We generally start our businesses because of a personal skill or passion - whether it be mending pipework or mending dresses.
But we don't come as fully formed business packages, with a complete set of skills including corporate strategy, accounting, marketing, IT and sales. It takes hard work and focus to make your business a success.
I often get asked what advice I'd give to people who have started their own small business. Here are my top ten business tips.
- Think carefully. Are you serious? Really? Having a business of your own can be life-changing and exhausting. So be absolutely sure this is what you want to do.
- Decide what you want the business to be: is it 'just a job', or something bigger? If the former, then you can happily bumble along doing your own thing - but if you have aspirations that one day it will be bigger, will employ people or be sold to the highest bidder - start with that aim in mind!
- Get clarity. Decide 'who' your business is: if it were a person, who would it be? If a car, would it be speedy or steady? How about a supermarket - would it be upmarket, or cheap and cheerful? Each image should conjure up a different profile or market position; this helps you get clarity on your own niche - and the clearer YOU are on what your business is and where it fits, the quicker the customer will get it too.
- The majority of new businesses aren't a success. You can learn from that - watch businesses fail and see if you can identify why. There are around 500,000 businesses failures each year - that's a major source of information.
- Keep your feet on the ground and don't get delusions of grandeur. By that, I mean focus on what's important - understanding your customers and getting your offering right. It isn't about fancy office space, elaborate business cards or printing thousands of leaflets.
- Keep very tight control of costs and cash. Spend small while your business is small, and let the business itself provide the cash for expansion. If the business isn't generating that sort of money yet, don't spend.
- Get connected: to peers, to networks, to like-minded individuals. Joining the right networks offers a great stepping stone for a new business.
- Get sales. I mean genuine, external, independent sales - those to your mum or best friend don't count, because they are doing you a favour, and once they've bought one they're done. An external proper sale is a repeatable exercise.
- Enjoy it - live it, love it and cherish it - as that will be evident to anyone you do business with. If you don't love it, get out of the way and put someone up front who does.
- Finally, always remember you have another life outside of the business - that will help you keep your perspective.