When I started my company, I had a phone and a laptop, neither were new or particularly high spec and I had a strong loathing of learning new tech. Years later my business has led to;
And that is just some of the stuff I’ve achieved. Despite being in business for over 20 years I can remember when I trained as a coach that the one module of my training that I really feared was marketing (think buckets of tears and fears that I’d never be able to get over my absolute terror of public speaking) and yet now I can help people grow a business with just that – a phone and a laptop.So here I share my top tips for start-up success (and to dealing with those fears that seriously damage success!)
What is my recipe for small business success?
As with every great recipe that you wish to emulate from your favourite TV chef you start by being drawn in by the image of the dish and the title. If you think of this laterally when it comes to your new business venture you will start to appreciate how important it is to have a clear vision of your business. Create a mission statement, a vision as well so that your customers can understand why they work with you and no one else. It will also become part of your solid foundations to business success as you grow to know what you stand for and why. Clearly defined goals are imperative from day one. With my clients, I tend to work out 1, 3 and 5 year goals. However, what many people forget to do is create Now Goals. Now goals are the ones that need to be dealt with and get ignored at the expense of desires for more success and new opportunities. By factoring them into your weekly, monthly and yearly plans you don’t neglect them and create the space and time to actually achieve the vision for your company. With one client by doing this they were able to meet their new sales targets for the month in 3 days and the sales goals for the next 6 months in 3 weeks! So work out what you want your business to look like.
Have you ever seen a recipe for sprout and chocolate sponge cake or kale and beef ice cream? No? Why not? Because they’d be no market for it! (Unless you were looking to create some weird talking point.) You too need to check there’s a market for what you offer. It may be a lovely idea however unless you can find a market for it, it’s a costly hobby and not a business. So do your research.
You are likely to fail at the first stage of your business recipe if you have the wrong tools. For instance, would you try and slice or julienne carrots using a spoon? No? Why not? Because you know you need to use a sharp instrument to get the right shapes, right? The same applies to your business. I get rather cross when I meet new businesses at networking events and watch what I call the hyenas circling advising the new business owner (wrongly) that they need expensive websites, business literature or costly programmes. You don’t, remember how I started my business with just a phone and a laptop? Start with the essentials. Don’t be foolish enough to think that you can stick with just a laptop and a phone thus work out what is really essential and what is shiny things that look like fun. Shiny things are a big problem to the new business and I explore that in greater detail in this article. Investing in the right technology and the right tools for your business is essential so make sure these needs feature in your goals too.
If you want to grow you will need help. A chef doesn’t cook every dish in the restaurant, they will have assistants. And I too have always invested in a few things from day one that gives my business strong foundations. If you aren’t an expert in accounting or web design, don’t waste your time trying to be. That’s a sure fire way to use up your precious commodity of time. Work out what is essential and get help. There are a lots of free or low-cost resources to help you. I love Canva for my marketing, Hubspot for my CRM and Mailchimp for my email campaigns. And accounting resources like QuickBooks are great for ensuring you know your numbers. Remember getting the right foundations is like getting the right ingredients – fundamental to success.
I don’t mind admitting that this has been an issue for me in the past (and is still something I need to be aware of!) I love learning however only in the areas that interest me, and sometimes in business you have to suck it up and learn stuff you really don’t want to. Be prepared to learn new things. What skills do you lack? Public speaking? IT? Marketing? Phone skills? These and many others can greatly impact on your results. And of all of the skills you need to check you have, check your confidence levels. I’ve helped many a business owner create a marketing strategy or business goals only to redirect the session and help them appreciate that their confidence and self-belief have taken a nose dive and they have no faith in themselves or their ability. Trying to run your business like that can greatly impact your results. Get your confidence powered up before you attempt anything and remember to check your confidence levels. They can change, so learn how to keep motivated too. This course could help with that too. And when it comes to getting your business known and loved and keeping the sales coming in (even when you are busy or on a beach) use my marketing production line. If you are using 8 to 10 of these tools relevantly, consistently and with your target audience in mind you will grow your business! Click here to learn more.
It is really important to remember you are you. Sounds obvious right? However, so many clients will tell me things like “I’m not doing as well as you because I’ve not done X yet?” or “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that!” Just like different ovens will cook at different speeds and in different ways, remember you are unique and as such the quickest way to success is by being yourself. This enables you to showcase your passion and people love passion. They love to get caught up in the excitement. I often hear people in the traditional professions such as accountancy or law make comments like “I know this won’t be interesting to most of you…” The fact is you are passionate about what you do and you are allowed to show that passion. People buy from people and they want to feel like they are in expert hands. It’s not about how long you’ve been in business, it’s about the results you can get for your customers. And there is no set time for success. Some people will achieve fast because of the person they are. They want it yesterday and will work long days to get there. Others want to work smarter and in a way that nurtures their body and protects their loved ones too. Understanding and appreciating your values, beliefs and experiences will enable you to work with the person you are and get there in the way you want at the speed you want. Stop looking over your shoulder at the next person. They are not running your business or vice a versa!
The proof is in the eating, right? Therefore, if your business is not delivering what you want from it what needs to change? Let’s start with your salary. Your salary is not a luxury. I often hear people say “yes we are making a profit.” And then when I ask if that includes a wage for themselves they often add “Oh no, I’ve not been paid yet!” If your turnover doesn’t factor in wages for you, you are not getting the right results. Be prepared to do something different. If you made a cheese sauce and it was lumpy and floury you wouldn’t do the same next time, would you? Be prepared to analyse your results and troubleshoot. Go back to the start and look at your goals. Are they the right goals? Did you stretch yourself too thin or did you not push yourself enough?
Don’t expect to be an expert in everything from day one. Would you send a 5 year old into the kitchen and expect them to know how to whip up a soufflé. Why not? Because they’d need guidance, support, knowledge, ingredients, tools and practice. Same goes for your business.
Not everyone’s cooking is to the same standard. What raises some above others is the determination to be the best they can be. They constantly look to learn more and hone their skills. If you want to have the time to really grow your business and get the results you want, learn to outsource, automate and employ. By doing this you will create the space to get the results you want. As a guide if it is something you can do with little or no thought, then it’s likely you can outsource, automate or employ someone else to do it.
And lastly get a mentor. One of the reasons I can make a divine Victoria Sponge is not because I had a perfect recipe or the finest ingredients, it’s because I had the most epic mentor. My Nan was in service years ago and could cook anything from scratch and my mouth just waters thinking of her dishes. I learnt so much from her that was never written in any recipe book! It was years and years of doing it that had made her the expert and I benefited because I chose to listen to her. Get yourself a coach and or a mentor. They will enable you to learn so much more and really hone your focus and accountability. My Nan knew subtle little ideas that could make the fluffiest lightest sponge cake, and if I hadn’t taken the time to listen and want to improve I couldn’t have benefited from her infinite wisdom. Who are you going to lean on for support? For guidance? To road test ideas? As much as I adored my Nan she is not the person I would turn to first when roadtesting a business idea! Why? Because that is not her area of expertise and quite frankly anything I do she’d say “That’s nice dear.” You don’t want “that’s nice dear” answers, you want answers and conversations that challenge you and enable you to work out if it is actually going to work!)