Starting your own business – 5 things to know before you start

Advice | 0 comments

When  considering stepping into the world of self-employment and running your own  business, there is so much to consider. With 20 years’ experience in industry  before making that move, I thought I was prepared, but there is always so  much to learn! Here are 5 things I wish I had known before getting started.  

   1.  You will always be scared.
   Scared of declaring that you are trying something different,
   Scared of starting something new which you don’t know if you will be good  at, or can make money from,
   Scared of stepping away from what your career has defined you as so far  
   This fear doesn’t go away, but you do get more used to living with it. For  me, it was opening that door to say “I have expertise I can share”. If it’s a  success then great, if not then I will learn from it and I feel OK with  giving that a go. I am reminded of a Dr Suess quote: “Be who you are and say  what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t  mind.”

   2.  Feedback is a gift!
   If you have a potential business idea, or a problem area you have  identified, it helps to share it and talk about it, but you also have to trust  your intuition when you receive feedback. Friends and family can be  supportive, but not necessarily objective – certainly in Ireland the fear of  offending someone can be a factor.

   One of the most effective questions from fellow entrepreneurs was “How is  it going to make you money?” No matter how much you feel you want to “do  good”, and “help others”, your business will only be successful if you know  people are willing to pay for the product/service and you are able to find  those people and sell to them. Your business idea has to make money.

   Business mentors (from networks, or LEO) can also provide advice, but it is  necessary to be mindful of who you are getting advice from – What is their  field of expertise? What is their comfort area? The best mentors have the  ability to see your potential. They will offer the opportunity for reflection  – letting you “look in the mirror”, ask questions, and challenge your  thinking in a positive way. Seek them out!  

   On my journey, I received advice which set me on a different path, and even  though my instincts (and emotions) told me it wasn’t right for me, I still  wasted a week thinking about it before telling myself to “Stop!”. Feedback  can derail you. As a result of this I created a very simple tool which I now  use for every bit of feedback I receive. It consists of 3 simple headings  

   (1) What I liked about what you said,
   (2) What I didn’t like about what you said, and
   (3) What action will I take from this?

   By writing down, acknowledging the positive and the negative, it enables  you to take control of the next steps.  

   3.  Stepping into the unknown
   When you have a job, with money coming into your bank account every month,  you don’t realise the army of people behind you. There is a team to do the  jobs you can’t, give you feedback and development opportunities, and to  support what needs to get done. When you step into being an entrepreneur,  there is no instruction manual or step-by-step training guide. All jobs  become yours – marketing, delivery, manufacture, training, and financials!  But there are supports which you definitely should tap into:
   Networks – find one that works for you, whether in person or online, for  example for female entrepreneurs, Women’s Inspire Network, gives access to  other women entrepreneurs and their wealth of knowledge – they are only too  happy to provide support if they can.
   Local Enterprise Office – this is often the first point of contact for  entrepreneurs. They offer selection of training especially in social media as  well as access to mentors.
   Use free resources available – There are multiple sources of free training  and businesses (especially associated with social media and digital  marketing) which offer complimentary “discovery calls” – these calls can be  used to discuss your business and how they might help you. While you may not  be ready to sign up for their service yet, sometimes they offer an impartial  sounding board giving you the opportunity to talk out loud and explain your  business. Again, be aware of the feedback you receive and filter it as  needed.

   4.  Social Media
   This is really up to you to decide how it can help your business and which  platforms best reach your audience. It is never too early to start your own  personal branding by asking yourself “Who is your authentic self?” “What’s  your story”, “What is your expertise and how to demonstrate this”. Once you  figure out what your brand is, start living it on the relevant platforms for  your customers. If not you will hear those dreaded words “Well, we need to  jazz up that profile Diane!”

   5.  Learn that it is ok not to be  perfect.
   Your initial idea may not be where you actually end up, this “pivoting /  transformation” is often necessary to get to a successful startup. As Abraham  Lincoln once said “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the  first four sharpening the axe.”  Planning  and preparation is critical, it is never too early to test, talk and try out.  In those early days, you do not need a website, but you do need to know “is  there a customer who will buy into your product or service”. On my new  workshops and online courses, I show you some simple approaches to get you  off to a great start including ”how to identify potential customers”, “how to  test your idea early”.

   Remember, only you can make a success of your business. I hope this advice  helps you on your journey to success.


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