Since the days of buying sweets and chocolates before school and offloading them to hungry teenagers during break time, I have always seen myself going into business. Buying and selling anything I saw potential in on Ebay, gradually led me to study business in sixth form. Following on from this I went on to study International Business at university; all the while I was always looking to make some cash on the side. Despite all the theory you learn through formal education, I can honestly say I learnt more in the first month of starting my own official business than I had learned in my lifetime. A tip for any budding entrepreneurs (taken from Nike) – just do it!
I may have learned a lot, but the majority of these lessons came from mistakes, which I aim to never repeat again. I was lucky enough to have a few mentors around me; people who have been in various types of businesses for many years and who were more than happy to share their knowledge – though you must learn to pick and choose what you listen to and act upon, carefully. Below are some of the best advice I was lucky enough to have bestowed upon me while I ran my first business, a car wash.
Advice #1 – Have a plan
This is where I went wrong, and I started off on the wrong foot. I was told about a business opportunity and naive enough to jump into it without doing my due diligence. It was pretty much doomed from the start thanks to obscenely high rent, and all of this could have been avoided had I had a plan to begin with. It would have been as clear as day that the numbers wouldn’t work out, and I spent a year tied to the business as a repercussion. The plan doesn’t have to be extensive or elaborate; just enough to work off and give you guidance, which I sorely lacked.
Advice #2 – Always look for a competitive edge
While I didn’t have much competition around me at the time, I was still struggling to get the regular business. Was our service of a good quality? It certainly was. Was I in a bad location? Possibly. Was I failing with the marketing? Absolutely. I should have at the time looked at all the areas of my business and brought them up to the same level in order to give us that competitive edge. What use was having the best service if no one knew about it?
This piece of advice really struck a chord with me, and a new business I got involved in a few years later truly benefitted. We sell meeting systems, but since there are many booking systems on the market, it’s hard to differentiate. However, after some thorough research, long-term planning and strategy, we found a way to give us a competitive edge, eventually leading us to be our local market leader. Sometimes you don’t need to have the best of anything, you just need to work what you have to your advantage!
Advice #3 – Build a strong team
High labour turnover can be very disruptive and very detrimental to the growth of a business. Get your hiring right from the start, even if that means playing the waiting game until the right person comes along. Don’t just look at the person who is perfect on paper, you need to find those with strong character and motivation to contribute to the success of a business, not just piggy-back off others. Treat these people as family and they will give their all to the business.