New Year, New Business?

Thinking of starting that business? redundancy looming? fed up with working for someone else, have a great idea but just unsure of how to make the jump into self-employment?

These are the main reasons that people start their own businesses.

Sadly, the failure rate for start-ups can put you off from even trying. Starting and running a small business is tough. You are subject to high levels of mental stress. You need a solid physical constitution because you may find yourself working longer hours than you ever did as an employee. You have to deal with uncertainty and anxiety and, if you make mistakes, you have to accept the consequences. All that and no absolute guarantee you will even succeed! You may start a small business and find two or three years down the track that your investment has gone up in smoke.
But if you are suited to running a business, you may find that it is one of the most exciting and rewarding things you do in your life. You can control your own destiny in a way that you never would as an employee. If you succeed, you will have the satisfaction of carving out a place of your own in the business world. And you may find yourself wealthier than you otherwise would have been working for someone else.

Your first step in becoming a business owner should be to assess yourself. Can you accept the risks and the hard work? Are you the kind of person who will be satisfied by the rewards offered from running a business?
There’s been a lot of studies of small business people who come up with different ideas about what makes them tick and what characteristics they have in common that makes them successful in business. They find some pretty obvious things like; entrepreneurs as people tend not to like taking orders – they strongly prefer being their own boss; they are high-energy people; they are passionate about their business; they tend to be sociable – which helps when it comes to marketing and selling of course; and they are self-reliant and can work long periods in solitude and without support. More than that, they are resilient, can cope with rejection and failure and still come back for another try. They have mental stamina and can exercise good judgment under stress.

Do you have what it takes?

If you have confidence in your idea and are willing to put your energy into doing what it takes, then the only missing jigsaw piece is knowing the key aspects of creating and developing a business quickly and effectively and getting that right first time round without making expensive mistakes.

Find yourself a mentor, that you know you can work with – who will encourage, push you and make sure you have enough information to make informed decisions as you develop your plans for your business.



The Value of Research

I recently watched a student who wants to start his own business, go through an experience that led him to say “this start-up process isn’t as easy as I thought, is it?” – he was learning lessons fortunately before spending vasts amount of money about what you need to know before making decisions in business.

When starting up it is unlikely that you will know all you need to avoid making costly mistakes. For those of you considering a self employed life here are some tips!

  • Ask someone you trust for some independent reality checking of your plans
  • Do your research, about your idea, the market you are entering, your prospective customers, your competitors and your possible suppliers.
  • Try not to view seeking paid for support as a cost, it can be the best investment you consider.

In the students case doing his research and discussing it led to me seeking more specialist help on his behalf, regarding intellectual property issues, saving him £££’s in the longer term.

If you are unsure of your next steps in start-up then speak to someone you trust and don’t just assume everything will be alright!

Till next time….

Work On not IN your Business

Is this you?

You run your own business. You spend your time mostly sorting things out, answering phones, replying to email, or talking with team members, fighting fires, juggling all the elements of your business at once – winning new work, selling, managing all the day-to-day operational elements and juggling money, cash flow, chasing debt and income.

You are in early, leave late and regularly forget to stop to eat or eat at odd times grabbing snacks to keep you going. And then you take work home. In any small business this might have to happen occasionally in busy times but for you it’s become the routine.

Sound familiar?

This is what working IN your business means.  So what if you could work ON your business, you may have heard this phrase but what does it mean in reality?

If you were able to take a few steps back from your business and look at it objectively, saying, “If I wasn’t’ here what would happen to my business? What do I want to happen? What needs to be done differently to stop me having to work in it all the time?”

Imagine taking some time away from day-to-day tasks and looking at your business in the long-term. Putting plans in place to make the most of the opportunities that currently you miss because you are bogged down just getting by.

This is what is called working ON your business.

Think about why you went into business in the first place. What ambitions did you have then?

Perhaps, financial independence, persona success, being your own boss, building a legacy to pass on?

How many of those goals have you actually attained?

Interestingly most of us  fall into business and suddenly we are so busy with admin and firefighting that we stop looking forward.

Steven R. Covey, in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, says to “begin with the end in mind.” In other words, whenever you start a process, understand exactly what the end point is before you start.

So, why not decide to set aside some time for looking ahead – you may be surprised at what that will do for you and your business dreams.

The Power of Clarity in Your Brand

Today’s BBC  Business news highlighted Monarch Airlines revealing its re-branding initiative. This doesn’t mean new logos and new uniforms but is more about improving the customer experience and help differentiate the business, as it operates in a highly competitive industry. Having a strong and consistent ‘Brand’ message is just as important for small business owners and links the owner, the business and the way it is perceived in its market place and beyond.Co-incidentally, I have just had a great conversation with Ruth Edwards of IMojo – who explained perfectly how she helps business owners develop simple clarity in their Brand messages.

Small business owners, often constrained by limited resources will not prioritise development of a brand and will see it usually as the creation of a logo they like.

Developing a brand that reinforces your credibility and quality of service takes working at and will add value to your business. Unfortunately, small things can undermine the strength of your image. As human beings we all make snap judgements no matter how unfair! Poor quality business cards, personal email account addresses at one end of the perception chain and a poor or inconsistent social media strategy at the other end can undermine your business reputation.

It is well worth spending time on your personal / business brand to maximise its potential for you and your business future.

Release the Power of Your Ps!

Love to hear from you – what have you done to develop your brand identity?

Do You Manage Your Business or is Your Business Managing You?

Many owners have ideas and plans for how they believe their business will develop over time and sometimes the reality of setting up a business doesn’t match those original ideas. There are many factors that impact progress – some positive and some negative: Here’s a few

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Unclear message
  • Competition
  • Lack of difference
  • Lack of market (products or services that you are convinced will sell and yet no sales)
  • Lack of resources
  • Unexpected growth
  • Timing delays
  • Cash flow
  • Initial expenses exceed your budget

The process of planning and developing a business plan is a good way of looking ahead and planning for the development of your business. It can help you stay on track when distractions come your way.

I have outlined some key areas of management information that may help you manage your business more effectively. See how many you can agree with!

Your Business:

  • I know the  business /market I am in
  • I know what I will sell
  • I know who will buy and why
  • I know why those customers will choose my business

Your Market:

  • I know exactly the opportunity there is for me and my business – where my potential customers will come from and why they need my products or services
  • I have researched and understand what my market place will look like over the next couple of years
  • I have planned an effective method of retaining my customers loyalty
  • I have implemented a method of ensuring the highest levels of customer service in my business
  • I have established a way of capturing data from prospects and customers so that I can market and communicate with them effectively
  • I can clearly define my ideal customer
  • I have researched and understand my competitors – how they operate, add value, differ from me and the way they charge for their products and services
  • I have a resource team around me to help provide me support and specialist information that will enable me to manage my business well – for financial and legal guidance.
  • I have set up systems to manage cash in my business
  • I have set targets and will monitor progress against these

If you are starting a business, or managing an existing business – this checklist is a great starting point for ensuring that you are on the right track. If you have some observations/suggestions and ideas about items to add to the checklist then please do get in touch.

Release the Power of Your Ps!

Can Start Ups Avoid Learning By Mistakes

I have been working recently with individuals facing redundancy and considering self employment or owners in their first few months of business. In talking to the owners it is clear that although they have access to a great deal of good quality information about starting a business, individually they struggle to apply all that theory to themselves and the unique situation they find themselves in.

Starting a business can be both exciting and scary -that early enthusiasm can sometimes blind you to the risks “that won’t ever happen to us”.

Further down the self employment journey it is not uncommon to talk to owners who have had to survive some very expensive mistakes. Mostly made through lack of knowledge or because when cash becomes tight they are vulnerable to all kinds of promises about quick fixes.

We do remember lessons learned the hard way, however there are much better ways of spending the resources you have available during your early months and years in business. The ideal position is to get it right first time!

So what do you have to consider?

  • Do you have what it takes to cope with the highs and lows of self employment?
  • What skills and experience do you have to transfer to your new life?
  • What personal qualities do you have? Self belief, resilience, persistence, patience and commitment?
  • How much risk are you prepared to take, do you have other responsibilities, family commitments – if so, do you have the support of your family. It is necessary to have a network around you who won’t back off when the going gets tough.
  • What exactly are you going to sell, who to and why will they buy from you? That’s just the beginning!

There is a great deal to think about when considering self employment, it is easy to make assumptions – one of the best tips I offer is to research and plan your initial steps thoroughly. Think ‘big picture’ about why you want to be self-employed and what you hope to achieve. What will your business look like when everything you want is in place.

On first meeting, many of my clients say ” I would like to achieve XYZ but that will never happen”, my role then is to help them understand the things they have to get right, most importantly what they need to know to be able to make informed decisions and then the right steps needed to put the best foundations in place.

What support would you have valued when you were starting out?