What do you wish you’d known when you first started your business?
We ran a co-learning event yesterday at Collabor8te hosted by Jacqui Mitchell of 4Purpose. In groups we brainstormed the advice we would now give to a new business starting up and then consolidated that into the key themes. This is what we came up with:
Be Yourself/Know Yourself
It’s very tempting to create a persona for yourself, to think you have to be someone else. Your inner critic tells you that you’re not as experienced, knowledgeable as or anything as the next person you meet at the networking events you attend. Actually not only is that quite difficult to keep going, but being you will attract the right clients...like-minded people who shares your values and that makes running your business easier and a whole lot more enjoyable.
Also on this subject - whatever you want from your business, whether it's a lifestyle choice or you want to rule the world, it’s all good and it’s yours to choose, otherwise why be self-employed? Don't let anyone tell you otherwise!
Focus, Focus, Focus
This was a definite ‘must-do’ in the group discussions. So many of us had been there…you’re a start-up, you know what you want to offer and then you’re asked to diversify, provide another service or trade just isn’t brisk quite as quickly as you’d like so you add a second revenue stream, not connected to your original business. This generally dilutes what you set out to do though and often means less success and/or less satisfaction. Stick to your guns, but also listen and adapt your core services to meet customer needs as you learn.
Enthusiasm and Passion
If you’re not enthusiastic about what you do, can potential customers really be expected to be? Lots of comments were made about how important this is. People get into running their own business for many reasons, not always by choice but if you aren’t committed to doing a great job for clients and care about what you do, you may well find yourself being one of the 80% which fail within 18 months – running a business is so much harder than you imagine it’s going to be when you start out, isn't it?
We all pretty much agreed that to grow your business while also trying to do everything by yourself is doomed to failure. Generally we set out business to do something we're good at and while we can learn all the other stuff that goes with running a company, the bookkeeping, marketing etc, it will usually take us longer and use up time which could be better spent on core functions and strategising our next move.
Yep, there is no business without customers and that means you need to find them and get in front of them. 'Network like crazy' suggested one of the group. Wherever your prospects ‘hang out’, that’s where you need to be too, online and offline. So put yourself out there, tell people what you do and match their needs or better still provide more than they expect.
What advice would you give to your ‘new business self’ given the chance to go back in time and do that?