13 March, 2019
Do you have what it takes to start – and run – a business of your own?
Have you ever thought “I’d love to open a flower shop” or “Wouldn’t it be fun to have our own wine bar” or perhaps “A book shop with a café would be a great business”?
Pretty much every single person has at some stage thought “I’d love to have a business of my own”.
Today it has never been easier to start out on your own – in pretty much any business. Getting started is one thing, growing and staying viable is a whole other ball game or flower shop …
There is so much to consider, and, in my experience, it starts with You: do You have what it takes to start and run a business of your own? Here are some questions to consider when thinking about getting started in your own business:
1. Are you able to organise your time?
… and the answer here is ‘yes’. When you start out as a “solopreneur”, you will wear all the hats: Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Operations Officer (COO), Sales Manager, Marketing Manager, Accounts, Dispatch, and so it goes on.
Some years ago I met Peter Alexander, the founder of Peter Alexander sleepwear. He told me the story about his early days in business, when it was just himself and his mother. They used to answer the phone with different voices. “Hello, Barbara in Dispatch … okay, I’ll put you through to Sally in Accounts …’ New voice: ‘Hello, Sally in Accounts … I’ll put you through to our Sales Department …’ New voice: ‘Natalie in Sales here …’ They developed the characters so they always knew who they were. Reflecting on this story it’s interesting to wonder if today, Peter would feel the need to create this charade.
Today many clients and customers enjoy knowing they are working with a bespoke business and that they deal personally with the owner and founder. That said, you are still the one managing your time to get everything done. J
Eventually, you will have other people to help you. At the start it will just be you so you will need to be organised. One of the key balancing acts that new business owners need to master is doing the work and at the same time looking for new clients and customers; you are responsible not only for production, but sales and business growth.
2. How well do you distance yourself from what others think about you?
One of my favourite quotes is from Eleanor Roosevelt: ‘You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realised how seldom they do.’ Pretty much most people are actually thinking about themselves.
If you feel a bit miffed by this, think of it as liberating, as a type of freedom. So often, people are held back by concern about what others will think. If you want to start a business, you have to go for it full-heartedly – don’t let others hold you back.
Give yourself a good talking to and remind yourself that people most likely aren’t thinking about you at all. Which leads me to self-talk …
3. Can you control your self-talk?
There will be the voice that tells you, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing! This business is a fabulous success,’ and then there will be the voice that says, ‘Who do you think you are? Just look at this disaster happening here.’
Are you able to deal with this second voice? Maybe you already have a technique for dealing with negative self-talk. A way to diminish the power of this voice of doubt.
I call her Natalie and this separates her – over there. This gives her less power. When she starts to speak, I greet her and sometimes I even say out loud: ‘Oh, hello, Natalie! Here you are again’
I deliberately challenge the language. So ‘This is a disaster,’ is challenged with: ‘Disaster? Really? No, not a disaster. It might be a bit inconvenient right now – and there is a way to solve it.’ I find that challenging overly-dramatic language works, more often than not. A disaster is when your children are swept out to sea, your house burns down and so on.
When a client doesn’t buy your stuff, that’s disappointing, not a disaster! Whatever happens in business, there’s a solution. Moderate self-talk and diminish catastrophic language will help you in business.
4. Are you tenacious? And resilient?
Being tenacious will help you hang in there for the long haul – so you keep moving towards your goal and stick with it. Having a clear vision, your values and a sense of why you are in business, as well as having a strong team around you, will support your ability to be tenacious. There are numerous examples of tenacity in the history of startups. Who would have thought in 1999 that the tenacity of Larry Page and Sergy Brin would see Google unseat Yahoo? The terrific movie Joy (2015), based on the life of Joy Mangano (played by Jennifer Lawrence), demonstrates the tenacity necessary in business. Joy has an idea for a miracle mop and overcomes many hurdles to bring her mop to market. Build tenacity by listening to podcasts, reading biographies and watching interviews with successful people talking about their business journey.
Resilience is different to tenacity. Resilience refers more to ‘bounce-back-ability’ – the ability to bounce back when things go wrong, when ideas fail or when disappointments occur. A big part of building resilience in business is not taking matters personally. How many editors said ‘no’ to J K Rowling before one accepted the Harry Potter series? And one of my favourite examples of resilience is Malala Yousafzai, who said, ‘I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up.’ (Huffington Post, September 2013)
5. Can you focus on one thing?
We are constantly told that women are good at multi-tasking, and, in general, as workers, everyone needs to be able to multi-task. However, the evidence shows that the greatest success comes from being able to focus. I often use a timer. I set the timer for fifteen minutes and do just one thing till the timer goes off. Sometimes, I make it twenty-five minutes, forty-five minutes or even just five minutes. It is a great way to create laser focus on a particular task.
The level of addiction to checking phones, Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter and the like is being described as the equivalent of a drug or alcohol addiction. The same dopamine trigger takes place when we see someone has responded to a post or message, and people have become addicted to the dopamine hit.
One of the key ways to stand out in the future will be the ability to stay focused on the business matters at hand.
6. Are you able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances?
Or are you the sort of person who likes regularity and certainty? Being in business can be tumultuous, ambiguous and uncertain; cash flow can be erratic, clients demanding, suppliers’ timing might fluctuate, and predicting the right product mix can be a gamble.
I believe that, for many people, creating your own business can still give you a level of certainty that is missing from many companies and organisations where people work. However, you have to be able to adapt to changing circumstances. You have to stay on your toes and manage whatever comes up.
Many of the people I work with are running their business “on the side” or as a “side hustle” while working part time or even full time. This is a terrific way to get started – and for 2 reasons. It allows you to build up cash reserves through earning money while the business gets off the ground and at the same time it gives you the opportunity to test the market for your business idea. Think about Alyce Tran who now runs TDE – her first business was a fashion blog while working as a lawyer. TDE came about because she couldn’t find an elegant compendium for her legal papers. TDE grew from her fashion knowledge, it was not their first business.
Getting your personal finances in order before you start your business is critical. There are five steps you can take:
- Get really clear about how much you need to live – every day, every week, every month.
- Get real about your debt: credit cards, short-term loans, student loans, any other amounts owing. What is the total outstanding debt and how much do you have to pay each month to pay back your debt? Each week?
- Add your debt repayment amounts to your annual expenses. This total amount is called your ‘Buffer Balance’.
- Open a separate bank account in your name and refer to it as your ‘Business Buffer Account’.
- Most financial experts will suggest you need to have the amount of your total annual expenses – your buffer balance – saved and sitting in this separate bank account. I would agree. So start saving!
When you develop fiscal discipline – the ability to manage your own money, this helps prepare you for managing the money in your business.
The stronger your desire to get started, the more imaginative you will be about how to get your personal finances in order. One of my clients cleared out their cupboards and shed, sold things on eBay, and held a huge garage sale to raise extra money to fund her business startup. The more passionate you are about minimising expenses so you can save more, the more diligent you will be about reducing credit card debt and avoiding unnecessary items.
As a very good friend of mine said some years ago: ‘Do for five years what no one else will do and you can do for the rest of your life what no one else will be able to do.’ This echoes finance guru Dave Ramsey, who said, ‘If you live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.’
Ask yourself: how much do you really want to build your own business? It’s time to get your personal finances in order.
Today more than ever pretty much anyone with a great idea, a computer and a reliable internet connection can take that idea and create and grow a successful business. What’s your idea? Will it be a side hustle? Is it a hobby that could generate some extra income and maybe one day grow to become a business? The possibilities are endless. Take the leap and one of my favourite things to remind myself “Be brave, and even if you’re not feeling brave, pretend. Just keep going, take action”
Ingrid Thompson. Educator, author, podcaster and mentor. This is an edited extract from So You Want to Start a Business; 7 steps guide to create, start and grown your own business Morgan James 2018. Ingrid’s mission is to cut through the noise and distraction to help business startups focus on what’s important when getting started in business. You can contact Ingrid directly on email@example.com or connect through LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/ingridthompson
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