You like your job: good people, great perks, plenty of professional development opportunities – and, of course, that regular monthly paycheck. But still, you dream of starting out on your own. Perhaps you already have a promising business idea, but how do you make the transition from employee to employer? How can you develop a business owner’s mentality?
Starting a business is a major upheaval – a bit like when you first leave home. You have to take responsibility for many different matters and give up some of the privileges you’ve taken for granted down the years – including evenings, weekends, holidays, social occasions and (for the time being) a steady income.
Of course, the main incentive is to get rich, but until that happens you’ll face challenges on all fronts. So you’ll need to develop the independent cast of mind that defines a business owner. It’s a big topic, but here are some thoughts to get you started.
Confidence is key
One thing you’ll learn pretty soon is that businesses have ups and downs. Monday you’re excited about your biggest ever project, Tuesday your biggest client goes bust.
Sure, employees have bad days too, but they still get paid. As a business owner, whenever bad judgement, bad luck or bad timing strike, they can affect every area of your life – mood, finances, health and relationships (if you still have time for them).
Surviving all this requires confidence. If you’re to rise to the challenges and grasp the opportunities, you must learn how to nurture your inner Richard Branson. And while few of us possess his level of expansive, entrepreneurial confidence, we can all build up our own stock of it if we regularly do the following:
- Take action.
- Take control.
If there’s one attribute that defines successful business owners, this is it. However, it must be meaningful action – the kind that means business rather than ‘busyness.’
Nobody relishes tasks that involve potential rejection, awkwardness, complexity or even hard work. Yet tackling them every day – getting to grips with what scares or inhibits you – is what breeds confidence. And that’s the mark of an entrepreneur.
Not everything in business is under your control, but many things are – and dealing with them can conserve precious stores of confidence. For example, by strategically delaying the official launch of your new endeavour, you can build up a safety net fund and avoid a lot of confidence-sapping anxiety.
There are other areas you can control too: getting fully insured, backing up your computer files, automating your invoicing system and putting aside enough money for tax. By taking control of these simple matters you’ll avoid a lot of sleepless nights.
You can’t please everybody – so don’t try
The strange thing about choosing a business idea is that your second decision may matter more than your first. Obviously, you need to decide what the business will actually do. But it’s even more important to decide what it won’t do.
Creating a niche brings focus, clarifies your marketing and builds a ‘walled garden’ around your client base, because competitors will lack your specialist knowledge. So, if you start a graphic design agency that works only for legal firms, you could eventually be first choice within that sector.
As well as learning to say ‘no’ you must also get used to hearing it. There will be times when prospects aren’t interested, work is rejected and invoices aren’t paid. It can be upsetting, but there’s a simple one-word response to every kind of rejection: ‘Next.’
Make a schedule and learn how to prioritise
As a business owner, you’ll have so many different responsibilities that you could easily lose sight of what’s happening unless you learn how to schedule and prioritise. However, in doing so, you must avoid the following traps:
- Planning paralysis.
Planning paralysis is where the act of planning becomes an end in itself. After all, it’s much easier to sit and create detailed lists of actions than it is to grapple with the messy reality of actually completing them. So, at some point, the order of priority becomes less important than getting things done. If you’re not sure about your priorities, make a quick ‘to do’ list and throw some dice.
Short-termism is another easy trap to fall into. Businesses continually face urgent demands, but they also need a strategic direction in order to meet objectives and minimise risks. By breaking long-term plans down into smaller steps for completion each day, you can keep your business on track.
When the time is right, invest
At first, you’ll be doing everything – from Excel spreadsheets to mail outs. But eventually, this approach could start to hold the business back. That’s when you need to invest – whether in staff, technology or training – so you can spend more time on helping the business thrive.
However smart you think you are, there are some aspects of business you’ll always struggle with. It could be accountancy, sales, marketing or design. Once these tasks become too time-consuming, you’ll need to hire specialists who can do them better and faster. Perhaps start with a part-timer.
It’s important to set time aside for training. Whether you learn basic Photoshop or LinkedIn networking, it will pay dividends for your business. There are plenty of government grants and schemes to minimise the cost, but you’ll still need to invest the time.
By all means, spend money on technology to save time and improve the business. However, many businesses end up spending too much time on improving their technology. So, you must carefully research any purchase beforehand to ensure it really will make your life easier.
Most people start a business in order to achieve independence, often with a view to gaining long-term financial freedom. But there’s far more to be gained from working for yourself than just the money.
It’s like doing an MBA in personal development. Every day will throw up fresh issues that challenge you on every level – intellectual, emotional and even physical. The learning curve can be steep, and not everyone has what it takes, but if you have the right idea and the right attitude, starting your own business can be very enriching in more ways than one.