Running a small business can be incredibly rewarding, but with 60 per cent of businesses failing in the first three years it also comes with many challenges. So whether you are just starting out or are already running a small business, it makes sense to get advice from people who are leaders in their field.

Canberra businesswoman Louise Curtis owns three thriving businesses Lollypotz, Pink Frosting and Hamperesque, and with more than twenty years’ experience as a business owner she understands what it takes to stay relevant in a changing marketplace.

When asked recently what she thinks are the keys to business success, she narrowed it down to five things: commitment; cash reserves; resilience; having a digital strategy; and knowing how to ‘pivot’.

“Success takes time and you have to make a concerted effort and give 100% commitment over a long time when you’re starting out.” Louise said.

“Businesses also need a lot of capital at the start. You have to be prepared to take a significant risk when times are tough and that is hard to do if you don’t have the cash reserves.

“People also need to be really resilient. There are always unexpected challenges in business and you will make mistakes but the important thing is to learn from them and keep on going. When I went to Silicon Valley and visited Facebook and Google the main message I took away was ‘to be successful you have to pivot’, and it’s true. I’m always looking at what is being thrown at me today and thinking how I can change direction to fix it and move forward.

“And to do that you have to be continually learning. Business has changed so much over the last twenty years that if I wasn’t staying current and constantly learning new things, I wouldn’t be successful.

“One of the biggest changes has been the digital environment. Having a digital strategy is the most important aspect of any business in terms of growth. Gone are the traditional ways of marketing and doing business, and anyone who thinks otherwise is missing opportunities.

“Learning new things that can drive your business is exciting” Louise said.

Mentoring other business people has always been important to Louise and as part of her ongoing support of local businesses she is sharing her business success story in the new Small Business Smarts learning and development program created by Wisdom Learning and supported by the Canberra Business Chamber.

Louise will be joined by other innovative business leaders, including Dr Nina Terry from strategic design consultancy ThinkPlace. With over twelve years’ experience in building a global brand Nina will share her views on the importance of building strong teams with shared values; knowing your business model and staying true to it; knowing your numbers; and enjoying the responsibilities that come with building a successful business.

“In business you need a theory of abundance. You should look at ways to give back to the people who work with you. It’s not about money necessarily but more about understanding how everyone contributes to your business success. It’s never just one person who makes something successful, it comes down to having a good team,” Nina said.

“You also need to be innovative and ahead of the pack. One way we have achieved this is by having mentors and strong business networks, people who can provide business coaching, advice and just general conversation. Like-minded people who understand your realities.

“That is one of the benefits of a program like Small Business Smarts. On top of the practical skills people will learn, they will also have an opportunity to meet like-minded people and establish networks that could last a life-time,” Nina said

The program, designed to develop the capabilities of owners’ and managers to grow their small business, starts on Friday, 23 March and runs through to Friday, 27 July at the Wisdom Learning Centre in the Fairbairn precinct of Canberra International Airport.

The program focuses on key areas to improve and grow small business, including planning for growth, developing a digital strategy, improving operations management, managing finances, and enhancing personal productivity.

As part of the program, experienced facilitators and industry experts share their expertise in growing their businesses in Canberra, and work closely with participants to complete the curriculum.

Participants who successfully complete Small Business Smarts achieve the nationally recognised Small Business Growth Skill Set, which forms 50 per cent of the Certificate IV in Small Business Management.

The program fee can be subsidised for eligible participants under the Skilled Capital Program—an ACT Government training initiative.

To find out more about the Small Business Smarts program click here.