Every business, whether large or small, needs a long-term strategy to take it where it wants to go. And every successful strategy must be built around two key elements - getting the people right, and getting the cash right. You need to hire the right people to work in your business and you need to make sure that you manage your cashflow effectively. Without both of these firmly in place, your business may not survive long enough to be able to enjoy a long-term strategy. Get them right though and your business will have a far greater chance of success.
Let's look at each of these in turn. Obviously everyone wants the very best people working for their firm, so they can help drive the business growth forward. You can have a hopeless business idea but great people working with you, and the business can still succeed. But if you have hopeless people working with you then it doesn't matter how good your idea is, the business won't stand a chance.
As a small business it can be hard to attract the right people from the outset because you are effectively an unknown quantity - you have neither the track record nor the established brand to reassure talented people that you will provide the right kind of environment in which to further their career. Moreover, you're unlikely to have the smart offices or employee perks to offer them.
So what should you do? First, it is crucial that you invest considerable time and effort - and money - in your hiring strategy right from the start. That means trying to anticipate what roles you will need to fill ahead of time, so that you don't simply hire the first person who walks through the door. It also means slowing the whole recruitment process down to ensure you find the right people.
Write a full job description for the role you're looking to fill, and when people come in for interview, test them against the skills that you need. Choose the person who is most suitable for the job, not just the one who can start work straight away. Take people on for a trial period and be sure to monitor their progress carefully so you can decide whether you want them to stay at the end of the trial. Most importantly, don't be afraid to let them go if they turn out not to be right for the role.
Think about what you can offer that bigger firms cannot - this may well make up for the lack of career structure and smart offices. You can offer more responsibility, for a start, and more involvement in decision making. You can also offer the buzz and excitement of working in an entrepreneurial environment.
The majority of start-ups don't get it right first time. Every small business goes through the same nightmare of choosing the wrong people and having to fire employees who didn't work out. But if you at least understand the importance of what you are trying to do, then that is half the battle.
The other major building block you need to put in place to create a long-term strategy for the business is cashflow. Every business owner should make it an absolute priority. Getting the cashflow wrong is a frequent early killer of small firms and it happens because business owners fail to grasp that it doesn't matter how much profit you make, it is whether you have enough cash coming into the business that really counts.
So how do you go about getting your cashflow right? It's paramount that you keep a very close eye on exactly when the money goes in and out of the business. Good cashflow is all about timing and you need to make sure you monitor it properly and consistently - and spot where potential short falls will need to be fixed.
Secondly, make sure you get paid on time. That means sending out invoices when they are due, and then getting on the phone - or even showing up at their offices in person - to make sure they get paid. It is utterly fundamental to your business. Don't hide behind sending emails because they are too easy to ignore. Instead hire someone for a couple of mornings a week to do nothing but chase unpaid invoices. You will be amazed at the impact it will have on your cashflow - and ultimately on the success of your business.
Britain's economy is well on the path for growth and 2014 is set to be a great year for business. With the right people in place and a healthy cashflow, British businesses will be in good shape to build and maintain successful long-term strategies. And who knows, perhaps the next Google or Facebook will be born from these shores.
Rupert Lee-Browne is founder & CEO of currency exchange business Caxton FX.Suggest a correction