As we approach the summer, some of you will be thinking about the future and where you want to be headed.
Not all of you are focused on becoming employed with a company, no matter how respected it is. Some of you are going straight to building up your own business.
Good for you and best of luck. I have an interest in new startups and the wonderful ways in which others invest in their future. It’s good to see how passion can inspire people so creatively.
Along the way, I have picked up various pearls of wisdom that have made the difference to others in the past. Go beyond the fun, the thrill, and the initial drive and you will find much to consider if you want to keep a sustained growth for your business.
Here are some nuggets of advice for you to consider as you step into uncharted territory:
1. Business is about business…not just you
You may well be the brainchild of the next big thing. You might be sitting on the best idea ever imagined. But you still need to rely on others and delegate jobs in order to achieve a wonderful end result. Keeping all the tough work to yourself is not productive and it could end in your downfall, no matter how good your plans. And selfishly giving yourself only the ‘good tasks’ is equally stupid. While you are blindly enjoying the high life, you had better beware the people below you who are doing a half-hearted job and don’t much care about your dreams any more.
2. Standard Operating Procedures
A good business should keep a focus on even the smallest functions to be found within. The only way you can be guaranteed to set things out the way you want them done is by writing out each procedure as a matter of course. These ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ (SOPs) enable everyone to learn how to go about each task, and also ensure that actions are being dealt with correctly. If the SOP is correct, mistakes will only come from not having read the SOP properly. You will also benefit from having greater ease in changing small aspects of each procedure if and when the time comes.
3. Separate business from social
There are times when business and pleasure invariably come together. The occasional clouding doesn’t matter and can’t be avoided if starting your own business. But as soon as you start spending every waking hour obsessed with the business, the cloud becomes an impenetrable fog. In no time, you’ll lose direction as the pressure gets on top of you. In other words, find plenty time to relax on anything that doesn’t revolve around your business.
4. Set clear, specific goals from the outset
An idea isn’t clear until it has grown into a goal, or a solution, or a structured plan. Never start a business on the basis of a brief idea and a general business plan, even if it gets backing. Set targets and build a detailed framework around the idea. For this you must do your homework, avidly research, consider competing companies, look to future collaborations, work toward an understanding of the bigger picture, and so on. The world isn’t static, so have you prepared for changes outside your power that could turn your idea from something workable, to something pointless? It all matters. You must go further than a short business plan, even if you think it’s foolproof.
5. Time management is vital
Bouncing from one good thing to the next is fine, but only if you can manage to choreograph the bouncing. You will no doubt be working on enthusiasm and adrenalin in the initial stages, but it’s not enough to keep the momentum going…especially if things don’t turn out as perfectly as you imagine. Take stock of your position on a regular basis and manage your time, as well as being aware of the time spent by other people engaged in your business.
6. Choose everything carefully
Choose a good name (do the corresponding domain names exist? Is it unique? Does it steer clear from any potentially embarrassing legal issues with similarly named companies?), choose a good base (physical or virtual), choose the right partners (can you trust them? Are they as committed to the project as you? Do you know what drives them? Do they have any other outside interests to help or hinder?). No matter how small your considerations are, you are in the driving seat and it’s crucial that you take each step seriously.
7. Find a niche, even if your business has a general basis
The whole point of starting a new company is because you have a killer idea that isn’t currently being serviced as well as you can achieve. So even if there are a thousand other companies on your doorstep that offer a similar service, what impact and value can you give to others that will get customers knocking only at your door? Where is your niche? What is your authentic position?
8. Network outside your niche
You may have your own niche, but you needn’t limit your networking to a specific field. There will come a time (probably sooner than you think) when you want to branch out or do something that requires a different type of expertise. By keeping abreast with a wide range of contacts, you have the upper hand when you need advice, favours, jobs at mates rates, etc. This needn’t be stuffy either…I can’t remember the source (I’m sure I didn’t pen this one), but the following comment seemed well worth remembering:
“Business is personal. Informality is professional.”
9. It’s not as easy as some people think
As with any project, setbacks can stop the momentum. Business presents setbacks at many junctions and when you least expect them. But if your ideas are sound, remain persistent and strive to get through the difficulties with as much vigour as when you are succeeding. To put it simply, don’t give up!
10. Have enough finance to fall back on, at least temporarily
Times can be tough. And while you shouldn’t give up (as mentioned above), you do need to be prepared to weather the storms. The early days especially can pose a cashflow problem unless you’re heavily backed and covered to the hilt. Keep your focus away from further loans and promises, making sure to have a solid contingency plan should urgent action be needed. You don’t want to have to use it, but it’s better to be prepared than to sink when it’s too late.
You clearly have to take such ambitious goals seriously, as deadly serious as you can muster. But that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the process. If you can’t feel passionate and positive, communicating your enthusiasm and joy to all that you speak to about your business, how can you make the best of the service you’re offering? And if it’s such a slog for you, why did you start this up in the first place? In life, whether it’s pleasure, business, or otherwise…Love what you do.
Just before I go today, I’d just like to ask all current uni students one thing:
If you have a strong business idea right now, what is stopping you from taking the first steps toward a successful business future today?
Even if you’re only just finishing your Fresher year, where is the harm in boosting your future outlook? There’s no time like the present. If the fire is burning in you right now, it’s better to strike now rather than wait until the idea is just a fizzle. And the sooner you start, the quicker you’ll find the ways in, the contacts, the knowledge, the possibilities.
Just remember, as I noted in Friday’s post: