Knowing what mistakes to avoid when starting a new business can save a lot of heartaches — not to mention a lot of unforeseen costs.
Plenty of startups are created by people without any business experience. What might seem obvious to those of us with extensive business experience is not obvious to them.
Seventy per cent of businesses will fail in their tenth year of business (source). We decided to put together this post to help entrepreneurs and new business owners increase their chances of long-term success.
So, we spoke to some of our internal business pros at Start My Business and asked them for some of the biggest mistakes that new businesses make when just starting out.
They gave us fifteen.
You can’t be in business and take no risks. You’ll never grow.
At the same time, the risks you tackle should be as calculated as possible. And you should never take a risk that could destroy your business completely (unless the business is on the way out anyway).
The best way to nail down objectives and set an overall direction is to put together a professional business plan.
An extensive business plan will flush out any issues that need to be addressed to keep the business running.
First rule: You need to develop a thick skin if you want to succeed in business.
Second rule: As thick as your skin is, people who want you to fail should be pushed aside.
When you receive criticism or feedback, determine who it is coming from and what the intent is. Is it intended to assist? Does it come from someone who knows what they’re talking about?
If the answer is yes to each question, you should duly consider what was said to you and use it to improve your products, services, and perhaps even yourself.
No person is an island. As a startup, you will need all the business help you can get!
Markets are not clearcut. They are made of people, and people are always changing.
You need to have a thorough grasp of the market and industry you’re working in. Never assume you know everything.
Even if you’ve been in an industry or market sector all your life, being open to learning new things keeps your mind fresh for disruptive ideas that might shake that market or sector up in ways never thought of before.
If you’re a three-or-four-person show, it would be kind of silly to try and compete with Google.
Premier League teams don’t play with an EFL League Two team for a reason. The League Two team would be annihilated.
“Annihilation by stronger competitors” is one of those golden rules of business that everybody seems to know and yet nobody ever says out loud.
Cash flow, cash flow, cash flow!
Just because you got a massive deal in this month doesn’t mean it’s time to buy everybody a new Maserati!
If there is one thing you must absolutely get to know like the back of your hand it is the concept of cash flow. Money comes in, and money goes out. And the time between it coming in and going out is the essence of cash flow.
“Too much” marketing will never be as bad as no marketing at all.
It’s better to have your name out there than not.
The only thing to keep an eye out for in marketing is that marketing is not being done for marketing’s sake. Marketing’s end-goal is always sales. “Brand Awareness” doesn’t pay the janitor.
So, make sure your marketing campaigns are actually bringing in sales.
When you spend, always make sure that what you’re spending on will bring you ROI.
There’s no such thing as “spending too much” if what you’re spending on will make you more money.
Sometimes, spending too little can be more costly because you don’t spend quite enough to turn a profit on that expenditure.
Good people. Ah, yes, the bane of any manager.
HR is a big subject. Keep in mind that people who are willing to work hard and learn are far more valuable than people who think their skills and experience give them some sort of right and privilege over others.
Hard workers are worth their weight in gold.
How many people downloaded your app last week? Was it more or less? Did you do something about it?
Were sales up or down? Did you do something about it?
Good things rarely happen by chance. They happen because someone monitored key metrics and then made the necessary changes to make it happen.
Every mountain-climb begins with a single step. Doing too much too soon is a sure way to stumble early.
Build slowly. Build stably.
Picking the incorrect company legal structure can end up being quite costly in the end.
This isn’t only related to money. If you have your calculations wrong regarding anything in business, it can lead to some really bad decisions.
Always get good data to base your decisions on.
Businesses can be successful. We know. We’ve opened many successful ones.
And if you ever need any help, that’s what Start My Business is here for. Because if your business succeeds, you’ll tell others about us. And so we’ll succeed.
Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.
How to test a business idea 1. Conduct market research 2. What value will your business idea bring to adopters? 3. Start small and build from there So, you woke up in the middle of the night and — kablam-kablooey — you had the best of best ideas ever for the hottest business this side of the Atlantic! The idea was so magnificently magnifique that you’re ready to take all your kids’ tuition fees and splurge them all into this amazeballs startup! Okay, hold up, take a breath. Relax. Firstly, there’s no reason to feel bad: We all get these flashes of lightning every now and then. What separates the giants from the dwarves is that some of us have enough sense to, like, tell somebody about our idea before we go and empty our children’s bank accounts. And then? After you told your BFF that you “Just had an idea that I’m going to invent a game where you throw birds at pigs, dude. I mean — birds at…pigs!” Your friend pauses and says, “Look, that’s been done before.” “Huh? What? Birds being thrown at pigs? That’s so original!” “Nope. There’s even a movie about it. Oh, yeah, and trademarks. You’d go under before you even got started. And you’d have a bunch of legal fees to pay for infringement — or whatever it’s called.” And that, fellow business starters, is why business ideas must be tested. How to test a business idea Okay, so the above is just one way to test a business idea. Although it’s best to do more than just ask your mate if it’ll work. Because let’s face it, he might not even have heard about Angry Birds and then you’d really be out of pocket! Yes, the first thing is to tell someone about your idea. But here are three other things you can do to test your business idea properly so that you don’t end up investing the kids’ education on some hair-brained thing like “Convince Everyone to Eat Less Healthily so as to Save Money”. Yikes! 1. Conduct market research Now, if you’re a Lone Ranger and haven’t convinced anybody else yet to join your new venture, then the phrase “Conduct Market Research” probably should be rephrased as “Do some serious googling!” Or you could conduct a survey. If your business idea relates to a service you want to offer in your neighbourhood, pull out that trusty twentieth-century clipboard of yours and do an actual, honest-to-goodness pen and paper (wow!) survey. However you do it, you need to research your market and ensure you know if there’s room for that idea about pigs and birds that you just had. Sure, sometimes it’s difficult to know if there’s room for a new idea. I mean…birds being thrown against pigs!? No one saw that one coming. (And, FYI, Angry Birds was Rovio’s 52nd attempt at making a successful game. So — there were lots of failed ideas for them before they hit the “pig” jackpot!) 2. What value will your business idea bring to adopters? You need to write this baby down (and we don’t even mind if you write it down with a pen on paper or with a finger on a phone). In the case of Angry Birds, the value was possibly something like “Lighthearted distraction during crazy-mad workdays”. Like market surveys, this value proposition can sometimes be difficult to envisage if your product or business idea is so unique. But, other times, the value proposition is clearly of no use to anybody and so it becomes immediately obvious that the business idea is a bad one. 3. Start small and build from there Okay, so you got this far and realised that the idea isn’t so bad, after all. You’re just about to call your trust account manager to gain access to the kids’ tuition funds when… …the calm hand of Start My Business comes through and says, “Wait, wait, take a breath…” The proof is in the pudding, as they say. Even the best ideas can fall short when actually implemented. Markets are made of people, and people’s minds are always changing. If all it took was a great business idea to get a business going, all those incredible startups around the world would never fail. But startups do fail (70 per cent of them within ten years, to be precise). Once a business gets going, the reasons for failure can be many. Failure to have an accurate and thoroughly worked-out business plan is one of them. Another reason is not having enough legal support for your business. But above all of that is the business idea. You can have an incredible business plan, but if the basic idea is flawed then the business is more likely to fail. You can have all the legal support you need, but if the basic business idea is bad then none of that legal support will bring you anything in the end — because the business is still likely to fail. The business idea is the base of the pyramid from which all other business solutions arise. If the base is essentially unsound, the whole structure comes down. The final test for an idea is when you actually start running the business. So, start small and don’t take any major risks — yet. Feel the waters, see if people are interested, watch the market. If the idea is bad, you won’t lose a lot despite trying it out. But if it’s a good one, that small start can quickly snowball into something even bigger than Angry Birds! About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.
1. Acknowledge signs of stress 2. Take a break (and delegate if you can’t) 3. Go offline for thirty minutes a day 4. Keep a good life/work balance 5. Go for a walk 6. Get active 7. Meet up with friends 8. Treat yourself 9. Celebrate the victories with your employees 10. Assign a wingman you can trust Bonus Tip: Offloading time-consuming activities Only entrepreneurs can understand the stress involved in getting a startup off the ground. Pop culture leads us to believe that starting a new company is all about the glamour, the high-life, seed rounds and then hitting that fabled spot of Unicorn. Alas, the reality is more like biting one’s fingernails to the quick, rubbing one’s eyes from too many late nights, and trying to stay awake from a week of four hours of sleep for three days in a row. Stress management techniques are crucial for anyone starting a business. These stress management tips and tricks will help you stay on top of pressure while getting your startup to IPO. 1. Acknowledge signs of stress Ignoring stress is the worst sin for entrepreneurs. Stress can be managed successfully when it’s in the early stages. It is a lot more difficult to deal with it when it has gone too far. By acknowledging the signs of stress, you can take early action and so avoid a meltdown. There is no honour in a meltdown. The purpose of the battle is to win, not to accumulate battle wounds just so you can show them off later. 2. Take a break (and delegate if you can’t) Entrepreneurs can get so caught up in accounts, marketing, sales, progress reports and endless other daily details that they never take a time-out. As a CEO, you need to delegate. You need to surround yourself with people who can get the job done and who will give you precious minutes of time during the day. The marketing plan wasn’t done right for the sixth time in a row? Get a new marketing head who can do it! You’re working yourself to the bone. There’s only so far you can stretch yourself. Share the load. 3. Go offline for thirty minutes a day You need to switch off your electronic devices for thirty minutes and do nothing but rest your mind. Physical exertion is one thing. Mental exhaustion can take its toll too quickly. Get a good business book and read it. But don’t read it on your tablet or Kindle. Read an actual physical book! 4. Keep a good life/work balance Entrepreneurs erroneously believe that giving every minute of their lives to their work is the only way to prevent failure. But a clear mind is twice as effective as a tired one. Don’t forget your life’s joys because you’re working all the time. Those life-joys will help you clear your mind and thereby make you more effective when you’re working. 5. Go for a walk Take a stroll, preferably in a park or other green area, and just clear your mind. Sit on a bench and look at the birds if you have to. Let yourself unwind. You could also take up yoga or meditation if you have the time. 6. Get active And then there’s the opposite tack: Running a mile on the treadmill or slamming your fists into a punching bag at the gym and building up a real sweat. Sometimes, that’s the only way to really get the stress released. Stay healthy, eat healthily. Avoid greasy foods and make sure that your body can take the strain of long hours. Above all, get the sleep you need. Staying healthy and physically active is imperative to keeping your stress levels manageable. 7. Meet up with friends Call up some friends for a drink on a Friday night. Feel free to talk about the office and to let off steam — rant about your frustrations. Soon, you’ll find that you’re laughing about the antics at the office, and feeling fresh about starting a new week. 8. Treat yourself You’re working hard, so don’t forget to show yourself some love. Do this especially if you’ve had a particularly good week or just got in a big account. A popular saying is that life is about the journey, not the destination. This has never been more true when considering the life of an entrepreneur. Too many entrepreneurs think that the finish line — IPO, perhaps — is the only true victory. If you don’t celebrate the minor milestones along the way, it’ll be a very unhappy journey indeed. 9. Celebrate the victories with your employees The same is true for employees. Few are the employees that don’t want to see your startup grow. Their livelihood is intertwined with your business’s success. If you’re under stress, probably so are they. If the company as a whole achieves a major victory, treat the team to a small celebration so that they come back to work on the following Monday feeling fresh and keen to get rolling. A team in good spirits can do wonders for a CEO’s stress levels. 10. Assign a wingman you can trust If everything is crashing and you feel like you’re about to lose your mind, you need a wingman to simply take up the reins on short notice. This needs to be your second-in-command, the person you trust the most. It needs to be someone in whose hands you could trust your life. Because, in a way, that’s what you’re doing. Bonus Tip: Offloading time-consuming activities A lot of daily activities such as digital marketing, social media and simply answering the telephone can take up so much of your time that you feel frustrated (and therefore stressed) at the end of the day. Consider offloading those activities to an external company so that you can just focus on running your business. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.
Steve Jobs Oprah Winfrey Bill Gates Mark Zuckerberg Walt Disney Jeff Bezos Larry Page Sir Richard Branson Ariana Huffington You? There is no need to reinvent the wheel. By learning from previous entrepreneurs, new entrepreneurs can maximise their chances of success. Here are 10 tips and lessons from some of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time. Elon Musk “I think it is possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary.” Bullied as a child, Elon Musk is today’s epitome of the Entrepreneurial Fairy Tale. Recently named the second-richest man in the world (second only to Jeff Bezos, and overtaking Bill Gates), Elon has disrupted the market over and over, always innovating, never settling for “normal”. Steve Jobs “Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.” Steve Jobs was beset by difficulties in his life. He was ousted from Apple due to his relentless determination to make every aspect of Apple’s products a success. While gone, he was a huge part of bringing us Toy Story and computer animation, only to be asked to come back to Apple and rescue the company. Despite constant ill-health, he worked relentlessly to make Apple the giant it is today. His legacy will live on forever as a part of Apple’s core ethos. Oprah Winfrey “Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” Oprah Winfrey started her life in poverty and is now a household name. She completely transformed daily talk shows and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. If there is anyone who knows about pushing through failure, it is she. Bill Gates “I never took a day off in my twenties. Not one.” If Bill Gates never took a day off in his twenties, he certainly can afford to take several off now — not to mention as many vacations in the Bahamas as he wishes. Although he is no longer the richest person in the world, he’s still pretty freaking rich. Hard work pays, it appears. Mark Zuckerberg “Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.” If Mark Zuckerberg’s policy was to always break things, he certainly did that with Facebook’s constant violations of user privacy over the years. Still, those endless violations of personal space made him a mega-gazillionaire. Not sure if this is a lesson all entrepreneurs want to learn from, but perhaps it works with a small pinch of salt. Walt Disney “If you can dream it, you can do it.” The essence of entrepreneurship is to make dreams a reality. Walter Elias Disney took it a step further and helped bring other people’s dreams to reality, too. Jeff Bezos “Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.” Jeff Bezos — officially the world’s richest person — started Amazon in his garage, making deliveries himself. Tell that to Amazon’s Flex drivers! It took a long time to come from that garage to his position as the billionaire he is today. Patience, indeed. Larry Page “Always work hard on something uncomfortably exciting.” Where would be today without Google? In search of a dissertation project in college, Larry Page partnered up with Sergey Brin to put together the “PageRank algorithm” in order to rank pages on the web according to the hyperlinks that pointed to them. A lot of “uncomfortably exciting” work later, and we stand today in a world where Google is everywhere. Sir Richard Branson “Screw it. Let’s do it.” Known for his extravagant publicity stunts in the early days of his career, Sir Richard Branson really made a name for himself by following the motto of “Screw it, just do it.” Every entrepreneur can take something away from that. Ariana Huffington “If you are not in touch with your intuition, you cannot be successful.” Named one of the world’s most powerful women by Forbes in 2014, Greek-born Ariana Huffington has proven that her intuition is spot-on. Sometimes, intuition goes by the name “gut feel” or “a hunch”. Whatever you call it, entrepreneurship counts more on intuition than you might initially imagine. You? What will your lesson to the world be after you start your own business? If there is one lesson all these incredible entrepreneurs have taught us, it is that there is always something to learn. Entrepreneurship is about creativity, taking risks and doing the unprecedented. Whether you’re starting out in your garage or have already secured hundreds of thousands in business funding and are operating from swanky headquarters in London, entrepreneurship is all about the journey and the thrill of making something out of nothing. Every entrepreneur has to start small (like Jeff Bezos in his Seattle garage, or Larry Page and Sergey Brin from their college campus). But one thing all these entrepreneurs have in common is that their initial business idea was sound. And, even if it hadn’t been, “failure” should not be part of an entrepreneur’s vocabulary, as Oprah Winfrey has taught us. Oh, and here’s one lesson of our own: None of these people made it alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help as an entrepreneur. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.
Being afraid to take risks Not having a clear plan Not listening to positive criticism or feedback Not seeking help Not understanding the market and industry Picking competitors who are too large Running out of money Not investing in marketing Underspending or overspending Not hiring or partnering with the right people Not monitoring results Doing too much too soon Choosing the wrong legal business structure Not protecting your business Having your numbers wrong Summary Knowing what mistakes to avoid when starting a new business can save a lot of heartaches — not to mention a lot of unforeseen costs. Plenty of startups are created by people without any business experience. What might seem obvious to those of us with extensive business experience is not obvious to them. Seventy per cent of businesses will fail in their tenth year of business (source). We decided to put together this post to help entrepreneurs and new business owners increase their chances of long-term success. So, we spoke to some of our internal business pros at Start My Business and asked them for some of the biggest mistakes that new businesses make when just starting out. They gave us fifteen. Being afraid to take risks You can’t be in business and take no risks. You’ll never grow. At the same time, the risks you tackle should be as calculated as possible. And you should never take a risk that could destroy your business completely (unless the business is on the way out anyway). Not having a clear plan The best way to nail down objectives and set an overall direction is to put together a professional business plan. An extensive business plan will flush out any issues that need to be addressed to keep the business running. Not listening to positive criticism or feedback . First rule: You need to develop a thick skin if you want to succeed in business. Second rule: As thick as your skin is, people who want you to fail should be pushed aside. When you receive criticism or feedback, determine who it is coming from and what the intent is. Is it intended to assist? Does it come from someone who knows what they’re talking about? If the answer is yes to each question, you should duly consider what was said to you and use it to improve your products, services, and perhaps even yourself. Not seeking help No person is an island. As a startup, you will need all the business help you can get! Not understanding the market and industry Markets are not clearcut. They are made of people, and people are always changing. You need to have a thorough grasp of the market and industry you’re working in. Never assume you know everything. Even if you’ve been in an industry or market sector all your life, being open to learning new things keeps your mind fresh for disruptive ideas that might shake that market or sector up in ways never thought of before. Picking competitors who are too large If you’re a three-or-four-person show, it would be kind of silly to try and compete with Google. Premier League teams don’t play with an EFL League Two team for a reason. The League Two team would be annihilated. “Annihilation by stronger competitors” is one of those golden rules of business that everybody seems to know and yet nobody ever says out loud. Running out of money Cash flow, cash flow, cash flow! Just because you got a massive deal in this month doesn’t mean it’s time to buy everybody a new Maserati! If there is one thing you must absolutely get to know like the back of your hand it is the concept of cash flow. Money comes in, and money goes out. And the time between it coming in and going out is the essence of cash flow. Not investing in marketing “Too much” marketing will never be as bad as no marketing at all. It’s better to have your name out there than not. The only thing to keep an eye out for in marketing is that marketing is not being done for marketing’s sake. Marketing’s end-goal is always sales. “Brand Awareness” doesn’t pay the janitor. So, make sure your marketing campaigns are actually bringing in sales. Underspending or overspending When you spend, always make sure that what you’re spending on will bring you ROI. There’s no such thing as “spending too much” if what you’re spending on will make you more money. Sometimes, spending too little can be more costly because you don’t spend quite enough to turn a profit on that expenditure. Not hiring or partnering with the right people Good people. Ah, yes, the bane of any manager. HR is a big subject. Keep in mind that people who are willing to work hard and learn are far more valuable than people who think their skills and experience give them some sort of right and privilege over others. Hard workers are worth their weight in gold. Not monitoring results How many people downloaded your app last week? Was it more or less? Did you do something about it? Were sales up or down? Did you do something about it? Good things rarely happen by chance. They happen because someone monitored key metrics and then made the necessary changes to make it happen. Doing too much too soon Every mountain-climb begins with a single step. Doing too much too soon is a sure way to stumble early. Build slowly. Build stably. Choosing the wrong legal business structure Picking the incorrect company legal structure can end up being quite costly in the end. Not protecting your business Whether trademarks or intellectual property, you must protect what is yours. Not doing so will not give you any legal right to fight the issue in court. Having your numbers wrong This isn’t only related to money. If you have your calculations wrong regarding anything in business, it can lead to some really bad decisions. Always get good data to base your decisions on. Summary Businesses can be successful. We know. We’ve opened many successful ones. And if you ever need any help, that’s what Start My Business is here for. Because if your business succeeds, you’ll tell others about us. And so we’ll succeed. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.
1. Work smarter, harder 2. Smarten up your email 3. Hire a PA 4. Invest in a simple CRM 5. Automate as you go along, not all at once 6. Plan your day, plan your week Time is money, and if you don’t know how to manage time in your business, then you’re going to end up losing both. Time management has two main facets: Being more efficient in the time you have. Finding more time. In this article, we’ll cover some ways that you can do both. 1. Work smarter, harder To become more efficient in the time you have, it is necessary to work smarter. Working smarter doesn’t only mean utilising the latest and greatest gadgets. It also means optimising your workflows so that there is minimum lost time as work moves from one department to another in the organisation. Optimising workflows might be as simple as setting up some policies, such as agreeing to a maximum number of minutes per meeting or scheduling breaks between major tasks so people’s minds are fresh. As for technology to work smarter, the list is almost endless. But here are some of the key types of tools that you can invest in that might assist you in working smarter: Project management software such as Trello and Monday.com Team collaboration software such as Dropbox Teams, Microsoft Teams or Slack. Time tracking software such as Toggl. Social Media scheduling tools like Hootsuite and Buffer. DIY design tools like Canva.com. 2. Smarten up your email Email can be a phenomenal time-waster. Depending on your position in the business, you might want to turn off notifications for your emails and only check on them at predesignated scheduled times. CEOs and C-suite execs usually shouldn’t need to check their emails instantly. One option is to filter out all emails from anyone except your PA who could forward you only the most urgent matters to be dealt with. All email clients, including online ones, allow you to create filters. There are limitless options to what types of filters can be created in order to automatically route anything without you even having to look at it. Mail parsers are another great tool to save time in processing emails. 3. Hire a PA A good PA is worth their weight in gold. They’ll keep the distractions off your plate and forward you only what’s necessary. A competent PA can save you time (and, therefore, money) by the truckload. As for finding this mythically perfect PA, only use the CV as a guide. Don’t miss out on hiring someone new to the market because they don’t have enough experience down on paper. A newcomer who is rearing to make a name for themselves and really succeed is ten times better than someone with decades of experience but who carries a massive chip on their shoulder. A CV should serve as a guideline, not the main determiner of who to hire. 4. Invest in a simple CRM CRMs need to be simple. A CRM which does “anything and everything” might actually end up costing you time as a result of its overcomplexity. The complexity of your CRM should be determined by the number of employees you have and the number of clients you expect to serve in the near future. A B2C company that sells phone accessories would need a highly sophisticated and deeply integrated CRM because it needs to have thousands of customers to be profitable. A B2B business that handles only a few contracts a year will only need the smallest amount of administration to keep tabs on ongoing deals. Don’t let your CRM take valuable time away from you. 5. Automate as you go along, not all at once Trying to automate every single thing in your office in order to “save time”, but actually losing time because of it is counterproductive. Your priority in business should be to: Promote your services (or products), so you can… Sell your services (or products), so you can… Deliver those services (or products). Sales and delivery make the world of business go round. Any time you’re doing something else other than trying to get sales and then delivering those sales, you’re at cross-purposes with the fundamental reason for your business’s existence. Automation for automation’s sake only ends up costing time that could be better spent simply doing the job manually. If you find some repetitive task is taking too much time, automate it. Maybe even automate something else while you’re at it. But leave it at that until you spot some other time-consumer and fix that. The trick to saving time effectively is to move bit by bit, step by step, not all at once. 6. Plan your day, plan your week “Know before you go” and you’ll save yourself a lot of wasted time. Things can crop up at any time, but if you set yourself a predetermined goal for the day and week and then constantly return to that goal, you’ll find that you are a lot more effective in how you use your time. The modern world of notifications and constantly connected devices can lead us astray far more often than is healthy. By planning your day and week, you’ll stay on track and really get effective in the time you have! Time is something you never get back, so use it wisely. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.
1. What is an entrepreneur? 2. Learn about entrepreneurship from other entrepreneurs 3. Never stop learning 4. Detect your competition before even having any 5. Know your limits, but only so you can surpass them A well-known acronym is that “job” is short for “Just Over Broke”, which is a reason many people start a new business. Or perhaps you were recently made redundant. Either way, few things are more exciting than becoming an entrepreneur and going at it on your own. Like all business adventures, however, the initial enthusiasm for entrepreneurship can quickly fade to frustration at common failures and excessive legal red tape. Taxes, company filings, VAT submissions — these things can put a real dampener on that initial excitement. Here are five things you need to know when becoming an entrepreneur to help you remain positive and confident in achieving your goals. 1. What is an entrepreneur? Merriam Webster defines an entrepreneur as: “One who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise” The Oxford dictionary defines one as: “A person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.” So, entrepreneurship contains, by definition, a certain amount of risk, as well as the skills of “organising” and “managing”. An entrepreneur is not just someone who has a bright idea. They also put their neck out and organise and manage people and things, to achieve a realisation of that idea. 2. Learn about entrepreneurship from other entrepreneurs Risk-takers are more likely to get hurt. The way to reduce your chance of “getting hurt” or failing is to learn from other risk-takers. Go to networking events, connect with people online, read up on successful entrepreneurs, and do everything you can to understand the mistakes they made which you could avoid. It’s a good idea to dedicate 30 minutes a day to reading books by these entrepreneurs as well. 3. Never stop learning Perhaps someday you’ll write your own book about how you made it. But even if you do, it doesn’t mean you have reached a point where you can now stop learning. The truly successful entrepreneurs never stop learning. Whether they learn by regularly signing up for cutting-edge webinars or chatting to other entrepreneurs, or by reading books by entrepreneurs, true entrepreneurs never do stop learning. To be successful as an entrepreneur, you must have a hunger for knowledge in as many fields as possible. You never know where your next big idea might come from, so cultivate a natural curiosity for all things. 4. Detect your competition before even having any To succeed, you must be ahead of the game. You must know where competitors might challenge you long before they get the opportunity to do so. When coming up with a new idea, you must also come up with ways to defend the idea when it gets attacked. The best ideas will charge forward with little competition longer than weaker ideas. The best ideas are unique and innovative. It’s difficult for competitors to challenge innovative ideas. But if it is genuinely a good idea, then it will be competed with eventually. Be ready with your next product or idea by that time, and your competitors will always be playing catch-up with you. Steve Jobs was an expert at this. 5. Know your limits, but only so you can surpass them If you could run the 100-meter dash in 20 seconds, it would be foolish to try and run it the following time in 12 seconds. But you could aim for 19.8 seconds. Then aim for 19.5. Then 18, etc. You must know your limits because: You’ll feel good every time you beat your limit. You’ll suffer fewer moments of despair because you aimed too high. You’ll gain in confidence and self-assurance. Too many entrepreneurs look at the big names — Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs — and aim for the top in their first few months. Bezos started Amazon by taking orders in his garage and delivering them himself. Musk was bullied as a child. Jobs was ousted from Apple, then turned lemons into lemonade by becoming a majority shareholder in Pixar and helping the company revolutionise animation. Every entrepreneur has faced adversity, and every entrepreneur has taken time to get where they are today. Don’t aim for the moon. Aim, initially, for one floor above the last one you reached, then another, and so on. And if you get knocked down, keep aiming a little higher than before until you do reach the highest of goals. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.
1. Small Business Consulting 2. Dance School 3. Catering Service 4. Mobile Restaurant 5. English Academy 6. Dog Walker 7. Purchase and sale of used items 8. Wedding planning 9. Creation of videos for companies 10. Home shopping delivery Other ideas Many people start a small business purely for the joy of business itself and not for the love of following some particular vocation. In this case, the critical factor to determine before embarking on the venture is whether or not it will be profitable. Here are ten small business ideas that can be made profitable, with only a little bit of work. 1. Small Business Consulting If you’ve ever run any kind of business with success, you are qualified to offer consulting services. As with any service, the more experience you have, the more likely you can charge premium rates. Try to focus on an industry you’ve worked in before, but also find ways to expand your “product line” — the types of consulting that you offer. 2. Dance School There is no shortage of people wanting to learn to dance. Depending on the types of classes you will offer, you might even be able to start this business off in your own home. 3. Catering Service To get a catering service going, you need to have someone to cook, as well as access to utensils and dishware. The latter can be hired out. And there are plenty of great chefs around looking for work. Then again, maybe you’re a top-secret chef waiting to be discovered? 4. Mobile Restaurant In a post-COVID-19 world, the mobile restaurant may be the only way to stay profitable for restaurateurs. Offer top-quality food, ensure social distancing is in place, and you’ll be set to attract plenty of foot traffic to your restaurant on the go. 5. English Academy English is the second-most widely spoken language in the world. And there are hundreds of thousands of people who have come to the UK from abroad. These people need to learn English. If priced competitively, and if you offer ingenious services, you can make this type of business take off. 6. Dog Walker Man’s best friend can take a lot of upkeep. Busy people have little time to take their dogs out for the required one or two walks a day. Surprisingly, this is actually a reasonably high-paying job with lots of free time. If dog walking is not your thing, then other pet-related services might be another choice. 7. Purchase and sale of used items Whether you do it through eBay or your own website, there are plenty of people looking to buy good-quality used goods. You could provide a niche for them, offering only certain types of goods which have been personally curated. Or you could offer a unique service where you collect old goods and thereby save the person from having to go to the dump. Like all businesses, the only limit is your imagination on the type of premium-quality service you can offer. 8. Wedding planning Weddings are renowned as extravagant affairs. In 2020, the average cost of a wedding in the UK was over £16,000. Wedding costs span the gamut from photography to catering to the reception. And the person in charge of organising all of that is the wedding planner. It’s a high-pressured position requiring a lot of skill. If you have some experience as an event planner, wedding planning might be the thing for you. 9. Creation of videos for companies Gone are the days where videos were only made by high-priced professionals in Hollywood. The reduction in the cost of video equipment and editing software puts this business opportunity within the hands of everyone. Video is the way of the future when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation. If you have any experience in creating videos or films, this is an option for you. 10. Home shopping delivery COVID-19 has changed the world, and the way people shop has also changed. Since the pandemic, online purchasing skyrocketed, and lockdown rules prevented people from going to shops. Many people were (and some still are) afraid to shop. This is a business opportunity waiting to be seized. Offer to do people’s shopping for them, and charge either an hourly fee for your time or a fixed price per shopping outing. Other ideas The key is to always look for new areas of demand and to seize any opportunities in those areas. Factually, almost any business can be made profitable. The only limits are the entrepreneur’s determination and imagination. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.
Company Startup Checklist 1. Write a Business Plan 2. Get help and training 3. Choose the location of your business 4. Learn about your financing options 5. Define your business structure 6. Register your business name 7. Set up your branding 8. Register your business with Companies House 9. Set up an email list and start getting subscribers 10. Work out a budget Starting a business can be a heady, exciting experience. Sometimes people start businesses on a whim; more often they start one only after years of planning. Whatever your method, once you actually get down to the nitty-gritty of getting the business going, enthusiasm might fade quickly due to all the complexities and legalities you begin to encounter. The solution to this is to lay out a clear plan of what is essential to get your business going. Company Startup Checklist 1. Write a Business Plan Rare is a business that does not require an initial investment or a bank loan to get started. To get either of these things, you need a business plan. The plan must serve two purposes: It must answer critical questions — to your own satisfaction — of how you are going to get the business off the ground and into a steady level of profitability. To do this will require an analysis of your “objectives, strategies, sales, marketing and financial forecasts.” (source) It must answer these same questions — as well as inspire confidence — in any potential investor or bank you may be applying to for a loan. To impress investors, presentation is key, and it would be well worth your while to invest some time into making that presentation look top-notch. 2. Get help and training In the early stages of a business, your time is often less valuable than your money. Even if you have secured seed funding or a bank loan, the less you have to dig into that reserve, the easier it will be to pay it back later. The pivotal question is what kind of help and training do you need? There are so many courses (many of which simply want to take your money) that it becomes difficult to choose. Try not to sign up for every single course or seminar that exists out there. Pick resources that are: Affordable (based on your budget) Valuable (in your field) There are also plenty of free resources online. Try and dedicate some time each day to learning more about your field, about marketing, and about business in general. 3. Choose the location of your business You don’t necessarily need an address that begins with “One Canada Square”. Then again, maybe you do. Your location depends on what you do and who your market is. You need to strike a balance between monthly costs versus potential business. A shoe-selling business that is not located on the main thoroughfare is unlikely to receive many customs off the street. After the COVID-19 crisis, there is less of a stigma for businesses that operate entirely from home. 4. Learn about your financing options Too many people rush into business with the idea that they’re going to invest as much as possible and then reap in millions in rewards. It is vital to keep a clear and level head. Even if your business plan and concept is solid, crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic can come along and dash all your hopes in a fortnight. A few workable rules of thumb when starting out are: Start slow Focus on earning, and borrow only what you need to earn even more Still, finance is often necessary, but bank loans are not the only option. Depending on the nature of your business, a GoFundMe page might even be appropriate. Look at your options, and don’t jump into extreme debt unless you absolutely must. 5. Define your business structure You have to know the type of business you’re going to create. Are you going to operate as a sole trader and be personally liable for any business debts? Will you form a limited company or a limited partnership? There are pros and cons to operating as a sole trader versus a limited company. Investigate each option to know which one is right for you. If you’re starting a non-profit business, a “Limited by Guarantee” is probably the type you’ll need to open. 6. Register your business name There are some restrictions to the company name you’re allowed to register in the UK, such as: The name cannot be the same as another company’s Offensive names are not allowed And other restrictions covered in the link above Aside from the legal restrictions, some rules of thumb for great company names are: Memorable Communicates what the company does or sells Has something “catchy” to it, a play on words Shorter is better Think about your company name carefully. Ask your friends. Get feedback. The more people you ask, the more likely your name will become a hit. 7. Set up your branding Along with your name, your branding must stick out and be memorable. This step is best done in conjunction with choosing the name. It’s best to do this step with a professional. Branding encompasses many things, not just “colour scheme”. So, you’ll need someone expert at all aspects of creating a brand, including: A professional logo A slick website Colour schemes Letterheads, email signatures, social media accounts, etc. It’s not a good idea to change branding drastically later on as it might cause confusion for your customers. So think about this point of branding long and hard before finally settling on it. 8. Register your business with Companies House If you register your company with Companies House using the UK Government’s website, it will also automatically register you for Corporation Tax, saving you a step in the process. 9. Set up an email list and start getting subscribers No matter what other promotional/marketing tools you will be using, your email list will always be your mainstay. You can start getting subscribers even before you’ve registered your company. The trick is to offer something for free — an incentive — and then get potential future buyers to sign up. Once they’ve signed up, your job is to provide useful and helpful content to them via email, which keeps them anticipating your later emails. There are myriad tools you can use to set this up quickly on the internet. A lot of those tools also offer easy templates to help you create professional emails that sell. 10. Work out a budget You likely touched on this when you wrote your business plan. But a budget is so vital to the day-to-day running of your business that it is something you must continually go back to and look at. In a sense, this could come under the heading of “Do your accounting”, but it’s not quite the same thing. Create a budget and keep going back to it, modifying it according to the amount of cash you have on hand. All the best businesses have worked out how to be prudent and frugal while still turning out a regular profit. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.
Take a walk Disconnect from the internet every night Plan things Reward your staff, even for small victories Educate yourself If you want to be successful in business, you need to learn to channel and improve positivity. This becomes even more important when you’re running a startup. The early years of a startup are taxing ones, especially if the startup is an ambitious one and has had a lot of investment put into it. The stress can be unbelievable, and it is important to find avenues to either alleviate that stress or to sublimate it into an emotion that is more conducive to productivity. I looked back over my many years in business and found that I have engaged in many different activities in order to stay positive, but these are by far my top five. Take a walk This is a difficult one for an executive to do, especially an executive in a startup. You can get so caught up in the day-to-day grind, the urgent necessity to get in new business, to handle accounting, to get in seed funds. In the midst of all these problems, you might think that it is utterly and completely impossible to take even five minutes out of your day for a stroll. But it’s vital. I can tell you this from personal experience. Not only is staring at a screen for too long bad for your vision, but you can also become far too fixated on the immediate problem (or problems) which face you to find any solution to them. Take a walk. Look outside. Catch a breather. Forget the workday for just a few minutes. You’ll find that you’re far more energetic and positive when you return to the office. Disconnect from the internet every night You need to switch off social media, the news, your emails, everything before you go to bed. Forget the business, forget the online world. Do something enjoyable that does not involve the internet. Read a book — an actual paperback book instead of your Kindle or other e-readers. Or take up a hobby that has you working with your hands. Cook something — anything that gets you out of the digital world and disconnected from work. You’ll find you’re much more refreshed in the mornings, and far more likely to remain positive about the upcoming workday. Plan things Startups and entrepreneurship are all about the excitement of creating something new. We entrepreneurs are a special breed. In a sense, we’re artists — sculpting our businesses and our future until we realize the final product many years later: Our masterpiece, a business worth having and working in. It’s not about money, it’s about creating something BIG. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of micromanagement, not only with your employees but also yourself — tidying up every little thing when it really just needs to be left alone. If you sit down and plan things, work things out for your business, layout the BIG goals and targets, you’ll find that your mental attitude expands to encompass new avenues. This action of planning things does wonders to stop sweating the little things and increase your positivity. Reward your staff, even for small victories I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The first few years of a startup can be tough. And your staff are in it as much as you are. Focus on the wins and reward your staff every time a small victory is obtained — a new client, a weekly revenue target, anything. And the rewards don’t have to be extravagant. It can be as simple as closing early on a Friday afternoon and buying cake and drinks for everyone, or maybe a bunch of movie tickets or football match tickets for the crew. It doesn’t matter so much what the reward is, only that there is a reward. Positivity is contagious, and if your staff feel like the startup is moving forward like their efforts are appreciated, their own positivity will rub off on you and vice versa until an immense sense of camaraderie is generated in the team. And that’s when things really start rolling. Educate yourself As an entrepreneur, you don’t have the luxury of ever stopping your education. Whether that education comes in the form of books you read at night (see point #2 above) or actual courses and degrees that you take in order to add to your qualifications, you must continue to improve your abilities. It is your abilities that will take your startup to success or lead it down to failure. A good team will get you there, but you are ultimately responsible for the team’s production. You are responsible for finding that team. The more you learn, the more you educate yourself, the more know-how you will have to improve your business and to pick the right people to help you. Better education leads to better chances of success, and nothing cranks up a sense of positivity like success itself. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.
First, some terms Domain Hosting Domain Registration 1. GoDaddy 2. Wix 3. WordPress.com 4. Squarespace 5. Start My Business No excuse not to have a professional website Running a business without a website is like trying to drive across the UK with one missing wheel. Not only that, but Google now prioritises its ranking algorithm for mobile versions of websites. This means that if your website is not 100 per cent mobile-friendly then it will suffer in Google’s rankings. You simply cannot afford to have a substandard website. Fortunately, it is possible to create highly professional-looking websites with only a few clicks these days. There is a bit of a learning curve, but most of it is quite intuitive. First, some terms You need to be familiar with a few definitions before getting started or else you’ll get tripped up by the smallest things. I will define these in a very simplified manner, so if you’re a tech guy, please forgive the oversimplicity: Domain This is the actual name of the website which you see in your browser’s address bar. For example, on this particular website, the domain is startmybusiness.com. Google UK’s domain is google.co.uk. Hosting This is where the files of your website are actually stored. For example, you are viewing this page on the StartMyBusiness.com domain. You are viewing a specific file (this page) which sits on a computer somewhere and which has been “sent” to you after you typed in the “domain” into your browser’s address bar. That computer where this “file” sits is where the website is “hosted”. A single website is made up of very many files. Domain Registration Signing up for a domain which you own and can use for your website. This service is provided by what is called “Domain Registrars”. It can be likened to buying a postbox somewhere, except the postbox has a name and can be accessed via people’s computers. Okay, here are the easiest ways to get a website built yourself: 1. GoDaddy GoDaddy is one of the world’s hosting giants. It has been around since the early days of the internet and provides an incredibly smooth signup process from domain registration to website creation. It allows you to create websites using popular systems. The number of options might be overwhelming for you but the interface is very easy to use. So, simply clicking around and getting curious will get you half of the way there. They really do make the entire process from signup to hosting incredibly simple. 2. Wix Wix was founded in 2006 but has really gained traction in recent years. It offers a drag-and-drop interface for creating professional websites with very many features including contact forms and newsletter signups. My advice if you use Wix is to really take the time to learn the system. I have seen websites created with the Wix platform which looked appalling, and I’ve also seen sites that looked magnificent. This is true of any system, really. You do need to spend some time learning the ropes in order to create something that doesn’t look overly amateurish. 3. WordPress.com WordPress has become a household name. It is used on everything from personal blogs to massive news sites. Known primarily as a blogging platform, the system has come a long way from its humble beginnings on 27 May 2003, and is used for far more than blogging these days. There is a WordPress.org and WordPress.com. For the purposes of this article, we recommend the dot com version because it has fewer headaches, although they do charge a minimal monthly fee for hosting your website and registering your domain for you. You can, of course, use the dot org version and download the files yourself then upload them to your web hosting company. That starts getting a little complicated and in that case, you might as well just go with GoDaddy which automates most of that process for you anyway. 4. Squarespace This is another giant of online website creation and is Wix’s main competitor. I won’t bother comparing both systems here. You can read an in-depth comparison here if you want. Squarespace offers slightly less freedom in the design, which basically means that you’re less likely to mess it up if you’re not trained as a designer. 5. Start My Business We offer a unique service in that we have professional in-house designers who create your website for you entirely from scratch for the simple cost of registering your company. We also design your branding and take care of SEO for you. We won’t send you the website in 30 minutes, but you’ll spend far less time yourself getting a website up with our service than with the others mentioned above. No excuse not to have a professional website With so much choice, there is no excuse not to have a professional website for your business. It’s not even a choice of time vs money anymore because all the above services are so unbelievably cheap. But time is the main cost you’ll pay on the services listed, except our own. If you do put in the time to learn the basics of these online DIY tools you’ll come out with a stellar website which can attract tons of leads that become your future clients. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.