The first 12 months of a start-up is possibly the toughest one year for a Small Business Owner. The freshly-minted entrepreneur is at once excited and scared; excited at the thrill of setting out on a new venture, and scared at the challenges that need to be overcome in the strive to achieve success.

What can you do to brighten the prospects of your business making it through its first year, and be in a position to move to the next level? A few suggestions:

  1. Keep Your Eyes On Your Business Plan: Now is the time to fix your attention on your Business Plan. Before launching your business, the ideas that were floating in your head about the business must have been reduced to a Plan of Action. This plan must have helped you to clarify your thoughts, and identify the things you must do to transform your idea into a business. The plan organises your thoughts, creates solid objectives and specific sales goals, and becomes the map for your journey into business. In the same way that a navigator constantly pulls out his map to get his bearing right, your Business Plan must be your compass, your guide, your constant companion. Your Business Plan is the canvas on which to run your business. As a Small Business Owner, you must follow your Business Plan religiously, and only deviate when conditions and common sense dictate that you correct your course.
  2. Manage Your Money. As a Small Business Owner, you must ensure that your business does not run out of money. One way to make sure that this does not happen is to keep your expenses as low as possible. You must focus your expenses on the things that are absolutely necessary for the business to keep running. Limit your recruitment to employees who are critical to the running of the business. All other positions must wait or be filled with contractors and freelance workers whose productivity must be linked with the cost of engaging them.
  3. Measure Your Marketing Results: Based on your Business Plan, originating from your research on the most efficient and effective ways for your business to reach its niche customer, your business must spend money on sharply-focused and strategically-planned marketing campaigns. Start marketing to build a following. Results of these efforts must be measured with the objective of getting your sales gains to outweigh your expenses.
  4. Review Your Finances Each Month: You must run your start-up on a shoe-string. Every expense item counts, which is why you must keep score of your expenses at least once every month. The monthly financial statement obtained from this exercise will let you know whether the little money you have is being spent on the right things. This will help you to plug any cash leakages, and determine if your expenses are aligning with your Business Plan.
  5. Leverage Your Network: Remember the saying. Your network determines your net worth. This is also true for a new Small Business Owner.

Grow your network. Attend networking events. Network via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Join your local Chambers of Commerce. Explore strategic alliances.

Your family. Your friends. Your colleagues. Your industry. Leverage all of them in your search for potential customers or referrals. Ask them for leads to people and businesses that can patronise your product or service.