New BusinessIn the beginning
So, this still isn’t my blog on Software frustrations, that is coming but I felt compelled to write this instead. I’m also writing this while at my youngest son’s Football training, my hope is to get the draft completed in the 90 minutes I have here and finalise it later. Today I want to discuss starting a business, a tale of caution and reality over expectations. This is not a guide to success, other people can tell you about that, I’ve yet to create a successful business, but it is a guide to optimism.
Starting a business is easy in the UK, you contact Companies House, provide them with some basic information and you are a Director of a Limited company. Making the business successful however, is a different story, and to complicate things the definition of successful is intangible. The first goal is to reach an income that provides a living wage, which is much more difficult than it sounds to calculate. Before starting a business the expectation can be that this is based directly on money in, hours worked, projects completed. The reality is that a business costs to run, software, equipment, premises, utilities, suddenly you need to make more to achieve that living wage. However, you cannot work on paid projects all the time, businesses need to be developed, not every activity can be charged to a person, the income needed increases while the time available to do so decreases. The amount needed for every hour actually worked needs to cover not only that specific time, your experience and skills, but also all those other costs.
So, you have a great service or product, you work out how much the business costs to run, work out how much time is needed to develop and organise the business, the remaining time is for actual project work, that will tell you how much you need to charge. Announce your price along with your product or service and the people will come? No!
Some people have past experience, others it just flows naturally, some find a product or service that everyone needs, but most of us struggle. Here are my three recommendations for those in the struggle bracket. One, self belief while being flexible, two, network and build your team and three patience and perseverance. It is important at this point to remind you that this is not the recipe for success, but my personal recommendations to start the ball rolling towards the potential for success.
Self belief while being flexible
Always keep in mind your skills, remind yourself often what you are capable of, there will be conversations with clients where you go in with one expectation and the client will have another, knowing all your skills while being flexible will give you options for you to adapt. That flexibility is key, my business was set up to provide process and systems support for medium Enterprises, but I have found that there is a gap in the market for this support for Small Enterprises while the Medium expectation has been a dry well. I could keep chasing my expectations, but that way lies denial, the way out is to except the reality, so keep flexible and it will reduce your frustrations.
Network and build your team
Networking is essential but it shouldn’t be seen as a direct line to Sales. Networking is many things but at its heart is learning, the mistakes you are making, especially the ones you do not know you are making, others have made, others can see and if you listen the others can educate you. You are the expert in your field, but guess what you can’t know everything, surrounding yourself with the right people increases your access to information, so you can help that client with that issue you never considered. You think you know your business, but try explaining it in 60 seconds, try explaining it in 4 minutes, in 8, in 20, ask those that hear your pitch what they think you do, learn, improve and repeat, explain to people in the same field, explain to people outside your field and explain to someone you are not selling to. Every time you will learn something, every time you will need to adapt and over time you will improve. The starting point is not important, and of course I can introduce you to several networking groups, the starting is the critical step because networking will lead to other networks, other opportunities and through the sideway shuffle you will find your niche, but don’t stop looking, expanding, you never know who the next group or person will be.
Patience and perseverance
Networking will work, but it is going to take time, not just elapsed time but working time, it is called Networking not Netwaiting for a reason. It will be frustrating, some weeks will feel stale, static as if you are making no progress. In these weeks it is essential to persevere to remain focused, to build those relationships and develop trust. This last part is going to be the most difficult, time will erode the self-belief you have in yourself, and it is vital for you to keep building it back up, so you are ready for when the opportunities come. Being flexible throughout is essential so that you are in the right position and place to see those opportunities. Then having the Network around you to provide the links to those opportunities and the support to move forward with them is going to be key.
Why am I talking about this today, well this week I have had somewhat of a breakthrough, I have secured one new client and previously completed work has combined with networking to produce a line of potential clients. Do not get me wrong, I am not suddenly announcing success, there is a lot of work ahead, everything detailed above is still in effect. One new client and potential clients is progress, but my next step is to turn potential into actual and create a regular stream, money will follow but it is not coming tomorrow.
For others wanting to follow in my steps, be prepared, not just in terms of tools and utilising all your experience, but mentally, there will be dark days ahead, difficult days and long nights, but know there is a purpose here and hard, consistent work will take you to where you deserve to be.