Slow down, charge more, plan better, ask for help, nothing - these are the things most small business owners would do if they could go back in time and start again.

New research by small business insurance provider, Direct Line for Business, shows that most small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners would take more time in setting up their business, if they had the chance to do it all again. Just over a fifth (21%) said they would have taken more time to get the foundations right. Mistakes learnt from rushing in at the start include failing to build a pipeline of work before leaving full time employment, failing to have enough products at launch and doing more research before starting.

One respondent said they would "go easy on the bright ideas, even though sticking with what's profitable does get boring".

The second most popular piece of advice SME owners would give themselves would be to manage their finances better (17%) - including securing more finance and charging more because they undercut themselves on pricing - and improve their planning (17%).

Just over one in ten (11%) of small business owners said they would have asked for help from either a mentor or business partner, while 5% would've done more marketing. But, showing small business owners to be bullish about their own performance, 19% said there was nothing they would have changed about the way they launched their business.

Nick Breton, head of Direct Line for Business, said: “This research shows that entrepreneurs should not be deterred from starting up their own businesses. With the average SME taking 18 months to turn a profit, this should encourage those in the early stages of developing a business – or those who are considering a start-up – to persevere with their business plan. However they are to be reminded that success can certainly be aided by the best possible preparation in the early stages of starting up.”

18 months

The research also looked at the length of time it took a small business to turn a profit. With the average age of businesses taking part in the study standing at four and a half years, respondents claimed that it had taken them 18 months before the business started making money.

Profitability was achieved slightly quicker amongst sole traders (1 year and 5 months), while businesses with a larger employee base and therefore higher outgoings – took longer to start making profits. Businesses employing between 6 and 10 staff take an average of 2 years and 3 months to turn a profit and those employing more than 11 people taking 2 years and 7 months.