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Thursday 6th April 2023

How to start a business

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“Hire staff based on their personal qualities and not just their skills. Skills can be taught. 

“Character is more important, particularly in a small organisation where everyone has to muck in.”

 

My advice to anyone who is thinking about owning and running a business is to stop thinking and start doing. 

That said, being able to anticipate some of the problems you might face – and the many mistakes you simply will make – is never a bad idea. With that in mind, here are a few things you should know.

Crucially, don’t for one second think you can do it alone. If you don’t have a business partner who shares your determination to succeed and your appetite for adventure, I very much doubt you will stay the course. 

More to the point, why would you want to? if you don’t go through the incredible highs and the awful lows with a significant professional other, you are depriving yourself of a shared experience that makes the whole endeavour worthwhile.

Secondly, you will have many sleepless nights, but you will never, ever be bored. Mundane tasks become utterly compelling when they concern your own business – just don’t expect your colleagues to share your fascination with the choice of typeface for the company business cards.

And if this all sounds a bit vague, let me also share some practical advice. 

Hire staff based on their personal qualities and not just their skills. Skills can be taught. Character is more important, particularly in a small organisation where everyone has to muck in.

Always trust your instincts when it comes to clients. If they are rude or demanding, they aren’t worth having, for your employees’ sake as well as your own. 

Much of running a company boils down to a single choice which permeates every action you take – you can either choose to be obsessive, or to be average. You will have to strain every sinew to make an impact in a crowded market, where bigger players will always have a competitive advantage simply by virtue of their size. Hard work and attention to detail is critical for making your offer stand out.

“The good news? Striking out on your own is always exhilarating, often infuriating, dizzyingly exciting and challenging beyond measure.”

Finally – a warning. When you start a new business, you will be gobsmacked by which of your friends and former colleagues line up to lend their support, and bitterly disappointed by those who expect or even want you to fail. You will remember and value the former group as long as you live.

Oh, and one more thing. Cancel your holiday for the next two years – unless your idea of a holiday is working in a different location with a better view. 

The good news? Striking out on your own is always exhilarating, often infuriating, dizzyingly exciting and challenging beyond measure. 

If that’s not living, I don’t know what is.