Struggling to make your business work? Learn the five biggest challenges mums face in running their own business, and how you can overcome them.
Jane Maudsley started her business Little Voices in 2007 when she was a single mum with a three-month old baby. Since then she’s grown it into a successful UK franchise.
Now she’s sharing with us five of the biggest issues she’s had to learn how to solve in running her own business as a mum, and advice on how you too can overcome them.
The five biggest challenges business mums face
So here they are – the five biggest challenges mums face when running their own business. While some of them are essential for any business, others (such as making it through August sane!) are unique to parents.
1) Understanding exactly who your ideal customer is
You cannot build a business on luck, reputation and recommendation alone – certainly not a sustainable one that meets all of your goals. So you really need to understand who your ideal customer is, where they are, and what sort of messages through which type of media they will be most open to listening to.
And your target market is much narrower than you may think, so don’t make the mistake, as many small businesses do, of thinking too broadly.
Take my example, I run a children’s performing arts business. So on a very simplistic level, my answer to the question ‘Who is your ideal customer?’ would be ‘A child’. But that’s waaaay too broad.
There are approximately 9.1 million children in the UK today, however not all of those are going to be my target market. They’re also not the ones with the money and final decision-making responsibility over whether or not they go to my classes. So in fact, my target market is much narrower and more carefully considered than simply ‘a child’.
Only once you really understand who you want to talk to, and have a clear idea of your ideal customer, can you start crafting a marketing strategy that will deliver the results you want and help you grow a successful business. (You can learn how to start targeting and painting a picture of your ideal customer in this article.)
2) Making sure you’re safe (and legal!)
Operating a safe business shouldn’t be an afterthought – it needs to be a priority. In my industry, too many teachers set themselves up in business in their own homes or in schools or community buildings that don’t have all the relevant safety documentation in place.
A bulletproof risk assessment is a must, and insurance is a bare minimum. Anyone could fall on your front steps or bang their head on your exhibition stand, and it’s important to protect the people who visit the premises you operate from (and yourself) by making sure they’re as safe as possible and you have legal protection if anything does happen.
It’s also essential to understand what your responsibility is after an accident happens. Policies and procedures are so often overlooked and ‘passing the blame’ or presuming that that element is not your responsibility is a dangerously irresponsible approach. (You can read four ways you can ensure your company’s safety is up to scratch here.)
If you’re a parent and want to ensure the activities and venues you take your children to are safe, you can check them out on Kallikids.
3) Setting SMART business goals
What do you ultimately want to achieve in your business? Living day-to-day or month-to-month can work for some people, but knowing your end goal (and ensuring it’s a SMART one) can help you get really focused and ensure your efforts are targeted in the right areas.
It also means that if your goal is sizeable then you can start to plan ahead to ensure your resources grow with your business – and you don’t find yourself working 24/7 to try and keep up with demand, or trying to juggle tasks that are way outside your skills set and interest.
This is one reason why joining a supportive, systemised network, such as a business franchise can help. I watched a programme about Dominoes pizzas recently, and it was fascinating to learn about their most successful millionaire franchisee. It really brought home the benefits and opportunities of buying into an established business model with working systems already in place for you!
4) Getting through the summer holidays
If running a successful business as a mum wasn’t hard enough, the summer holidays can sometimes be just one stress too much. Even if you have a great support network in place, and the money to pay for full time childcare, you still have to wrestle with feelings of guilt that you’re not spending enough time with your children.
It’s an especially tricky dilemma if, like me, you run a business that actually gets busier in the holidays! So, yet again, it’s essential that you get systems in place to tide your business through the summer – after all, you need to keep your business going and ensure a steady income stream.
Every business is unique, and only you will know how you can balance your work with spending time with your children in the holidays, but I do recommend brainstorming ideas well in advance. You’ll be surprised at how many ways around otherwise impossible scenarios you can find when you think creatively!
You can also read more advice on how to balance your business and family in the school holidays, including ideas for business automation, in this complete guide to surviving the summer holidays.
5) Battling business loneliness
When you work for someone else, you’re usually part of a team of colleagues you can share the ups and downs of your day with. People to moan with over a coffee, or escape to lunch together.
But when you work for yourself, you often have no one to talk to all day except the cat or a small child. And as much as you may love your cat or small child, it’s just not enough.
So it’s important to ensure you have a support network of people you can meet, or even just chat to, in the day to keep you sane and share thorny issues with to get a fresh perspective. And there are plenty of options available for this, including:
- Local business networking groups – if you can’t find one you like, start your own.
- Social media – start a Facebook group or join a Twitter hour for other entrepreneurs.
- Local mum friends – get to know local women you like and meet regularly.
- Start a franchise business – many come with priceless, ready-made support networks.
- Join an online business club (like Kickstart!) – and get tools and friendly support.
Pick your group carefully – as the theory goes, you become the average of the five people that you spend the most time with. So finding supportive, ambitious, successful and happy people can have a really positive effect on your life and business, and in fact is my biggest piece of advice for anyone setting out to achieve their dreams!
Want more business tips for mums?
Whether you already run your own business, or dream of starting one, you’ll find more advice in these articles:
- Five reasons why mums’ businesses fail (and how to ensure yours doesn’t)
- Six business ideas that are perfect for mums
- 10 things you should never do when starting a business
- Five ideas for businesses you can start at home
- Three easy ways to test if your business idea will make money
- Five excuses that stop you starting a business (and how to get over them)