Having worked for myself for 23 years I feel really sorry for people trying to start out on their own in today’s economic environment. Over the years I have enjoyed the independence, lack of interference from anyone else in my business and the satisfaction of building a business from nothing.
However, following 13 years of bad examples of business practice in Government and the Public Sector (who are hampered in their work by centralized state interference) we have not been set good examples. For example, the answer to debt is to borrow more money (or print more to turn into junk bonds), the answer to what do I do if I don’t make my business more successful? is to take even bigger bonuses (bankers). If I feel that I’m not paid enough then I claim more in expenses, courtesy of the taxpayer (MP’s).
I hope that we can now put this era behind us and believe that the new coalition have better ideas as to how we should ‘do business’. We certainly seem to be seeing better leadership by example, although it’s still early days, and the over-regulation is gradually being dismantled, we hope.
From my own experiences working for myself, I have a few tips for those starting out in business now.
1) Start in a modest way, try not to borrow money if you can raise your own capital, or borrow from a lender that has a good track record.
2) Grow the business slowly but surely as you would tender or nurture a plant. Don’t expect to be driving in the biggest and fastest car overnight or living in the biggest house within a month (unless you were rich enough to start with!). Start out with a good business plan and be prepared to adapt it according to changing circumstances. Get advice on this if necessary.
3) Although I still work in a one man business, my advice is to only start employing others as the business grows and you have the need and wherewithal to do so.
4) Advertise your business through local publications or if you must advertise on-line avoid buying from cold-callers who promise to put you in their directories and are quick to lower the price if you say you can’t afford their package or tell you they can guarantee to put you on the front page of Google. Some will even lie about their company in order to sign you up, as I have learnt from bitter experience. These kinds of advertising options were not available when I started my business and I’m sorry for those who get caught by them, as I have been myself.
5) If your prospective accountant makes you do all the work in order to keep your costs down, if your business is simple and straightforward like mine you can enter your own tax return on line although it took a while to set up in my case, (but then, I always seem to be unfortunate).
6) Don’t let big predatory companies ‘bully’ you, particularly into paying bills when they are tardy and sometimes even claim that your invoices to them are not legitimate. I have been treated in this way and refuse to be intimidated or harassed by them, especially if they don’t deliver you the service they originally promised. You are as as legitimate if not more so than they are, stand your ground!
7) If you wish to have your own website to advertise your business, preferably get someone you know to design and fine tune it. Some larger companies set up websites which are not fine-tuned to what you request and even have spelling mistakes and just do not deliver what you want but are quite happy to take your money each month. Make sure you are the one who calls the shots. You can build your own website which will be much more effective and in my experience will encourage the right kind of ‘traffic’. Contact me if you want further advice in this area. Networking is also useful to find people with the right skills to do the more specialist jobs.
8) Expect every day to be different, especially if you work on your own. Sometimes you get great rewards and job satisfaction, other times things go pear-shaped or lethargy creeps in. Despite the misfortunes one can have, I still awake looking forward to the challenge of another day of freedom working for myself!
My very best wishes to those of you starting out in business, remember, usually smaller businesses create jobs, medium and larger companies often make people redundant at the drop of a hat.