are among the tips entrepreneurs say they would share with themselves if they were able to start their business again, new research reveals. According to the study commissioned by Direct Line for Business and conducted by Enterprise Nation, a fifth of small business owners said they would take more time to get the foundations right. Mistakes shared by respondents included failing to build a pipeline of work before leaving full time employment, failing to have enough products at launch and not doing enough market research. One entrepreneur said that given their time again they would "go easy on the bright ideas, even though sticking with what's profitable does get boring". The second most popular piece of advice was better managing finance and improving planning cited by 17% of respondents. Key advice involved charging more, securing investment upfront and getting a better control on cash flow. One in nine small business owners admitted they would have asked for help from a mentor, while 5% reported that they would have done more marketing of their product or service.
The research also examined the length of time it took small businesses to turn a profit. With the average age of companies taking part in the study standing at four and a half years, respondents said their business started making money 18 months after launch.
Profitability was achieved slightly quicker amongst sole traders (one year and 5 months), while businesses with a larger employee base and higher outgoings took longer to start making profits. Firms with between six and 10 staff took an average of two years and three months to turn a profit, with those employing more than 11 people taking two years and six months.
Nick Breton, head of Direct Line for Business said: "This research shows that entrepreneurs should not be deterred from starting up their own businesses.
"With the average SME taking 18 months to turn a profit, this should encourage those in the early stages of developing a business, or those who are considering a start-up, to persevere with their business plan. However they are to be reminded that success can certainly be aided by the best possible preparation in the early stages of starting up."
Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, added: "One of the great benefits of running your own business is the ability to learn as you go along.
"You can't possibly know everything at the outset but turning to an adviser or mentor can help. Small business owners are incredibly resilient, whilst also being flexible to change and this is shown in these results as entrepreneurs confirm that things don't always go according to the business plan!"
The most frequently cited tips for start-ups from existing small business owners are:
Know your market: Many SMEs state that they would do more research into their chosen market before starting up again. This includes researching competitors, networking and developing an understanding of related issues such as tax and recruiting issues, or competitors
Slow down and plan your approach: A large number of business owners say that they would change how they approached their start-up. Whether it be working part-time while they were building up the business, growing their business more steadily or simply starting sooner, the way you approach your business can have a long-lasting impact on its success
Ask for help: Starting up your own business can be a liberating experience, but this doesn't mean that you have to go it alone. Indeed, one in ten small business owners say that they would ask for help more if they were starting their business again, whether it was from a mentor, a financial adviser or a business associate
Manage your finances: Whether it is sourcing funding or getting an accountant, it is imperative for start-ups to have a good understanding of their financing. Many SME owners claim that they wish they had invested more in the developmental stage of their business, whilst others warn against under-pricing their product.