I was recently asked by a young enterprise organisation to give my top 10 tips for starting a business. Here’s what I came up with:
1. Just Go For It
There is never a perfect time to start a business, and although it may seem like there are twenty reasons you should wait or hold off, the number one piece of advice I can give is to just go ahead and do it. Get over the idea that ‘I can’t because of blah blah blah’ and decide that you are going to go through with it. You can figure out the how later.
2. Plan Meticulously
It is so important to do your research and know what you are getting into, exactly what you will need and how you are going to get where you need to be. Whether it’s researching suppliers or developing a marketing strategy, it is vital to do all the prep work, because you won’t have spare time to spend on it once you launch.
3. Get Organized
Being organized is simple but essential. It’s would be awful to miss an important meeting just because you forgot where you wrote down the time. Or to lose track of which invoices have been paid and which are still due. Find a way which works for you and start keeping records of everything. I recommend finding a few great technological tools to become your best friends. My business could not survive without iCal, and a good ‘to do’ app is vital It’s also advisable to get yourself a basic CRM tool and some sort of accounting/bookkeeping software – this will save you so much time in the long run.
4. Use, Abuse and Expand your Network
Networking is a hugely underestimated essential. First of all, think about the people you already know who may be able to help you with various aspects of the business. It could be a graphic designer who creates a logo for you, or a business banker who gives you tips on getting investment. People you know are often more than happy to help and can save you a great deal of time and money. On top of that, grow your network as much as possible. Attend networking events and speak to as many people as you can, you never know who you might meet, who might be able to help you out, or even be who might a potential investor or customer. And it goes both ways, try to think of any ways you may be able to help others or connections you could make for people, being thoughtful goes a long way.
5. Embrace the fact that it’s going to be very hard work
Nobody can ever prepare you for the amount of work that is involved in starting a business. It seems obvious, but trust me, you are not prepared! It will be difficult, your social life will suffer, you will lose sleep and eat irregularly – but you are going to love it. If you are pursuing something you are passionate about then the tiredness, lack of social life and ridiculous working hours won’t bother you, because it’s your baby, and it won’t feel like work. Yes it will be hard, but by god will it be worth it.
6. Understand that you are constantly learning
In life, and particularly in starting a business, there are new things to be learned every single day. You really need to learn to be good at a lot of things. Last week I had to turn my hand to managing, accounting, baking, joinery, marketing, sales, delivery, plumbing, customer relations, procurement and graphic design. I didn’t know how to do most of these things three months ago. Even once you are set up and in a routine, there are still so many things to learn about how to grow, improve and adapt your business to its environment. Suck up any advice you can from books, other businesses or people that you meet. Even if the business does not work out you will have learned an invaluable amount from the process.
7. Recognize your Strengths and Weaknesses
Although it’s important to adapt and learn new skills, you also have to know how to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses. There will be some things you are naturally good at, some things you can learn to do, and other tasks that your time would be better spent elsewhere. Don’t waste time banging your head against the wall when you could be getting on with something much more efficiently. You don’t have to do it all on your own.
8. Prioritize your Time
When you get really busy, it is important to prioritize how you spend your time. There will be several important things that you need to do in a day, but often it’s just not possible to get them all done. Invest a small amount of time sectioning up what needs to be done and deciding when to do it. It will save you time in the long run and ensures that the most important tasks are not missed. When it gets really busy I find it useful to split up the day in my Calendar and assign the tasks and meetings throughout the day with an approximate time it will take me to complete them. I find this really helps with de-stressing.
9. Get the right people on board
Getting the right people on your team can make or break a start up. You want someone who is passionate about the business and really wants to see it thrive. People who just want to show up, do their hours and go home are of no use to your business, and you can bet there will be someone else out there who would love to be involved if this is the case. People who share a passion for what you are doing will not only work hard to see it succeed, but they will breathe life into the business and their enthusiasm will spur you on when you haven’t slept in four days, you’re living off of Ritz crackers because you haven’t had time to do the shopping and you have a pile of paperwork the size of a small pony on your desk.
10. Always keep the end goal in mind
It can be so easy to get caught up in the every day comings and goings of the business. Try to keep one eye on the bigger picture and your vision for the company. Make sure that you are working ‘on’ the business and do not get trapped working ‘in’ it. At times when I feel overwhelmed and am not sure what to do, I find it best to think about where I want to end up and work backwards from there to see what steps I need to take to achieve it. It will not only help you to figure out what to do, but it will remind you why you are doing this in the first place and inspire you to continue on to achieve your dream.