The Big Idea

Starting your own business - What to keep in mind

What to look out for
  • Red Running your own business can feel like a very lonely place
  • Amber Accountability to others is diminished and the buck stops with you
  • Green Your destiny is in your hands - and the successes will be yours

You’ve had the big idea, you are ready to go it alone and start your own business. Here’s what do you need to think about to get your start-up off the ground.

I’m thinking about starting my own business?

Well, the first thing I would say, is to really examine why you are considering starting your own business.  There will be plenty of ups - and downs - along the way, so you need to be confident that this is the right long-term option for you. You will have to invest a significant amount of time and energy into establishing a successful business, so this is certainly not a short-term fix.

I am fed up working for someone else . . .

Ok, I get that and yes, definitely some upside there, but the other side of the coin is that it comes with a massive amount of responsibility and commitment. I’m certainly not trying to put you off, but first consider some of the benefits that you may currently take for granted as an employee: paid holidays, paid sick leave, turning off the phone or computer when you finish, an HR department to help with staff ‘issues’, colleagues to fall back on . . . I could continue, but you get the picture. Now think about how much of this disappears when it is your own business!  You are the decision-maker and if you’re not working, for whatever reason, then you’re not earning anything.  In many scenarios, you may feel like you’re never off duty.  It’s your responsibility to find answers to all of the questions and you probably won’t have those colleagues to fall back on. It can be a lonely place.

You’re not painting a rosy picture of going it alone

Intentionally so, but remember, there are plenty of positives as well and those will probably be much more personal to your own situation and easier for you to identify.  My point is, start with your eyes wide open and be really honest with yourself, especially about you as a person.

What do I need to make a success of my start-up?

For example, do you have a good level of resilience and determination to deal with problems and make sure that they get fully resolved, whatever barriers are put in the way?   Are you generally pro-active with good planning skills?  Are you prepared to put in all the hours, perhaps forego holidays, at least in the short / medium term?  If appropriate, do you have support from your family in this respect? These are, of course, just examples of some the personal aspects.

What other qualities will I need to run my own business?

I would suggest that the ability to communicate is high on the list.  It’s your business and you will have the prime responsibility of dealing with suppliers, customers and, at some stage, staff, in other words your ‘stakeholders’.  As you expand and potentially take on more staff you may be able to retreat from the day-to-day, face-to-face role but it will still be your business and you will still need to be creating the culture and shaping the way that these stakeholders are communicated with.

From colleague to small business boss

Yes, there will be others around, but if you’re the business owner then you’re not just a ‘colleague’, which may well feel different for you and your employees. And remember, the buck stops with you. I have of course pre-supposed that you will be the sole business owner, whereas you might well be setting up in partnership or with a co-director who may share the burden with you. If that is the case, be sure that it is someone that you can trust completely as you will need to be able to rely on them as well as having a strong and open relationship with them. Sometimes you will need to have difficult conversations.

It is also important to build some form of support network around you, you can’t be expected to know everything yourself.  Consider an accountant, solicitor, perhaps marketing, HR, health and safety, all of these are key support services.  If you can find yourself a good mentor too, then fantastic!  Relationships with other parties within the sector may also be useful - including competitors.  It is never too early to start building that network, even if you’re not ready to share your plans with all of them.

The rewards of running a business

Running your own business can also be fantastically rewarding, even when the hours are long. Those positive outcomes are essentially the result of all your hard work and endeavours.  You have overcome the challenges. Yes, there will be ‘issues’, but don’t beat yourself up about them, instead learn from them and move on. Just as importantly, never forget to recognise the successes. Learn from them too, as well as giving yourself a pat on the back, celebrate even small victories.

Be realistic about your marketplace and product

Repeating what I said earlier. Go into this with your eyes wide open and be honest with yourself. Also be realistic about the marketplace and product or service that you are proposing to launch. Ensure that you have planned thoroughly and then go and make your luck - to misquote slightly “the harder I work, the luckier I get”.

Useful links

Business loans: How to bring cash into your business

Asset finance: All the business owner needs to know

Commercial property finance: Securing a commercial mortgage

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