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Running your new business for longterm success

Running your business like a well-oiled machine requires time, practice, and trial and error. Many new businesses fail within the first year, which is why we're going to look at how to avoid making common mistakes to give yourself the best chance of success.

How to run a business

Starting a business and running a business are two separate things. One is a matter of filling out the required paperwork and the other involves curating long-term success.

In the UK alone, 20% of startups fail in the first year, while 60% won’t make it past 3 years of trading. That means only 20% of startups go on to have long-term success.

Although it’s easy to feel disheartened by stats like this, there are several ways to mitigate the risk of failure and create a fruitful business that lasts. In this blog, we’re going to look at how to set yourself up for success from the get-go and the ways to build upon and maintain that success.

Before you get started

Research your market and set realistic goals

We know it’s boring, but you do need concrete data on your target audience before you can sell to them. Your ideal customer exists; it’s just about identifying them. So, start with your product/service, consider the price, how you’ll promote it, and where your customers are looking for it.

For example:

  • Product: Plumbing services in and around Hackney
  • Price: What’s the going rate of your services? – £300 per day? £45 per hour?
  • Place: Where does your ideal audience look for plumbers? – Checkatrade? Search engines? Apps?
  • Promotion: How do you stand out from other plumbers? – What’s your USP (unique selling point)?

Once you’ve considered your ideal audience, think about how much work you’ll really be able to take on. Your well-being is also a priority and needs to be considered when working out your goals or KPIs (key performance indicators).

Draft a business and/or marketing plan

It doesn’t need to be fancy. However, you need to have your goals, workflow plans, and how you will promote your company documented. Having a set of templates you can share with clients and build upon as you secure more work helps professionalise your business. It lets you tweak your plans over time and keep your ultimate objectives clear as you evolve.

Read our free marketing plan and business plan guides for help getting these admin tasks sorted.

Work out your revenue and profit goals

To make sure your new business venture will be worthwhile, you will need to work out your overheads and how much you need to make to cover them. You will also want to make enough profit to invest back into the business to help it grow.

A simple way to do this is to create a spreadsheet with your outgoings and proposed incomings. Once you know how much you need to earn to break even, you can pitch your services at the right price. Don’t forget to include a profit margin, which is also your buffer during slower months.

Hire the right employees to help your business thrive

Creating a positive work culture where candidates feel excited to join your company is one way to attract talent.

Building an engaged and happy workforce from the get-go gives your business the best chance of survival. When you’re a start-up with a limited budget, there’s only so much you can offer in terms of salary. However, there’s a lot more you can offer. For example, company benefits, progression opportunities, social events, job security, and an unbiased approach to hiring candidates.

Think outside the box and ask for advice from HR (human resources) professionals, who can tell you what current job seekers are looking for during their employment search. Work out how to pitch your small business, so potential employees know how valued they’ll be if they join your workforce.

Having an HR department is always reassuring and useful for job seekers, although not always viable if you’re just starting out. However, there are various small business HR solutions you’ll be able to implement until you can hire the appropriate personnel.

Implement the right tools for your growth strategy

It’s a digital world out there, which is why setting yourself up on relevant apps will save you time and money in the long run. There are almost unlimited SaaS (software as a service) solutions, apps and products in the world. All you need to do is find the appropriate ones to support your business.

For tradespeople, there are some great options. From apps to track your workers’ hours to the 1Trade app from Powered Now, to the Checkatrade trade app (you’ll have to be a Checkatrade member to access this one).

Checkatrade members get an exclusive discount with Powered Now. Find out more:

Checkatrade members are saving time from finances and paperwork, thanks to Powered Now


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8 out of 10 people would choose a trade endorsed by Checkatrade compared to one that isn't*

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What will make your business successful?

Once your house is in order, the next step includes the day-to-day running of your business. To avoid the ill fate of 70% of start-ups, you need a business that:

  • Engages your current workforce
  • Offers a great customer experience
  • Refines and evolves as lessons are learned
  • Is seen and heard

To make all this happen, let’s take a look at what steps to take. Keep reading for our business-oiling tips.

Always make it about the customer

No one likes hearing you talk about yourself all the time. Marketing advice almost always includes variations of ‘highlight your success’ and ‘say what sets you apart.’ However, doing this too much comes across as bragging and turns people off. It’s good to make sure your credentials are obvious, but only after you’ve related to your audience and pitched to them as people.

Most tradespeople work with customers face-to-face – often in their homes. What they want from a tradesperson will depend on the trade; however, what they want from anyone is someone they can trust.

Listen to your customers and offer solutions to their problems and ‘pain points’.

There are several ways to relate to your audience and reassure them you won’t let them down. However, you need to ask what their biggest bugbear is and prove how you solve the issue for them. This helps you cultivate trust and, as a bonus, shapes your approach to good customer service.

Improve your leadership skills

Along with listening to the customer, listen to your team. Good leaders create great companies with long-term success because they embody values such as integrity, honesty, and transparency. Being open to new ideas and not getting stuck in the ‘my way or the high way’ trap means you evolve alongside your team and business.

Cultivate trust through customer service and marketing efforts

When you have a trusted business, people will flock to you like moths to a flame. Word of mouth goes so far among family and friends, but those good reviews need highlighting through your marketing efforts. Reviews, a robust portfolio, stats of satisfied customers and so on are all great ways to spread your message and prove you’re a reliable and trustworthy business. You can do this in various ways, such as:

  • Joining Checkatrade
  • Brand curation – including professional templates
  • Social media marketing
  • A business website
  • Email campaigns
  • Paid performance advertising
  • Content marketing

As for great customer service, this starts from onboarding new clients, lasts throughout the project, and finishes after you’ve followed up to make sure everything has gone well.

  • Make yourself available and answer calls, even if you can’t take on more work
  • Check-in to make sure your current clients are happy with your progress
  • Stay upfront and transparent about costs and deadlines
  • Adapt as required

For more information on setting yourself up for success, read our guide on how to write a business plan.

Refine your sales process and take notes along the way

To scale your business, you need to refine it as you go.  The more you learn, the more you’ll tweak your efforts until you’re in a position that makes you and your clients happy. Do this by taking notes and keeping a detailed list of everything you do. This will help you identify areas of improvement, where you can outsource, and what marketing efforts are working or not working.

Using apps to help digitalise your business steps will also free up time. The more you can do without manual labour, the more time you’ll have to do… well… actual labour.

Secure good reviews to build trust

Reviews are your bread and butter when it comes to building trust, showcasing your brand, and curating a good business reputation.

Don’t just take our word for it: online reviews have a huge impact on whether customers buy from you. For example, 46% of people admit to never purchasing a service or product without reading the reviews first. Read all about why they matter and how to make them work for you.

Graphic overlay showing review score and reviews


How do I start running my own business?

If you’re still not sure after reading this blog, we have a quick style guide to becoming your own boss in 7 days. Or take a look at our guide on setting up a new start up.

What are the 5 key things to running a successful business?

So, what are the most important things in running a business? Here’s our breakdown:

  • A product or service people want
  • A robust business and marketing plan
  • Great customer service from start to finish
  • 5-star reviews
  • The ability to learn and refine your business as you and it evolves

Add our good name to yours

8 out of 10 people would choose a trade endorsed by Checkatrade compared to one that isn't*

Join today

*Claims are sourced from a survey conducted by Deep Blue Thinking on a nationally representative UK sample in November 2021.

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