Have a business plan – I have to confess, this is one of my lessons learned as we didn’t have one for months…
It doesn’t have to be long; a single page outlining what you want to do, how you are going to do it and by when. It may be totally unrealistic, ours was, but it gives you something to go back to, to remind yourself what you are doing. It can, and will, change but you’ve got to start somewhere.
Spend your money wisely – in the early days it’s easy to over-spend when you have a good opening balance in the bank. Cash flow’s a killer and we still struggle. Get some great accountancy software to help with the book keeping. We use Xero and it allows me to monitor every penny that leaves the account. That being said, you do need to spend. Marketing isn’t cheap, but it’s a necessary evil in order to get your product out there.
Surround yourself with people you trust – allow others to invest. Its essential that these people have complementary skill sets. Don’t be afraid to delegate. You can’t do it all on your own. It’s better to own 50 per cent of something than 100 per cent of nothing. You don’t know it all, so listen to those around you. You don’t have to take all the advice, but at least consider that there’s always another angle to come at something. You’ll have people telling you how impressed they are with your success. Ask yourself: are they trying to sell me something? You’ll be amazed how often the answer is “yes”.
Be confident, not arrogant – there is a big difference. You’ve got to be able to get people to buy into what you do. Why should that person across from you take you seriously and give you a chance? Because you are comfortable looking them straight in the eye and giving them peace of mind that you’ll do everything possible to deliver on a promise. Have personality, be naturally likeable, it’s all about relationships.
The word “yes” is your new best friend – you have to grab every opportunity that presents itself; that’s what makes you an entrepreneur. Believe that anything is possible.
Achieve a work-life balance – forget your 9 to 5. Buy the biggest vat of midnight oil to burn because you are going to need it. I always take from 6pm to 8pm to sit with my wife and kids. Even if it’s just cuddling on the sofa watching TV, it reminds you what’s really important and why you do what you do.
Ask advice – I’ve found that there are so many people out there willing to chat through things, or lend a helping hand.
Never ignore the legal aspects – there’s a lot to do. Trade Mark registration, Companies House filing, HMRC, book keeping, contracts… the list is endless. Ignore the boring stuff at your peril. This is where point three comes in: delegate and ensure you are compliant at all times.
Prepare for a rollercoaster – over the past 12 months I’ve experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows. Every time I jumped a hurdle I’d tell myself “that’s one obstacle someone else may have fallen at”. It’s a tough path to
tread – if you want my advice, take time to celebrate the wins.
React to your customer’s wants and needs – you think you’ve nailed it? You’re probably wrong. We were sure we would never do a vanilla ice cream. “Surely people want something a little more exciting than vanilla?” we said. One year in, guess what – we do a vanilla. If the market wants it, you provide it. We started out with cases of 45x120ml pots, but they were too big for smaller clients’ freezers, so we now do 24x120ml cases. Being a small business is a strength; you can react quicker and implement change more easily than your established competition.