When you start a business the initial phase is incredibly exciting. Sadly this excitement can quickly disappear into terror as the reality, loneliness and monotony of running a business really kicks in.
As a business that started from nothing we understand how hard it can be – because we have done it as well. These are the top 10 start-up tips to get you through.
1. Value who you are
Take time to acknowledge your true worth. When you start out a lot of people will try to engage you (or your product) for an incredibly low price while thinking they are doing you a favour by giving the start-up business an account.
Document your worth and what you bring to the table. While it can be tempting to deal with bullies and takers in life – especially when money is short – do not succumb to the proposition that you are inherently worth less because you have just started out.
2. Take care of your body
The new energy from running a business can often persuade a new entrepreneur to work massive days “because in the long run it will pay off”.
If you neglect your body and your mental health – that will not pay off in the long term.
Make sure you factor in time for you. Do not let pushy suppliers or customers chew into your time to be physically and mentally active.
3. Care for your network
Your network is one of your most valuable assets. Make sure you are surrounded by smart and successful people who will engage and support you.
If you let your business and personal network decay by not spending time – you might be able to get an extra order or short term sale – but long term your network as a business asset will become worthless and you will have lost a significant edge in the marketplace.
A simple text or telephone call to let a person in your network know you are still around and interested can make a massive difference long term.
4. Make space for strategic thinking
Too often founders of a business do not have time to stop and actually think, and track, about their progress and focus on what is really important. This thinking time is high value quiet time with a pen and paper (it is not when you are driving).
Make sure you structure into your life the capacity to do deep thinking about the future of the business and what you need to do to get your business into what you want it to become. This creative process can potentially be done with your immediate family, a trusted mentor or a trusted business advisor.
What is important is that you do not lose sight of why you started. The creative space for making opportunities is important to keep you on track to your original goal.
5. Set realistic goals
Identifying yearly goals down into quarterly, monthly and daily targets is a basic but generally ignored business management technique. The “Ivy Lee” method of goal setting is ingrained into many businesses (including ours).
The importance of goal setting goes far beyond financial. For some start-up businesses it can take a long time to land the first client – so a daily achievable goal – can be focused on tasks like X number of cold calls, staff contact points or to review a tender document.
Whatever the type of business you are in – setting goals – is a critical element of success.
6. Find a way to stop the noise
The noise, pressure and chaos of a business can be ever present. And if you let it always sit inside you – the noise can overwhelm you.
Investigate ways you can mentally disconnect from the pressure of starting a business. The practice of mindfulness or meditation can help for some. For others this comes naturally or is helped along with a mental health worker.
However you achieve the outcome: the pressure and distraction of running a business must stop somewhere. Many family-owned businesses have the family home tied into the business – so the practice is much more difficult.
And speaking from experience – it can be done. The process of enjoying your family and friends is important. And the business should not stop that happening.
7. Break up the monotony
A successful business is always driven by repetition – a dental practice will do a targeted number of oral hygiene inspections daily, a mechanics workshop will clean a daily number of filters and a courier company will take a daily number of telephone calls.
The process of creating a business has very few wins along the way in all of the monotony. For many businesses achieving consistency along with the monotony is success.
Whatever the success is – you should celebrate it with your team. The celebration could just be a walk around the block, a high-five or a morning tea.
But the small wins should be cheered from the rooftop as you go about the long road to founding a business.
8. Know your numbers
When you start a business: your financial transactions will be almost nil. And you will know every transaction over the last 12 months by memory.
So, the process of reporting what you know is not that important. And as your business grows your knowledge of the business transactions will grow along with it. The actual documentation of what is going on, when you know what is going on, is relatively unimportant as you are intimately familiar with it.
Until you lose control and there are too many transactions.
Sadly, the point in time when a founder “loses control” is not clear. And often a founder can operate a business for many years and not know they have lost control.
Typically a business founder who has lost control needs a catastrophic event to occur before they know they have no control. And this is often too late.
Know your numbers when they are easy to know. As you grow your systems will grow to change to cope with them.
9. Seek help
Asking for help is a sign of strength. Every founder should have a great lawyer, banker and accountant to support them. And using these people to extract their highest value within a price point for the owner is an important stepping stone in getting the correct advice.
Over time the help and support can lead to formal boards for a successful owner that challenge the thinking and growth for a business.
The business support group should be complimented by a personal support group. Getting a great team of family, friends, sporting teams and professional help to support you personally is just as important to long term business success.
10. Invest in your relationships
If you are married or in a long-term relationship: make sure you keep investing into that relationship.
At no point in time have we seen an entrepreneur flourish in business while they are getting divorced. Regardless of the reasons why – divorce is hard – it saps the energy and time from a founder. The one razor-sharp focus is inevitably drawn away from the business.
While no long-term relationship is guaranteed forever – make sure you take the time to reconnect with your family and loved ones.
It can often be the most important business decision you ever make.