Starting your own business can be a wonderful adventure – it will push you to grow in ways you could never have imagined and can open doors to endless possibilities and opportunities.
Seeing your business become a successful one can be an amazing feeling, but, more often than not, the journey can be terrifying and uncertain.
We are beholden to the world around us: to competitors, bumps in the economy, and, apparently, global pandemics, to name a few. Starting and maintaining your business is a rocky road, so it’s important to work on your mindset, so when you do face adversity, you’re ready to meet challenges head on.
The traits to encompass as a leader
Every business leader has their own opinion on what traits are most vital to possess to encourage success, and they’ve come to respect these qualities by experiencing and overcoming hardship.
Through my tenure as co-owner of Bradfords Bakers, I’ve seen my main devastated by a fire just weeks before Christmas 2001, and the banking crisis in 2008 forced the retail side of our business into administration and total collapse. Most recently, we’ve been dealing with complications caused by Brexit and COVID-19.
As difficult as all these situations have been, they’ve changed the way we see the world and our business. Now, we concentrate on cultivating the following traits:
- Be agile – this can come naturally to small business owners, as the size of their companies means that can more nimbly work their way through obstacles. Agility is the ability to move quickly and easily or think and understand quickly. When facing challenges that could adversely affect your business, being able to react fast and make appropriate moves to fix any problems is key to moving forward.
- Be stubborn – when an idea or execution or product fails, that doesn’t mean an entire business is a failure. To be stubborn is to have and show determination to not change your attitude on something, often when there’s reasons or evidence as to why you should change your attitude, like setbacks. If you have passion for your plan as well as confidence, it deserves effort and a few attempts. You might simply need to tweak your execution before it finds success.
- Be innovative – to innovate is to make changes in something established, particularly by introducing new methods, ideas, or products. As a business leader, it can be so useful to look at all your tools, look at everything that is working for you, and double down. Research and find out where your lucrative opportunities lie, and what you can expand on to rake in more success.
My family-owned business was founded in 1924 by my great-grandfather. Then, Bradfords Bakers was a traditional family bakery that anyone in need of baked treats could step into. Now, it is completely redefined. To escape administration, my husband and I shifted our business completely online, and started delivering our gifts across the UK. We evolved from a conventional bakery to a modern e-commerce business, which was a move that really benefited from our agility.
Although our business looks entirely different from its beginnings, it’s thriving. I’ve found that the best way to preserve a legacy is to keep it going, no matter what. We’ve been through a lot; the process of tackling 2008’s recession was utterly exhausting – we tried to resist the financial pressures, but eventually the retail side of our business succumbed in 2012, and we started closing our stores. But this is where being stubborn helped. It would have been so easy to give in then, but instead we strengthened the online branch of our business that was established in 2006. After we closed our last store on a Friday in 2013, we were able to start conducting business in our new online form the following Tuesday. We were not about to go down without a fight.
Our continuing success is owed to innovative ideas. In 2014, my husband and I founded two more businesses, Send Them Balloons and Send Them Cupcakes. Seeing as we had e-commerce systems available, and Bradfords Bakers was largely still thought as a traditional bakery, we wanted to convey a simple message to consumers: we deliver cupcakes, and we deliver balloons. We already had everything available to start Send Them Cupcakes, and all we needed for Send Them Balloons was balloon stock and helium. Founding these businesses made perfect business sense, and have paid off. I advise small business owners to look at what they have, and to look at how they can expand their offerings to customers.
Every leaders’ journey is unique and causes growth in ways that will bring them success. While these traits have been vital to our success, we recognise that other leaders will rank other qualities higher. In the end, the best thing a small business owner can do is learn from both successes and mistakes, and to keep on keeping on.
About the author
Claire McGoldrick (née Bradford) is the fourth-generation member of her family to own Bradfords Bakers. She is also the founder of Send Them Balloons and Send Them Cupcakes, and she manages all three of her businesses with her husband, James. She’s been practicing bakery and confectionery since she was a child, tutored by her brother and father, also experts in the field. She prides her businesses on the unique, hand-decorated look all her baked treats have.
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