As we enter a new year and new decade many people will believe now is the time for them to start a new adventure and that comes in the form of a new venture or start-up.
Starting a business should be a key chapter in your life, an exciting process; but too often business dreams turn into venture nightmares… here are some of my top tips when it comes to starting a business.
Tip 1: Be Passionate about what you do…
We hear it all the time, you have to have passion for what you do; if you don’t have the proclivity or passion for what you are doing then you will struggle with productivity and performance. Business can often be boring, especially when you hit your rhythm and its vital that you have natural energy for the work you do.
Your passion for what you do in your business is also a key ingredient to the success formula; so think long and hard about what you are going to do in your business before starting up as this is a very important decision you are making.
Tip 2: Don’t do it alone…
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely planet, you can often get consumed by challenges, pitfalls and when you are alone in the business this can prove to start your journey down the slippery slope of low self-esteem, imposter syndrome and eventually toxicity which leads to failure.
Always connect and build a network around you that can support you in and on your business; in today’s world of business and business success its often who you know rather than what you know.
Tip 3: Get clients/customers even before you have started the business…
A very important tip, often ignored or dismissed, instead of being focussed on business cards, websites and business titles; spend more time procuring your clients. Start creating demand for your products and services will give you a strong proof of concept and also have you starting to generate that all-important revenue which will become the lifeblood of the business.
When I got into business, I actually went out and secured several contracts before establishing myself – this gave me confidence in my business and also presented a strong brand position of my business when we started to market our services.
Tip 4: Do your research…
So many times, when I work with business owners, they seem to have fragmented knowledge of their market, landscape and opportunities. This is a massive no-no; business landscapes change rapidly and how and where you procure clients to position your product/services – research and business intelligence is not just for the beginning of your business but should become part of the ongoing practice of your business.
Services businesses in particular today have a cross market and vertical opportunity and it would be a huge mistake if you haven’t got appropriate business intelligence – its like trying to navigate yourself to a destination in darkness.
Tip 5: Put together a plan and a strategy
Plans are like the roadmap and strategy is like the navigation through that roadmap; together these activities will serve you and your business extremely well.
Ever heard the saying ‘ fail to plan, is like planning to fail’ well don’t ignore that saying because without a plan or strategy you don’t have any guidance or path to follow and this will leave you in the wilderness – a place where you just go round in circles, assume you are doing well when you are just simply busy and you always seem to never get to the destination/result you were aiming for.
Tip 6: Get a mentor
You are 7 times more likely to succeed in your business ambitions with mentoring; but be careful there is a huge difference between mentoring and coaching.
Business mentoring is all about expert guidance and navigation, this is usually delivered by someone who has surpassed your position and achieved what you aspire to achieve – they have basically worn the t-shirt and got the cap!
Mentors are very influential in your development as a business owner, they provide insight and instruction to create a better you, open up their network and influence to support your growth and are your partners in the journey to business success.
Tip 7: Be professional
When starting a business, you want to instil a culture in your business and have some core values to live by, one of those values is professionalism.
No matter how naïve you are in business, professionalism will see you through; approach your work with integrity, passion and commitment. When I first started out even before I launched my first company, I needed to create a network and also become visible to potential clients; my network would influence my position to potential clients and my professionalism would be the window-front display of my business. Always remember people buy people first and if you cannot demonstrate professionalism in your business and practice then people will choose to pass you by.
Tip 8: Understand finance, tax and legal
Read that again UNDERSTAND!!! That doesn’t mean you have to undertake. So many client we work with either don’t understand money and how it flows through their business or how tax implicates their business or legality the protects them and their business.
Cash is king in your business, without it you will not being able to survive, tax is a part of the finance process – you need to pay for your profits and developing simple habits like taking tax out of your revenues and putting away for the tax-man can be the difference between a liquid and insolvent business.
Small print, sales contracts, customer service and privacy policies are all legal frameworks that protect you as a business owner. You should have a set of legal contracts and policies for the foundation of your business.
Tip 9: Finance your business
Don’t believe the hype that you can start a business for £1… honestly, please think carefully and when you are planning your business understand that there will be some set up and start up costs that you will need to fund.
On average you can start a business with roughly £3000 in my opinion, this is enough capital to get you started and give you about 90 days burn rate before you need revenue coming in. It is one of the reasons to why I advised Tip # 3 (Getting clients first).
Too many people try to get onto capital raising and investment without having ever financed their own ideas – let me ask you something… would you invest into something the business owner has never invested into themselves.
Running a business is not a hobby or lifestyle its like a living thing, it requires attention, nurturing and investment of time and money. There is a saying that money attracts money and in this context you need to speculate to accumulate – if you don’t have the finance to start your business beg, borrow, steal (ok maybe not steal) to start but don’t gamble with your cash; strategically hedge to ensure you can make a return.
Tip 10: Keep developing your product/service offering
Just because you have a product or service today that is selling doesn’t mean it will forever; everything has a life-cycle (including your product/service) you need to keep your finger on the pulse of innovation and evolution – keep innovating your business and offerings to keep them relevant and competitive.
Businesses that start to grow need to increase their revenue streams and this comes from product/service diversification and market diversification.
At Enterprise Lab we started off with training programmes and slowly evolved the business to consulting, project management and advisory. We then productised our services and then applied to different markets; today, we have over 8 different revenue streams which allow us to be competitive and relevant whilst also ensuring we stay on the revenue generating treadmill.