Whether you’ve been making money for someone else and think it’s time to go it alone, or you’ve had that one idea burning a hole in your head for years, starting up a new business can be as daunting as it is exciting.
There are no guarantees in life, and even less in business, but with a bit of luck, some inspiration and a lot of hard work, getting that start-up not just off the ground but properly flying needn’t be impossible.
Here’s some tips from Catherine Douglas, Business Banking Director at TSB that might help you get where you need to be.
Start with a plan
You wouldn’t set off on a journey to a new place without a map, so why would you set off in business without any idea where you’re going? This is your baby you’re expecting to raise, so be prepared both practically and mentally for the best and worst that may arise.
Can you cope with a big customer delaying payment or a natural disaster stopping you in your tracks? What if you physically just can’t do the work for some reason? There’s no such thing as having over-planned, so at least have some thoughts on how you will cope with the unexpected.
Having a vision is only the start, it’s when you find yourself constantly being presented with obstacles and overcoming them that true inspiration really kicks in. Bumps in the road are inevitable in any business, it’s how we negotiate them that sets the leaders apart from the rest of the pack.
Not only that, but the boost each challenge will give to your confidence, knowledge and reputation can’t be measured.
Don’t be a spendthrift
Unless you are a billionaire with off the charts wealth, this is advice everyone should be following, but it’s absolutely vital for a new start-up. Low overheads will be the key to growth and weathering storms so it’s essential to get this one right.
That des-res fancy office and high-end restaurant for entertaining might feel like they are sending out the right signals, but what signals does running out of money send? Live within your means and if it’s not absolutely necessary, think very carefully before splashing out.
Protect yourself against fraud
You may already be hyper-aware when it comes to looking after your personal bank accounts and online transactions, but remember your business could just as easily be the target of fraudsters. Staying vigilant and following the same guidelines in business will keep you on the right tracks.
Beware of scam accounts – fraudsters may ask you to send your money to a ‘safe account’ – but your bank would never ask you to do this in reality. The same goes for your business account. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Incredible returns, guaranteed riches and low risks might be likely to tempt you, but be sure to check the fine print.
If in doubt, speak to your business bank account provider, and an expert will be able to help.
Needing a mentor doesn’t mean your failing
A mentor can be many things to many people. A sounding board for ideas, a family member or friend, a successful businessperson in their own right and many more. What matters is that you have someone you can trust and go to when you need to.
Sometimes you need expert advice, other times it’s encouragement to make a leap or reassurance that reticence is the right call this time. Sometimes you just need to vent. No matter what, a mentor is invaluable to your development as a business and it’s something that not enough people think to put in place.
Build a team who share your vision
It might be your business, but as it grows, you’ll need to bring in people who share your vision. Recruiting the right people is absolutely essential and will prove critical, so it’s something to be aware of from day one.
Don’t just sign up the first people with a good CV and the right answers, take the time to interview thoroughly and ask the key questions. Above all, trust your gut. Is this the person you can see being an asset to you and your company? If the answer isn’t anything other than an emphatic ‘yes’, keep on looking.
Put the hours in
You’ll probably never work as hard in your life as you do in the embryonic stages of your new business, but that’s just what needs to be done. There’s now nobody behind you picking up the slack and there’s nobody who cares as much and wants this venture to succeed as much as you.
However, that’s no bad thing. Burning the midnight oil doing something you (hopefully) love to help fulfil your dreams is still miles ahead of punching a clock every day in a job you hate, isn’t it? Just keep yourself healthy and don’t lose sight of what’s really important. A work/life balance all about just that – balance.
Care about what you do
This is absolutely massive. It doesn’t matter what business you’re trying to get off the ground, at the end of the day you are in sales and the whole future of the business depends on you convincing potential customers to become actual customers and actual customers to become repeat customers.
How do you do this? By having absolute faith in your product and taking pride in paying attention to the smallest of details. The love and attention you have for your product comes over and makes selling it all the easier. Let’s be honest, if you don’t care about what you do, you’re doing the wrong thing.
Never be the smartest person in the room
Every day should be a school day in business. There’s always something to learn whether you’ve been at it three years or three decades. Complacency, arrogance and/or misplaced self-confidence can put a serious spoke in the wheel of your progress.
Never be shy about seeking advice, regularly self-audit and think about what you could be doing better. Then look at who is already doing something similar and pay attention.
Learn from your mistakes
Because you’re going to make them. Lots of them. It’s pretty much physically impossible to create a start-up and not have some regrets along the way. Don’t ever feel a failure because you’ve made a mistake, but if you make that mistake again and again? That’s a worry.
We often learn even more in life from when things go wrong than we do when they’ve went right and business reflects that. Take it on the chin, but then take the time to sit down and think about why it happened, how it was avoidable and why it’s never going to happen again.