Advice for anyone starting out in business
It’s been 18 months since the dawn of INC, and I’ve been doing some reflecting. I’ve had so much help and support and been given some great advice along the way, that I thought I’d share 4 things which have helped me get to where I am now.
Ask people for advice
It’s safe to say my Christmas card list was about 4 times the length of last year, due to the number of people I’ve reached out to for advice.
I’ve been very lucky that the majority of people I’ve reached out to for advice were more than happy to offer their time for free. They were as keen to learn about the business and pass on their nuggets of wisdom. Looking back over the last year, there have been definite points where other people's suggestions on what the business should be focusing on or when certain milestones should be hit was really hard to hear. It’s hard to not get swept away, especially when talking with industry experts. However, if I had acted on every bit of advice given over the last year, there wouldn’t be a business, just a long list of conflicting ideas with no focus. This isn’t a reflection on the people I’ve talked to, it’s about making decisions that are right for your company whilst respecting and listening to the views of others.
Sometimes a fresh set off eyes helps spark creativity and sometimes it gives you confirmation that you’re already doing what’s best. Be open to change and be flexible with your plans because you don't know what you don't know.
It’s exciting to be a pioneer in your industry and be the first to try or complete something, but it’s also great to work with others so you can combine talents and ideas to work towards a shared goal. Collaborating doesn't mean giving up part of your business either, unless you want to of course. If you are a designer, making garments in your home before selling them online, you’re not in business by yourself. You have fabric suppliers, your website hosting platform and your bank which enable you to run your business. You’ve made a conscious decision to work with them, be associated with them and put your trust in their business to support your own. That’s 3 collaborations there and you should be looking to utilise those in a way that supports each other. You could collaborate with other customers of that supplier or join a panel talk to promote the banks support towards entrepreneurs.
I’ve heard that running a business can be quite lonely but I believe that’s a choice and not a fact. Celebrate your strengths and understand your weaknesses and be open to sharing the limelight.
At the end of the day, you have to love what you’re doing or else it’s just not worth the stress. There are definitely elements of running a business that I am less fond of, come on up Mrs Accountant, but overall I love the complexity and opportunities to learn that come with being a founder. My ‘why’ for starting INC has never changed, it’s my alarm clock in a morning and my coffee late at night.
I was once told that you can’t run a business and work for the business and that really helps me prioritise my workload. I’ve gone into an industry I’ve never worked in before because I’m passionate about the goal I’m trying to reach and not because I want to make money out of a hobby. 80% of my time is spent doing the day to day running and planning and only 20% the ‘fun’ stuff. I’m a business owner not a mental health professional or a film maker and once you see yourself in your new role, you’ll be able to tell very quickly where your passion lies and how that 80/20 split sits.
There’s no blueprint to running a business (unless you're in architecture of course) that will propel you to success without a huge amount of dedication and hard work.
Work on your resilience
‘You’re just 2 people off the street’ was a comment during a meeting where we were pitching an idea, that I will always remember. Not because it offended me but because it was 100% accurate and one of the first bricks on my business foundation. Now, I might be getting confused between resilience and stubbornness but I feel they very much come hand in hand. Being able to come up against challenges and have a mindset which can recognise them as speed bumps and not red lights will help you endless amounts, especially during your first few years. Be confident in your decisions and abilities and be okay with someone not liking your idea. I’m sure you don’t love every product at your local supermarket but that doesn’t mean it’s going to close down.
I know I said 4, but there’s actually a 5th teaching I’d like to share, and this isn’t just business related, so here goes. Remember to look back and give back. Everything in life is about give and take but keeping the balance can be difficult when you have your head down. So take breaks often, look back at all the support that got you to where you are, and make time to pass it on to the next person.
Happy New Year