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Open for businessGood news for small business owners: according to the US Small Business Administration, nearly 80% of small businesses survive their first year.

However, that number begins to drop as time rolls on. Only half of small businesses pass the five year mark, and a mere third celebrate their tenth anniversary.

Taking some positive steps in those early days to create a good foundation in your business is essential for a sustainable,  profitable and long term future. Here’s how.

1. Keep your eyes on the numbers

If you’re just starting out, you may be surprised by just how quickly those day to day expenses add up. Yikes. It iss important to make sure, right from day one, that you consistently track your spending, file your receipts, and monitor your income and expenses with an easy, reliable accounting system.

Cloud based accounting software (like Xero or Myob or Quickbooks Online) can help you know exactly where your finances stand in real time – with secure access to accurate, up to date financial data anywhere, anytime.

In addition to being able to collaborate more efficiently with your bookkeeper and accountant so you can get advice whenever you need it, you’ll avoid the stress and hassle come tax time (can I get an AMEN) – and be empowered every day to make better, smarter business decisions.

2. Don’t neglect marketing

All entrepreneurs are incredibly busy, and it can be a real challenge to find the time and right avenues to promote your business. The other challenge for new businesses is money.  Cash flow is basically non existent in the start up phase, but every small business needs to invest in marketing activities that will bring in more sales and keep the cash flow flowing.

Start small. The best use of your time in the early days is to really get to know your customers and how they tick, so you can design (or hire an expert to mastermind) highly appealing, cost-effective campaigns.

And don’t turn a blind eye to what you’re competitors are up to. Monitor how they attract new customers and think about how you can improve on what they’re doing – or take a completely different approach to promoting your business that will help your young brand stand apart.

3. Touch base with a business advisor

Every successful entrepreneur learns from experience – not to mention failure, which can be the greatest of all teachers.

While it’s true that “you don’t know what you don’t know”, you can shrink your learning curve by reaching out to experienced mentors for guidance.

Consider working with a small business consultant who can provide personalised advice to help you make it through the first year – and an ongoing objective perspective on your business, industry, and market going forward.

But disclaimer, not all small business consultants are the same. Ask for testimonials, ask for proof of results, ask them what they can really do for you before investing money in their services.

“It’s been said many times that a business is like a baby – and it can be incredibly difficult for entrepreneurs to trust someone enough to hand over any aspect of it (and I am a total control freak so even I find this difficult).”

Many business owners work themselves to exhaustion (sad but true) because they can’t let themselves to take a weekend off. They neglect their most important relationships and never get to enjoy their successes because there’s always more to do.

The most successful entrepreneurs know they can’t do it all – nor should they – and they build a team early on not just for support, but so they can be more productive at work. Train someone early on to run the business in your absence so you can take a holiday without any guilt, and enjoy the freedom you likely dreamed of when you first imagined going into business for yourself.