Striking out on your own and starting a business is one of the hardest things you can do in your professional life, but the work isn’t over the second you open your shop. Once the business is up and running you constantly have to improve and optimize to stay ahead of the curve and, most importantly, to become — and stay — profitable.

For many entrepreneurs, the first year is where they struggle. In addition to working with a financial advisor (our stats show a good relationship with your accountant can help you succeed), there are other steps you can take to ensure your business is still around in 2017.

Understand the difference between being good at what your business does, and being good at business

Amy Vetter wears many hats. Not only is she our Global VP of Education & Enablement here at Xero, she’s also an avid yogi and even owns a yoga studio. She learned early on that being a great yoga teacher and running a great yoga business were two entirely different skillsets.

We want to do the things we have the most passion for, but do we really know how to run that business? When my favorite yoga instructor got into the weeds with her business and found out I was a CPA, she asked me to come in with her. I said, ‘sure, I know how to run a business.’ But what I wasn’t, was a subject matter expert.”

Vetter has since become a subject matter expert, but that first one was a major learning.

If you started a business because you have a skill that needs to be shared with the world, find a business partner that has expertise in the areas you’re unfamiliar with. If you’re not in a place to bring on a partner, or if you want to learn the ins and outs of all areas of your business, find a mentor. Look for someone who has built or runs a similar, but not competing, business in your area.

Know when to evolve

Co-founder of
Shoes of Prey, Jodie Fox had some very key reasons for starting her business online. It was cheaper, faster and easier to scale Shoes of Prey as an ecommerce business than to start a brick and mortar store. But after watching how her customers behaved she realized it might be time to evolve her originally strategy.

“Digging into the why, the insight or the human need, what we realized was that customers wanted to be able to try their shoes on. They wanted to touch the materials, to understand the texture, to see what the colors look like beside each other. At our office in Sydney, people would often turn up to see a pair of shoes before they made a purchase,” Fox said.

Just because something worked for you last year, last month, or even last week, doesn’t mean it’ll work this week. There are multiple events in your business that could warrant a direction change. You could study your customer behavior, like Jodie did, and realize your customers need something from you that you’re not currently providing.

Digging into your sales data and understanding how customers are interacting with you can provide some valuable insights into your business and help you figure out your next move.

Don’t be afraid to think big

When Amy Harris and Hannah McIntyre saw a gap in the market, they jumped on it. They worked tirelessly to build CrunchBoards, a forecasting and reporting engine for small businesses.

Rather than launching small and hoping to gain momentum gradually, they went all in.

“We launched as a global add-on from day one and analyzed the data to find our most active customer segments. By plugging into the already booming Xero ecosystem, we were spared some growing pains and time delays,” Harris said.

By leveraging Xero’s platform, the CrunchBoards co-founders were able to open their solution up to an existing market of more than 600,000 subscribers.

They knew the value of their solution and used the Xero platform to help them optimize as they grew. For them, speed to market was important because they were filling a need. They then took their cues from the market on where to spend their time.

If you know your idea’s great, don’t be afraid to get it out there. Look for businesses to partner with that can help get you in front of the right people to start growing from day one.