So it’s tough setting up a business and then as if that’s not bad enough you then have to keep that early day enthusiasm and energy to enable the business to keep going and growing.
Being asked by the team to write this blog I didn’t really know where to start so I thought I would divide it into the 5 key areas which I can then share lessons that I have learnt on the way…
- Money – you won’t earn much… or in fact any in the early days! You need to be prepared for this and able to survive without an income. I was extremely fortunate to have a supportive husband who picked up the slack for the first few months. We got lucky (or you could say planned well) in that we had a retained client lined up before we started so knew we had a basic income from the get go. However, you need to know your numbers – what does profit look like, how much do I need to sell to make money etc. Be lean, don’t get into debt if you can help it and stay focused on what you are trying to achieve.
- Time – you need lots. Are you willing to work weekends evenings and eat, sleep and breathe your new business? You’d better love it as it will take up all of your waking (and sometimes sleeping) thoughts. It does of course get better the further in you get, but in the early days I remember thinking ‘God I am working hard but not earning much’. It’s important that you are prepared for this and can ride through it.
- Clients – There are two key things here;
- They are not your employer. It is hard to transition from employee to consultant. There are no bonuses or pats on the back, it’s you delivering a product or service and getting your invoice paid. It can feel like a thankless slog at times but the fact that they are working with you, paying your invoices and listening to what you tell them to do needs to be enough.
- Work with people who you like! This is one of the biggest perks of running your own business. You don’t have to work with people who don’t share your values or whom you simply don’t gel with. This is one of my favourite bits of running my own business!
- Staff – It is often said if only my business didn’t have clients or staff I would be a happier person. Of course that isn’t true as for a start you would have no business. However, having now reached the grand headcount of 5 I can see where the people who say that are coming from. Firstly, you will think no one is as good at what you do as you (given), secondly no one cares about your business as much as you (why should they) so putting these two things aside its really vital to work with people who you like (see above). Life is too short to spend up to 40 hours a week in the company of someone who you don’t like! When starting out you also have to assume the role of HR Manager, IT Manager and Finance Manager so you will be getting inundated by these staff on any issue falling under these brackets… so you must get good at learning new skills or delegate to others who are better at it. Also reward generously where you can, be the boss you always wish you had when you were an employee whilst keeping a firm eye on not becoming that boss who everyone didn’t like…
- Mentors – Since the beginning of Consortium I have had a mentor in my business life. My first mentor saw me through the tricky stage of my business partner leaving after 9 months. Now this could have been the end of us but by surrounding myself with people who believed in me and could help point out if I was going off course we kept it together. My current mentor is a very successful businessman and whilst we have very different aspirations for our respective businesses I respect him hugely and he helps me focus and push through the difficult stages. So big tip – get a mentor!
I hope there are a couple of ‘nuggets’ in here for you if you are starting up or thinking about it. It’s a brave new world out there – I say ‘Go do it!’ but then I would…!
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