After recently hitting the 3 year mark on leaving the corporate life and setting up on my own, I thought now would be a good time to reflect back on my first few years of starting up my own business.
Below I have shared some of the key things I have learned along the way on my journey, and what you should keep in mind in the early, crucial years of running your own business.
1. Fortune favours the bold.
I did not take the decision to step away from my corporate career of 15 years lightly. I had no savings cushion and still had a sizeable mortgage to pay off, with a family to support.
Understandably some thought me a fool! Some thought I was mad – having a funny mid-life turn. There were those who thought it was a brave move. As for my dad…let’s just say he had a quiet word with my best mate, asking him to keep an eye on me.
Looking back, I guess it was quite a bold move. But something inside me was willing me to do it. I couldn’t ignore it. It was a case of ‘if I don’t do it now, I never will.’
2. Never, never lose sight of why you are doing it
There are strong emotions that motivate you to start your own business. I wanted to spend more time with my family and buy back some of the years of missing school plays.
But I also wanted to find something more personal, rewarding and fulfilling.
The key is to never lose sight of these things. It should remain your compass that guides you and your decisions. Share your vision with close ones and together remember what drove you in the first place. My daughter often reminds me.
3. Build a strong network
Running a business can be a lonely affair. Sometimes you can feel quite isolated – with no one to bounce ideas off or share challenges with.
We are social and emotional beings. All through my career I have found it helpful to have a solid half dozen people who I know I can call upon for support, who share my values and who I can confide in.
Although I work for myself now, I still have my team.
4. Be visible
In my experience, there is no substitute for getting out there and meeting people on a regular basis. Staying front of mind with people so that they will think of you when an opportunity arises.
Networking is an essential part of the job. We don’t have the big marketing bucks of the big companies, so we rely on a network of people to be our ‘extended sales team’.
5. Be authentic
Don’t try to be something you are not. For one, it will stress you out. For two, people will see right through it. Stay true to yourself and be yourself.
Looking back, I see that for some time I was trying to be something I wasn’t. Be authentic and people will relate to you better. In turn, it will be easier to build rapport and develop relationships.
6. Play to your strengths
Don’t pretend you can do everything and avoid the temptation to try.
Recognise the work you struggle with or don’t like, then delegate it to someone who loves doing it and is great at it.
It’s important to free yourself up to play to your own strengths. Then you can enjoy it more and be more effective.
7. Give and you shall receive
Once you start looking for ways to actively help people, you’ll be amazed at how interconnected everything seems to be.
While networking, it is easy to focus on what you’re going to say, rather than listen to the other person. Stop and listen. Ask yourself ‘how can I help this person?’ ‘Who can I introduce them to?’ After all, that is what we are hoping they will be doing when we are speaking, right?
8. Stay positive
‘Smile and the whole world smiles with you.’
It’s so true. Yes, some mornings you wake up not feeling great about stuff.
Remember, every day brings a new opportunity. Embrace it. Dust yourself down, get out there and smile. It sure makes for a better day.
The last three years have been some of the most rewarding of my life. I have had the privilege of working with over 50 businesses, across all sorts of sectors, and on a wide range of challenges. I have built some strong bonds with people and made some great friends.
To quote ‘Big Chris’ – ‘It’s been emotional’.
If you need help and advice about setting up your own business, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your local Business Doctor here
Alternatively, if you have a strong business background and you would like to give something back, you could be a successful Business Doctor. For more information, please download our prospectus here