Our first episode was titled, Getting Started; obviously it was our first crack at a podcast, but getting started also reflected our thoughts that for entrepreneurs and new business owners 2021 is the year to get started!
At Cypher we see lots of people who have perhaps become disgruntled with their lot, sick of working for ‘the man’ and have decided to try it for themselves. We have also seen, throughout our towns, that traditional big high-street chains are struggling, so maybe, this year we will see a new generation of independent shops, cafes, and businesses reclaim our high streets.
Talking to Alan, he feels that there could be a great reset coming; a clearing of the way for new, independent businesses that bring high levels of service and diversity to their towns and cities. Entrepreneurship brings something different to the market; it’s inspiring.
Welcome to 2021, welcome to the New Entrepren-year!
But getting started is hard. We speak to a number of start-ups and typically, as employees who have worked in a business maybe in a key role, outside of their function the accounting, the marketing, the recruitment- in fact all of the back office functions have been done for them. Now as an entrepreneur, one of the hardest things to adjust to is that they are now responsible for everything. Usually this includes things they have never encountered before, for example, dealing with accountants, dealing with suppliers, dealing with marketing or keeping their business Facebook or personal LinkedIn profile up to date.
It can be great fun dealing with some of the more creative aspects of setting up a new business, choosing fonts for letterheads or getting your logo right and building a website for example, but there is also a lot fear for the future when we get started. It means we can terrify ourselves from day one.
One of Alan’s top tips for business owners to help them overcome this initial surge of terror is to really connect with the change they want to bring to the world; connect with their purpose. It allows them to put their time and energy into that rather than worrying whether anyone will like a LinkedIn update! Get real clarity on the product and service you offer and why you are doing it – the scary future is largely made up anyway!
Our second tip is to not be afraid to ask what you think is a beginner’s question. Everyone that has started a business has, at one time or another, been where you are. Everyone has to speak to an accountant for the first time. Everyone thinks they are asking silly question like should I be a sole trader or limited company, when should I register for VAT, how should I pay my Corporation Tax. Well two things to note here. One, no, they aren’t silly questions and two, everyone asks them!
Another, helpful context, at any stage in your business cycle, is to think more about the experience you create. Reconnect with the big, game changing idea you had in the first place and create the best service and experience for your clients. Don’t worry about the competition. It will help bring your anxiety levels down and it can be extremely liberating too.
This idea of creating a great experience doesn’t have to just apply to customers either, it can be a way you deal with suppliers, your network and as you grow the people that work with you in your business. You can create a wonderful end to end experience for your team and you can do this right at the start. Too many people focus on the customer journey but if the staff hate working with you, it will fall over pretty quickly.
It is also much better to build the systems for the business you want in 12 months from the start, while you are nimble. Otherwise, you will get really successful and have to change all of your systems and processes when you are really busy, which is painful. Or, another way to look at it is if you think small, you will stay small. If you don’t have the ambition to get to the next level your business will always just be a job for you. When you are looking for promotion, you dress for the job you want, so implement the systems you want for a bigger business.
There is a trap for every business owner is that they don’t create a business for themselves, they create a Job. Once the product or service is out there, then the next step is to take someone on. It isn’t a business until it is earning money when you’re not there. It is the big hurdle for many small business owners.
Alan calls this intent. If you start with the intention that you will implement the systems and structure, the culture and the service levels that helps you run a business and delight clients, you won’t have to worry that they will be able to evolve as you grow. You have all heard the adage ‘reach for the stars, you might hit the moon’, well this way of thinking allows a business owner to access a mind-set that stretches you, it makes you better and as you get better, more people talk about you and you do go to new levels without limiting yourself.
As a business owner, being the best version of yourself you can be, will get you to the stars, or at least the moon.
Another metaphor I have heard was likening a successful business to the Chard in London. It is a skyscraper visible from all over the capital. Look at it now and it looks very impressive. But when we see only the finished structure we forgets the fact – like a successful business – that it took 10 years to build and in that time there were mistakes and hardships and struggles. Another similarity is that it was built amongst other skyscrapers that already dominated the skyline. They were there to be seen, like other businesses already in your marketplace.
The start of this blog focused on a throwback to when high streets were dominated by small, independent, diverse businesses. Well in another trip down memory lane, we think the famous Lord Kitchener World War 2 image is apt. Right now your business community needs you! We know it can be tough to get started but the business landscape is ready for diversity.
In summary, to avoid the fear of failure, before you even start, get real clarity in your purpose, be absolutely clear on the offer you are bringing to the world and then get better at it. Get a mentor, get a coach, buy books, read and learn, because a fundamental truth is that the better your product and service the more people will buy it. Then build the systems and infrastructure for the business you want, not the one you have on day 1. Be agile, your business plan will change, it will evolve and that is good.
Ultimately remember that version 1 is better than version none!