Starting out with a new business venture always has its challenges. Doing it for the first time, the challenges can be even more apparent! And if you’ve not got someone keeping an eye out for you whilst you work your way to your dream, you’re likely to miss some key ideas that will make your business more or less successful.
At the Hoxton Mix, we’ve had hundreds of new and established businesses come through our doors over the years and many of them share similar traits. Here’s 10 that we think you should know!
1. Do what you know.
What are you highly skilled at? Where do your deep interests lie? What areas are you most experienced in? What industries do you know inside and out? It’s easy to say “Do what you love!” but too often this get translated into “Do what you love the idea of!” and that’s not the same proposition at all. If you’re just getting started be absolutely sure that you have a fundamental knowledge and genuine interest in the field you’re entering. Starting a business because it seems sexy or boasts huge payoffs down the line is a very risky reason to be getting into something. Building a business around your strengths & skills and in a field you have a deep knowledge and experience of gives you a much higher chance of success. Do this and you might actually find that you love what you’re doing too!
2. Build a great team
Henry Ford didn’t know every detail about car manufacture (see his famous court case) but he did have every advisor necessary available to him, organised in a way that enabled him to not only revolutionise the nature of personal travel in the 20th Century but to revolutionise mass production itself! We can’t know everything and it would be a waste of your time and energy as a business owner to try to know and do everything. Instead, start to build a team (it may be one at a time, or you might have the finances to make multiple hires). Either way, surround yourself with people (staff, advisors and partners) who complement your business as a team and will maximise your chances of success.
3. Remember, planes take off into the wind!
Henry Ford was full of inspirational quotes, this is one of our favourites; “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” There will always be challenges and struggles in your business but you can start building something that gives you the best chance of getting off the ground right from the very start. In fact you might want to consider how you design your business to “fly”! Often a business plan is something that new business people shy away from, it requires certain types of thinking and questions that are a challenge before you’ve even got started but it’s precisely for this reason that it’s so important you do it. You must think clearly and honestly about the business you’re aiming to build and that means you must understand the field you’re getting into. What field are you playing on? What are the other teams involved? What shape is the ball? Who’s with you and who’s against you?! There are plenty of business plan templates and advisors that you can find through a quick search but we would recommend doing something that’s concise and that forces you to think clearly and precisely. It doesn’t need to take weeks (in fact this often ends up sapping your inspiration). If you know your industry you should be able to do this in less than a day. You don’t need every detail in place but you do need to know the lay of the land and keep it short and sweet.
It’s common in the early stage of business to feel the need to say “yes!” to every opportunity. Perhaps this is born out of the idea that if you say “no” you might miss that one thing that’s going to make or break your business… or maybe you just need the revenue! The problem with this way of thinking is that it doesn’t take into account where you want your business to be in one, two or three years time. Ultimately this means, if you’re saying yes to whatever comes along, you’ll get side-tracked by multiple ventures that spread you thin and dilute your offering, making you less effective and less productive. Instead, have a clear goal for your business and then judge everything you do based on whether it will take you closer to or further away from that goal. This way, you’ll be able to do your thing great and not do a bunch of other things poorly, giving you a much higher chance of ending up where you want to be! ALWAYS ask yourself, “Will this opportunity move us nearer or further to our goal for the business?” Then relentlessly cut everything else out!
5. Be the consummate startup.
The Hoxton Mix is based right in the heart of London’s (& the UK’s) technology and startup sector. Something we see here, day in day out, is how small but quick thinking, innovative companies make the most amazing use of the resources they have. From finding staff that believe in their product or cause, to making sure new technologies are used to track everything and automate things that no longer need to be done manually, so that resources aren’t wasted. Obviously if you’re already with The Hoxton Mix we don’t need to tell you not to waste money on owning your own office or not to buy the bells and whistles that makes some folk feel like they’ve “made it”. When it comes to expenditure be ruthless with yourself first (you are the leader after all). Ask yourself “Does this expense specifically move us towards our defined goals for the business?” If it doesn’t, there might be other good reasons for going ahead but be absolutely clear why and don’t try to convince yourself otherwise. Being honest with yourself first means you’ll have a much better understanding of your business and what its health is at any given moment.
6. Get your elevator pitch togetherAlways be ready to pitch your business. From a lucky encounter with an investor to a curious customer, have your pitch ready. But don’t forget, the elevator pitch isn’t about selling whoever you’re talking to in one go, it’s about presenting the essence of your business in a way that intrigues your listener and gets them interested in hearing more!
7. Be prepared to bootstrap
If this is your first time, it’s probable that you don’t have a tried and tested history. If you expect to come up with an idea and then march out to find someone else who’ll put up the money… think again! Unless you’ve got very generous family, it’s a rare occurrence for any investor to put money into a business where both the owner and the idea are untested. At the early stages, figure out what the absolute minimum product development is that’s required to test your business and then get there quickly so you have some form of evidence that your idea is worth investing in! If you want a better idea of how to go about bootstrapping, check out Seth Godin’s Bootstrapper’s Bible (it’s free!).
8. Be healthy
Unless you’ve got the constitution of an Ox, take care of your mind and body! Study after study all agree that good physical health directly impacts your mental health. If you want to be able to make level-headed decisions in difficult situations (there’ll be plenty of those situations), having mental clarity is going to be key. If you want to have the stamina to keep going when it matters, you have to put something in to get that result out. We’re not going to tell you what we have for breakfast or how often you should exercise but we are going to say, make sure you invest in your personal health!
9. Don’t confuse hype with content
It’s natural to want to make a song and dance about your business but don’t make the mistake of making unrealistic claims about what you do or provide. Creating hype around your product and getting attention on what you do is great and essential. You only have to look at someone like Richard Branson to see an artist at work. But look behind the balloon travel and record breaking kitesurfing attempts and you’ll see multiple businesses with products and services that not only deliver time and again but that have changed the very way we live our life in the 21st Century. Attract attention however you see fit but never misrepresent your business! AND FINALLY..
10. Be like Winston Churchill!
Churchill is well known for his pithy quotes and perhaps no more so than for saying “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in,”. It’s inspiring! But the remainder of that sentence isn’t so often remembered… “except to convictions of honour and good sense.” AND GOOD SENSE! Sometimes, it is the right time to stop. Often we don’t want to because we think of failure as a negative thing or we take it as a personal failure as well as a business failure. But if it makes good sense to stop, if you’ve reasoned it out, and ploughing ahead will put you in a worse position or if the people around you are pointing out that you’re headed for disaster… it might be the right time to stop. But stopping that particular endeavour or course of action doesn’t mean stopping being an entrepreneur or business person. The difference between the ultimately successful and not, is what you do next… You could do nothing, or make excuses for why it wasn’t your fault; “market forces”, “external factors”, etc. OR you could take a careful analytical look at what went right and what went wrong, understand what mistakes were made and learn the lessons necessary to move on to the next thing. And if you can do that, you’re much more likely to be in the good company of truly successful Entrepreneurs! — Have you been inspired by any of these tips? Tell us what was helpful in the comments below.