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….

5 Top Tips for Business Success

Here’s a question for you:  Do you enjoy your business?

  • Yes – absolutely
  • Most of the time
  • It has its moments
  • Not really
  • Can’t stand it but have to get on with it

This is a question I ask all my new clients, it may surprise you that many business owners actually find themselves struggling to enjoy their work. Many of the challenges we all face are because of business issues, rather than related to the skill, training or passion that your business is based on.

Generally we start a business based on those skills and tend not to be trained in understanding the key functions of a business and understanding how to make them work effectively. So, winning work, cash flow, dealing with difficult situations and people and lack of planning and resources become obstacles to greater success.

So, here are my top 5 tips for business success this year by helping you refocus your efforts , boost confidence and revive your energy for 2011:

  1. Business Planning – set aside at least 2 hours a week for ‘bigger picture’ planning, consider what it is exactly you want to achieve, what resources you need in place to make it happen, a timetable allocating activity, who will do it and deadlines. Break the activity down into small actions steps – so that you know what you have to do today to bring your goals closer and make what seems impossible, POSSIBLE.
  2. Marketing and Winning More Business – review how you won your work best since you started out and then repeat and do more of what works, avoid over complicating your activity. Many opportunities for business are lost because we focus on chasing new work in isolation, rather than prioritising looking after the customers you already have- why not ask your existing customers for referrals?
  3. Manage Your CASH – implement a simple easy cash flow system, Keep a tight control on costs, invoice more quickly, follow –up late or slow payers and if you are uncomfortable doing this – OUTSOURCE this.
  4. Market What Makes You Different – consider seriously, why your customers choose to buy from you, obtain constructive feedback about how you are really different from your competitors. Regularly use case study and testimonial to sell your services, they are much more powerful.
  5. Manage Yourself – analyse how YOU spend your time, a real wake up call for me early in my business life was checking how many hours a week I was actually being paid for! I had a diary full of meetings scheduled and none of them generated income. Consider any bad habits you may have developed and prioritise the time to do work you love and outsource everything else. Don’t forget to celebrate success and keep learning. Build a trusted support network around you and COMMIT TO TAKING ACTION…..

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!

Why Do Some Start Ups Struggle?

Recently I have been running a series of workshops aimed at helping people either transition from employment into self-employment or to boost the fortunes of new business.

Many start ups struggle for a variety of reasons:

  • Simply their idea is not properly researched and is just not viable
  • The business is not well resourced
  • They are passionate and excited, don’t believe that anything ‘bad’ is going to happen to them
  • Love what they are trained in and just don’t want to think about ‘business’ issues
  • In the early months when its harder to generate income they fall victim to distractions – quick fix ways of making money

Recently I spent a day with a new business owner and we discussed her journey and she realised that she had fallen into the traps many do. She had perceptions about the steps she should take and hadn’t really known who to talk to, to hear advice that would really help her. She has spent money on advertising her services and that hadn’t worked,  she had attended seninars where she had listened to a great deal of ‘generic’ ideas, made lots of notes and still didn’t know how to implement them in HER business. She came to me really as a reluctant referral but she trusted the person who introduced us. The day we spent focused very much on her reality, discovering the really effective ways of implementing her plans so that she could move her business forward in simple and proven ways. She left happier, motivated to take action and got on with it.

So some simple guidelines for anyone thinking of starting a business:

  • Even if you are convinced that your product and/or service is brilliant – do your research, ask people – will they actually hand over £’s for it!
  • Ensure that you are prepared for self employment – it will consume you and if you are not prepared in terms of resilience and stamina it will burn you out quickly
  • Have someone to support you – outside of your business who will tell it like it is, it can be a friend or another business person – pick someone without an ‘agenda’
  • Learn as much as you can – understand your own strengths and weaknesses
  • Delegate business functions that free you up to do what you do best – Think of it as an investment not a cost
  • Consider carefully how you will present your business, your marketing activity needs to be focused, simple, consistent and done little and often. You really can be very successful in building your business brand without having to spend a fortune.
  • If leaving a corporate life for self employment – you will need to adapt the way you work – you will have to do everything in the business which means you have to learn a great deal quickly and wont have the resources you were used to, readily available.

Critically, we all are confident working within our comfort zone, for many people starting business it can be a real shock how scary it is – you have all the reward and ALL the responsibilities! That can suddenly and without warning undermine your confidence – that in turn can completely paralyse you from taking action in your business.

However, when you you get it right it is the most exhilarating and wonderful experiences – earning a living, making a difference or building a legacy. When you put in the right foundations you are more likely to catapult your business to success. Go for it!