Starting A Business

Starting A Business – Be Your Own Boss
The leap to self employment

Starting a business, and being your own boss is an attractive thought to many. Yet the prospect of giving up a secure monthly income, scares many of us, to the point that many of us never take the plunge. This is my personal story…

In 2014 I stood on yet another very packed train from London to Peterborough. It was a humid day and what with fraught tempers, a lack of seats and the thought of paying thousands of pounds a year to travel in such a way I started to contemplate my life.

Yes, I had a good job yet I left home at 6.20am each morning and was lucky to be home by 7.30pm, knowing that as soon as I got home I would be already thinking about my journey for the next day. I began toying with the alternatives… find a job closer to home; easier said than done! Placing this alternative in the possible pile I then began to muse about what I really loved about my job, which is in a nutshell developing others to reach their full potential. I had gained extensive experience in working across a diverse range of sectors, I am passionate about what I do and finally I am well qualified to do what I do. Then the thought struck me, why not start my own business.

I had toyed with this a couple of years ago, but just had not been brave enough or confident enough in my own abilities to take the plunge. The idea that I could still be making this long commute everyday up until I retired in twenty years time however, appealed even less.

So, I set about thinking what does it actually take to make a success of being one’s own boss? And was it really the route that I really wanted  to take?

However, the more I thought about it the more exciting possibilities, such as having better control over my own time and a substantially higher income appealed more and more. But I also knew there would be significant challenges: where would I find my clients? As the business grew would I be able to cope with the running the business while also servicing my clients? And how would I cope without the structure of my daily routine, the support of my colleagues and the social side of working in London?

I needed a plan!

Action Planning 3

PLAYING DEVILS ADVOCATE
I sat down and really though through my motivation for becoming self-employed. I also considered:

  • How would I market my business?
  • How would I turn leads into customers?
  • Did I really have the skills to make a success of it?
  • Was there a need for my type of service? Was the market already flooded with people offering the same services?

The main obstacle that I could see was my lack of marketing knowledge or experience. How could I remedy this? I attended a few business network meetings and spoke to others who had made the leap. I asked lots of questions, listened carefully and made several useful contacts including a marketing specialist. I asked him to mentor me and with his expertise I approached my marketing campaign like a military operation. Yes, it was hard work yet the result is well worth it. Every time I look at my brand, my website I feel a strong sense of pride.

LESSONS LEARNED
In listening to others I also found it was easy to gloss over important things and I took note of what others had learned:

I am accountable to no-one. Not true… there are a number of people not least clients and government authorities. Satisfying clients, managing paperwork, enquiries, writing blogs and newsletters etc, was going to take time and effort, which I had to be prepared to give.

I can dictate my own time. Many people shared with me just how many hours they had to work to start their business. Nine to five was certainly a thing of the past and many cited working much longer hours to juggle all of the demands. The lesson here was: be prepared to work very hard!

It’s easier to run your own business than to work for someone else. Again many people spoke of learning new skills to make their business succeed. Earlier I shared my lack of knowledge with regard to marketing and having to seek expert advice and guidance, work hard and learn fast. I was no longer responsible for only one function.

WHAT ARE THE SUCCESS FACTORS?
I asked people I met what were the top three factors to make a business successful and here are some of their top tips.

  •  Be self-disciplined and motivated: You are responsible for everything and without you the ship will sink. Set clear objectives for your self and review them every three months. If you can find a business coach who will offer challenge and constructive feedback
  • Know your business: You must understand everything about your business – the services offered, products for sale, market drivers etc. Pay attention to facts and figures, keep accounts up to date, pay bills on time and be ready to adapt and flex as the market evolves
  • Know your unique selling point: know what makes you different from the rest and promote it, stay ahead of the competition by reviewing your services etc., every six months. Ask yourself are you keeping ahead of latest trends, are you continuing to develop your own skills so you can offer new and creative services etc
  • Be organised: keep a schedule, plan your day as you would if you were working for another organisation and were still accountable to someone else. Set aside a designated space to work from. Start at a set time each day, and finish at a set time too
  • Learn how to persuade, influence and negotiate: you will have to persuade others that they should choose you! Think about what makes you different and better than the competition. What’s in it for them? What’s their need?
  • Be prepared to take risks: becoming your own boss is risky. What if it doesn’t work out? How long would it take you to find paid employment again? Do an audit if all your personal expenditure, be ruthless about cutting back on your spending and work out a budget and stick to it!
  • Establish your brand: what is your brand? This is important as it drives the marketing strategy. Using your values can often be a good starting point.

DIVE RIGHT IN
Having weighed up the pros and cons of setting up my own business I developed my business plan:

  • I conducted a SWOT analysis to understand how I could add value and assess my competition. From this I developed Equaliise’s unique selling points
    See our Blog:
    PERSONAL SWOT ANALYSIS
  • I stood back and really thought about the services I could offer and worked out a realistic pricing structure
  • I developed my business plan and identified all of my statutory obligations I would have to observe
  • In my business plan I worked out the initial financial outlay and phased expenditure accordingly
  • Each month I review my business plan and critically ask myself the question ‘Am I on track?’.

Finally, yes its been turbulent at times but the work life balance and the sense of fulfilment I have achieved makes it all worth while.

For further advice on how to set up your own business, visit
Starting a Business