Let's Talk DARBiz: Starting A Business - The First Steps

A collaborative effort between SpeedontheBeat.com and DefineaRevolution.com, "Let's Talk DARBiz" was created with those entrepreneurs in mind. If you've ever wanted to start up your own company, we've got you. Today, Ali Golds, a UK-based writer and successful businesswoman in her own right, shares some tips for taking those first steps. So, without any further ado, let's get into it.

Being your own boss, running your own business, and being responsible for your own success, is one of the most amazing things you can do. The satisfaction of knowing that you, and you alone, are responsible for the achievements of the day; that the money in the bank has come from your hard work, and your happy clients are happy as a result of your applied skills and knowledge, is immeasurable.

So how do you get from an idea to a fully-fledged business? How do you take those skills, that knowledge and experience and turn it all into cold, hard cash? How do you take that first step into the unknown and come out the other side with a top class product, compelling brand and clients who love you?

As a seven-business veteran, an experienced start-up coach specialising in business development, and author of How To Be Your Own Boss As A Single Mum, as well as regularly consulted on business matters by a wide range of companies and founders, I’m going to show you. I’ve worked with start-ups run by teenagers right through to those in their 70’s and in every industry you can imagine, from artists and musicians, to bookkeepers and writers, via hairdressers and carpenters. There’s no challenge I haven’t encountered either myself, or through my coaching, and I’ve been round the block more than a few times.

I’ve experienced heady highs, and I’ve experienced the lowest of lows. From owning fancy houses and fast cars, to facing bankruptcy due to failed ventures – I’ve been there and done it. But do you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing. Ridiculously wealthy or totally broke, I love being my own boss; making my own decisions and designing my own future. The heartbreak has been worth it and, as we go through this series, you’ll see why my passion for start-ups is unrivalled. After all, knowing that the business you’ve created, whatever it may be, has helped and supported others, is humbling. And feels pretty good too.

Over the next four weeks, we’re going to look at the practicalities of starting a business, the marketing, the finance, and then how to get it off the ground. I’m going to share my time-tested hints, tips, tricks and solutions with you, plus there’ll be lots of opportunities for you to ask me questions about your own business – or to make suggestions for other articles you’d like to see.

Enjoy the journey!

Today, we’re going to look at business planning; why it’s important, and what you need to think about. We’re going to look at your business, and at you; the product or service you’re selling, and the skills you have.

Firstly, let’s get the urban myth out of the way. You know the one: a business plan only needs to be one page long. Yeah, forget that. We all know someone who’ll try to get out of doing something properly. That’s this person. After all, would you really go on the most important journey of your life without a map and a torch? Jump off a cliff, or take that first step into the unknown that I mentioned earlier, without having checked out the lay of the land first? No, I didn’t think so. A business plan gives your business just that – an overview of what it’s doing, why, where, and how it will make and spend its money. Without a business plan, trust me, it’s going nowhere fast.

Your business: business planning

There are lots of business plan pro-formas online, or you can pick one up from your local bank. Alternatively, feel free to drop me an email and I will send you the one I use. In essence, the sections you will need to consider are:

Your Business
o   Executive Summary (write this after you’ve finished the plan)
o   Business details
§  Company name
§  Address
§  Telephone number
§  Legal status
o   Key personnel
§  Name
§  Position
§  Responsibilities
§  Relevant experience and knowledge
§  Previous employment
§  Key skills
o   Your vision
§  Offer
§  Goals and targets
·         Next 12 months
·         Next 3-5 years
o   Marketing
§  Your offer
·         Products/services detail
§  Customer research
§  Competitor research
§  Pricing
·         Branding
§  Promotion, advertising and PR
o   Operations and logistics
§  Staff
§  Suppliers
§  Premises
§  Equipment
o   Finance
§  Personal survival budget
§  Sourcing finance
§  Profit and loss account
§  Budgets
§  Cashflow forecast

You can see why this wouldn’t fit on one page.

Business plans give you a framework to work to, a set of guides, at a time when all rules and guides have been thrown out of the window. It’s all new, pretty much all unknown, so having an idea of at least some of what might to be come is invaluable. A business plan will give you that. However, please see it as a living document, and something to be regularly updated. Don’t write it, put it on a shelf as a task ticked off the ‘Start up To Do’ list, and then ignore it. Plans don’t work by themselves when they’re left on the shelf; they need a lot of energy behind them. Your energy.

You: your skills

As important as your plan, is you. No number of brilliant ideas or products will make up for a business owner who just isn’t entrepreneurial. Similarly, no amount of entrepreneurial skills will substitute for a terrible set of ideas. There’s a symbiotic relationship between the two: one can’t exist without the other.

Good communicator
Listens to their gut feeling (intuition)
Good negotiator
Copes with uncertainty and complexity
Builds trust with others
Can present information
Can present themselves
Risk taker
Problem solver

We can learn to be entrepreneurial though, and can develop our existing skills to the level that we can then run our own business. Where do you sit on these? Have you identified any obvious gaps, and what can you do to redress them? For instance, are you a great communicator but not so good at negotiating or presenting information? Some of the gaps can be resolved by training, which is freely available online and at business centres; others by confidence and practice.

One of the most common things I hear from business owners in the very early stages of starting up is that they are pretty useless at everything on the list. I’d disagree. Most of use these skills in everyday life, we just don’t realise it. Take some time to think about when you last solved a problem at home, or had to be persuasive in a work situation. I’d take a guess that these both happened within the last few days, so… I’ll leave you to finish the rest of the sentence.

In reality, it just comes down to confidence – confidence that you have a great idea, that people would be interested in it and that you are the person to deliver it to them. That’s all it boils down to. And if it goes wrong? Which it does for some businesses? Well, so what? So you tried something and it didn’t work. So you got off your sofa, went out into the world, tried something and it didn’t quite hit the sweet spot. So what are you going to take from that? What learnings are there for you that you can take into your next venture? It’s not failure; it’s education. And it’s perfectly fine.

But you’re going to write a plan, and you’re going to be all over everything, aware of the pitfalls and perils, and thinking ahead, so the likelihood of failure is much reduced.

See you next week!

No comments