Now that we’re a little over a year old we couldn’t avoid asking ourselves the fateful question: is there anything we’d do differently if we were to start our business all over again?
Launching our business has been one of the most exciting and challenging things we’ve done in our lives.
Was it easy? Nope.
Has it been rewarding? Yes.
Would you do it again? Yes, a million times yes. But, we’d probably change a few things along the way.
In our recent article ‘What we’ve learnt about starting up our own business’, we shared a few important learnings about this wonderful and tricky process. For example:
- Create a simple yet strong business plan.
- Identify your short-term and medium-term priorities.
- Be realistic with timelines and resources.
Today, we’ll take this a step further! Let’s talk about our mistakes and the 5 things we’d do differently if we were to start our business all over again!
1. Say this on repeat: “I am an entrepreneur”.
People decide to go into business for a myriad of different reasons. However, the real reason normally has little to do with the grand spirit of entrepreneurship.
When we started our own business one year ago, we made the wrong assumption that being great marketers would also make us great business owners. After all, we were experts in our field, right? We thought that making our skills available to other businesses and investing a little capital would have (quite easily) turned into profit.
It took us a little while to understand that being an entrepreneur means more than this! There’s a difference between ‘knowing your stuff’ and making a business work. Having the technical ability to make things happen is important, but not sufficient. Being a business owner means finding the time, the energy and the inspiration to focus on building your business too.
It takes time to consider yourself as a proper entrepreneur, and you’re not alone as many other business owners feel the same way. To help you get into this frame of mind, you could ask yourself the following two questions at the same time: “what work needs to be done?” as well as “how should the business work?”.
2. Have a good growth plan.
A company should run based on what the business needs rather than what the owners want. This is a lesson we’ve learnt with time!
When we started our business, our time mainly went into creating a strong brand proposition for our business (this was our comfort zone!). We’ve worked hard to create a brand identity that’s unique and reflective of who we are.
- What’s our mission, our purpose and our value proposition?
- Why should someone choose us over someone else?
- What are our unique selling points?
Key elements to consider when drafting a growth plan
Knowing this and having a good set of branding guidelines for your business is essential if you want to stand out against your competitors. However, we should have probably invested the same time and effort in drafting and implementing a strong growth plan for the business too! For example, Some key growth questions to consider are:
- What’s your yearly/monthly financial goal?
- How will you generate revenue?
- What skills/resources do you need to operate the business?
- Is your customer acquisition process in place and is it effective?
- What’s the plan for scaling up the business and when?
Identify your goals and strategically allocate your resources
When you start your own business, these questions need answers from day one. If you’re not an expert in this area, don’t worry – there are plenty of experts out there that can give you a hand here. We always recommend Enterprise Nation as a great community for/of small business owners. You can benefit from amazing content and a network of like-minded business advisors.
A growth plan allows you to identify your key goals and objectives, map out your future and allocate your resources strategically. It will be your reference point to see in which direction your company is moving and how far are you from reaching your sales/growth objectives. This is invaluable for keeping to your priorities and meeting your goals.
On the other hand, we’d be honoured to help you refresh/refine your brand identity as this is one of our specialities! Check out our tailored brand identity & messaging workshop or send us a note here for more info.
3. Pick the right external partners to help you start your own business.
When budgets are very tight, it’s pretty common to see business owners wearing hundreds of different hats. All of a sudden, you’re forced to learn the basics of all business knowledge in a couple of months. One day you’re the financial guru of the business and the day after you’re the marketing expert, the accountant, the payroll adviser, and so on. Gosh, only the thought of this takes us back to those overwhelming days!
Here’s the truth: it won’t work. Remember that your time is money and that your return-on-effort (ROE) and return-on-investment (ROI) are strictly linked! There are so many experts out there ready to support you and help your business grow.
We know how painful it is to invest your money when your income is not there yet, so here are 3 good reasons why we think you should rely on expert support when you start your own business:
It saves you money and it improves efficiency.
Experts have spent years studying and honing their skills. They clearly know what they’re talking about and they can execute those tasks very, very quickly. The money you pay an expert for their services will often outweigh the cost you spend on trying to achieve the same results yourself (i.e. valuable earning time!). A good example of this is to rely on a good accountant from day one. When we launched, we employed de Jong Phillips to be an extension of our team. Accountancy is a very specialist profession and one that we believe is best outsourced.
We recommend getting an expert on board from the beginning. This will avoid wasting time and money on resolving any issues that arose from not seeking help in the first place!.
It will help you grow your network.
People you work with that have been in business for a while, are normally well connected. This is amazing news for you as:
- They can connect you with experts in other industries who can help you in other areas of your business.
- They can refer you to people in their network and help you increase your sales. Growing your contacts is one of the trickiest things, so any connection is welcome. Remember that word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools one can use! Read more on why word of mouth is still so significant.
- They can share their lessons learnt so you can learn from them (we’re always here to share our learnings!).
It will help you access great insights.
4. Work-life balance. Set a culture from the outset.
This links in nicely with the point we just made above. When launching your own business, not only will you try to wear a million hats but you’ll also be tempted to work an unquantifiable amount of hours until you reach your sales/income goals.
We hear you and we know how difficult it can be to resist the temptation of working 30 more minutes, then another 30, and another 30, and another 30. Be brave and put your foot hard down here! We recommend being firm with your position and doing all you can to prioritise work-life balance over anything else. This is an important habit to get into from the start. The boundaries you make for yourself around this are essential.
It’s incredible how many benefits you’ll have by setting a healthy work-life balance routine. Not only does it help reduce stress and prevent burnout in the workplace, but it also helps increase your productivity and have a much more positive attitude towards work. We recommend reading this article from Forbes about the meaning of work-life balance and what it takes to create a happy and positive work environment.
5. Enjoy being your own boss and making your business work for you.
There’s a book we’ve really enjoyed reading and that we believe every business owner should have. It’s ‘The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About’ by Michael E. Gerber. We were gifted this book 8 months into our business thanks to de Jong Phillips, our lovely and amazing accountants. To be honest, it genuinely changed our perspective of the business and of being our own boss.
Being your own boss has many pros and cons, but there are definitely more pros and you should make the most of it! Here’s an extract from the book that we believe can serve as guidance to all business owners:
“Once you recognise that the purpose of your life is not to serve your business, but that the primary purpose of your business is to serve your life, you can then go to work on your business, rather than in it, with a full understanding of why it is absolutely necessary for you to do so.”
― Michael E. Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
Bonus tip! Keep talking.
We believe it’s good to be honest with our clients and we love sharing our experiences and learnings with other small business owners. Our philosophy is very much ‘we’re all in this together’ and we believe there are always ways we can support each other. We encourage you to speak to other small business owners in your network for advice, insights, inspiration and even encouragement and a friendly chat.
For many, the transition from working in a big team or for a bigger company is a tricky one. Especially if you’re a sole trader. Sometimes just a shared moan or rant can be the breakthrough you need.
If it’s marketing help you need, we are your people! We can support you with building or refining your brand and we can create campaigns to enhance your brand awareness and lead you to conversions.
If you need reassurance, a bit of brainstorming or some general campaign support – then why not get in touch with us today? Book your free consultation. We’d love to chat!