Tag Archives: getting started

Wise words from StartUp 2020

For a third year I’m in Central London on a frosty Saturday morning in January to learn from an impressive line-up of speakers advising 2,000 aspiring young entrepreneurs about putting head and heart into starting a business.

For the past two years I’ve reported on what I learned and readers of this blog seemed to find that useful, so here are a few quotes I picked up during a packed day of keynote talks and workshops expertly organised by Enterprise Nation.

It’s about you

“When you’re starting a brand, people are buying you… think about having a head-shot [photo in your publicity]” EJ

“Know your story and use images consistently… think Richard Branson.” EJ

“Accept full responsibility for where you are and where you’re going. Show up every day, put yourself out there, and take risks.” SAO

“There are two sales in business – the first is selling you to you, the second sale is you to others.” SAO

Don’t measure your success by other people’s metrics… know your own premium value.” SAO

“Focus on what you do best and outsource the rest.” EJ

Mindset is one of the most important tools on your journey… It can turn interest into commitment, indecision into decision, problems into opportunities, lack of resources into being resourceful and creative.” SAO

“Focus on all that you are, not what you are not. The only person you should compare yourself to is who you were yesterday.” SAO

“Solitude can lead to real clarity in business.” GT

Getting started

“Don’t get nervous about telling other people about your idea… sharing your start-up story warms up your [future] customers and builds your brand profile.” EJ

“Until you do it, you don’t understand your business – and talk to people.” AP-A

“When pitching your business idea, always be prepared, make it personal – make phone calls and ‘stand up and smile’ when you do so!” EJ

“I used my unique story to create an online community of people who felt the same.” TRW

“I found it really important to create a specific ‘ideal customer’ – we paid to get help with this. We used the detailed profile for targeting all our communications… To widen our audience, we then identified people who ‘aspired to be our ideal customer’.” TRW

“To turn interest into commitment, come up with reasons why, reduce distractions, plan your day the night before.” SAO

“Don’t over-research – just do it! It doesn’t have to be perfect – put it out there and get feedback.” NG

 “[Looking back] our best business idea was the one with the most differentiation from the competition (our USP) and ease of entry into the market.” AC

“There’s a fine line between procrastination and intentional rest.” SAO

Routes to success

“The only way to know if you’ve got something is to try it with your customers… be brave.” RS

“Our customers are the biggest force in deciding what we should be doing.” AC

“A passion turned into a business doesn’t really feel like work… But it takes hard work, so it makes it easier to put the time in.” EJ

“Your value is how much you offer against what you take in payment.” SAO

 “The worst things in life often lead to wisdom, insight and skills for the best times in your life.” SAO

“Having a clear purpose is important for pushing on when the going gets difficult.” KL

“Resilience in a number one skill to learn… try everything, challenge everything.” GT

“Look at your core business and invest in that. Don’t cut corners, collaboration can help.” NG

Working well

“As an entrepreneur, there’s no point in working on your vision if you burn out in the process.” SAO

“Take time for reflection and be more mindful; creativity will blossom… Thomas Edison used to take two hours a day to go fishing – without bait ‘so no one will disturb me, not even the fish’.” SAO

“How you start your day is important – a balance between stability and excitement about the challenge. Set your morning routine and have a good quality breakfast.” ED

“Know your team… their backgrounds, their interests beyond work. Enjoying being with them is important for the tough days. Care about them and the space they work in.” KL   

AC – Adam Carnell, Instantprint

AP-A – Abena Poku-Awuah, Legacy

ED – Evelina Dzimanaviciut, Elite Mind

EJ – Emma Jones, Enterprise Nation

GT – Guy Tolhurst, Intelligent Partnership

KL – Katrina Larkin, Fora

NG – Natalie Glaze, StayWildSwim

RS – Rachel Stockey, Kings College London

SAO – Simon Alexander Ong, business and life coach

TRW – Tim Rundle Wood, Twoodle Co

Thank you, and to Enterprise Nation for bringing us all together  www.enterprisenation.com 

https://www.enterprisenation.com/learn-something/the-top-eight-gamechanging-pieces-of-advice-we-heard-at-startup-2020

Other StartUp tips:

https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2019/01/23/wise-words-from-startup-2019

https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/enterprise-essentials-21-tips-from-startup-2018

 

Wise words from StartUp 2019 

Last Saturday I was in London for StartUp 2019 – a wonderful diverse gathering of entrepreneurs at all stages in their business start-up journeys (it seems we all have to be on a ‘journey’ these days). I’d been so impressed by StartUp 2018 I just had to return; I wasn’t disappointed…  

On getting started

“You have to ask a lot of favours at the start. Talk to as many people as possible and you may get lucky.” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

“Don’t start promoting your new business too early; people get bored. 6 – 8 weeks before you launch is enough time to build interest and excitement.”  Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

 “At the start I was vomiting every day through stress. Stress is a function of uncertainty and when you start a business everything is uncertain. I didn’t understand all the elements [of starting a business] – all start-ups go through this at some stage.” Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

“ Startup is the hardest you’ll ever work; forget work-life balance. For success it will be all-consuming – it takes a lot, it’s not for the faint-hearted.“ Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

“Don’t jump too soon [from your paid employment] … when you go fulltime so much more will happen. I took a sabbatical when our business started.”  Amber Fraser, @Bravefoods Brave Foods

 “There’s no point in turning up unless you’re going to do quality. It costs the same to do a bad job badly as a good job well.”  Mike Soutar @mikesoutar

“Hold off getting your first employee as long as possible. You’ll know when the time is right – for me it was starting to do a bad job, I was reducing my face-to-face contact [with clients and other stakeholders]” Amber Fraser, @Bravefoods Brave Foods

On funding your start-up

“Don’t raise money until you have to (and don’t listen to people that tell you otherwise)” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

 “I told my first investors (43 friends) – ‘whatever you invest, expect to lose it’.” Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

“It was eight months before we got our first investment – through cold-calling but via connections… You need to be clear about your ambitions and risk tolerances. With money you can make mistakes but blowing your life-savings is best avoided!” Amber Fraser, @Bravefoods Brave Foods

On choosing an investor… “There’s a real difference between a ‘cash provider’ and a ‘passionate partner’… If you have the right partner it doesn’t feel like you’re giving away part of your business; more like you’re gaining.” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

The importance of other people

“Employing the right people is almost the hardest part of any business – if you get it right everything else falls into place, bit it takes time and mistakes.” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

“You can be a lone wolf, but if you want to scale your business you need to establish relationships you can trust early on. Draw on your past experience and contacts – you can’t be an expert at everything!” Ross Jones @brandfarmfilms Brand Farm Films

“Have a strong business partner or someone else you can share your bad days with.”

“Your support network is incredibly important. You need people around you to remind you it’s not good for your health to immerse yourself in your business.” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

“Have someone to whom you’re ‘accountable’ – it could be someone in a different business.”

“When you’re feeling down, go back to your clients and users [why you’re in business] it will give you a lot of energy.” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

Marketing – what works?

“It’s important you’ve got a point of difference. Imagine you’re opening a magazine of your choice – could it feature your product/ brand; is it newsworthy?   Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

“Building credibility, trust, face-to-face relationships, and referrals” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

 “Find influencers who believe in what you’re doing – not necessarily the people with the biggest following, it’s important they are the right sort of person’”  Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

“Three mistakes with PR [press/public relations]: a fear of self-promotion; having no press hook [for your approach to media outlets]; going in cold [so do your research before approaching a journalist]” Amanda Ruiz @amandaruizuk

On PR on a budget… “Don’t ‘say and spray’ – personalise your message to journalists, get to know them, understand their work and interests. Get on their radar in a good way (don’t stalk them!) help them to help you. Pitch to the right editor in the right publication. Get into the head of the magazine’s readers (and the editor).” Amanda Ruiz @amandaruizuk

How to succeed

“I like the uncomfortable times, big challenges, building stuff, constructing a business.” Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

“Protecting my intellectual property was really important for me. I recommend you protect it and then stand up for yourself. I was supported by my online customers – whom I regard as friends more than followers – sharing [the infringements] and getting angry.” Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

“If you go into a business with a plan to sell it, it’ll never work.” Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

“Ask yourself – will you still love what you’re doing in 5- 10 years? Your heart and soul should be in it when you start your business.”   Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

“Base your price on the market, not your costs.” Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

“Not everyone is going to invent Facebook. Ideas are overrated – it’s the execution that matters.” Ross Jones @brandfarmfilms Brand Farm Films

“If you’re a good leader, it’s because you can make decisions, quickly, with limited data. Some will be good decisions, some bad…. Decision-making to a businessman is like clay to a sculptor.” Mike Soutar @mikesoutar

“We look at four areas of risk: financial (mainly cashflow); people (having good staff); operational (coping with growth, including space); change (limiting your ‘operational debt’).”  Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

On embracing change…

“Be brave, your business plan will change, go with it – be open to change, consider the implications of each new step.” Carly Menken, Head of SME Trading, Direct Line for Business

“Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know – find out, learn, it will get sorted.” Hayley McClelland, The Fairy Dogmothers

“Back yourself – talk to others in a similar position” Ross Jones @brandfarmfilms Brand Farm Films

“Be willing to accept change and reflect on making the most of it. Make time to step back from the day-to-day – let the thinking part of your brain take over from the execution part – to be strategic.” Amber Fraser, @Bravefoods Brave Foods

“Learn how to ‘chunk down’. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so break down [your challenges] into parts, small milestones. Change your perspective – if you have a ‘freeze moment’ go away, re-think, take a chance, learn from failure.” Carly Menken, Head of SME Trading, Direct Line for Business

And finally…

A new word: Brexhaustion. Two new abbreviations: EIS – Enterprise Investment Scheme (‘like Giftaid for investors’) and UGC – User Generated Content. A career-change website with an emphasis on business start-up https://www.escapethecity.org A book recommendation: https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jamie-Waller/Unsexy-Business–How-12-entrepreneurs-in-ordinary-busines/22722516

What I learned at StartUp 2018  https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/enterprise-essentials-21-tips-from-startup-2018 

How to fail at writing a business plan

Don’t start it: Like many activities when we can’t see the point, or the end point, getting started can be the most difficult part of writing a first business plan. Technically a plan is never finished – it should be a dynamic document – tweaked, edited or even rewritten as reality kicks in – particularly at the start-up stage. So, don’t be afraid to just get something down on paper knowing it won’t be right first, second or third time. The secret of getting started is to draft a section or two of the plan that you’re relatively comfortable writing about (which may not be the early sections) to share with, and get feedback from, someone you trust, probably not a family member or friend.

Start at the beginning: Traditionally, the first part of a complete business plan in called the ‘Executive Summary’ but it should be written last – it’s a short summary of everything else in the plan. It’s important to get it right, because it’s the first (and may be the only?) thing a busy reader may consider to assess the business portrayed in the rest of the plan. But you can only summarise the rest of the plan in words and figures when it’s been written!

Try to get it right first time: The business plan for a start-up is particularly prone to change because, if it’s a new venture there’s no hard information on which to base your expectations. A first-year plan is at best an informed hope not a prediction – expect to regularly change what you’ve said will happen. To get your first complete draft finished you need to accept that ‘good enough’ will be ‘good enough’. Ultimately your objective is to make it good enough to ‘do the job’ – to get that all-important first investment, to get your mate to join you on the journey, to recruit an assistant… whatever.

Read other business plans for inspiration: There’s no right or wrong way to write a business plan, no fixed format. You can find lots of business plan templates on the internet and any number of examples of ‘what a good plan looks like.’ These examples are best avoided – it can easily bias your thinking (there’s a temptation to copy…) and your business plan has to be just that – yours. If you have to copy someone else’s work it suggests you haven’t fully understood the ‘why, how and what’ of your own business idea. Or, if you have difficulty writing clearly, talk your ideas through with someone else who can help you put your ideas down on paper.

Keep it to yourself: Note – a business plan is not a public document; you decide who sees it. That said, it’s best shared in draft form with a ‘trusted adviser’ – not necessarily a ‘professional’ but someone detached enough to give you unbiased feedback. It’s then up to you to decide which comments to take on board and which to ignore – remember, this is your plan. Once completed, you can issue different versions if you don’t want all readers to see all your business ideas and intentions. You may have a two-pager that covers the broad principles and only share more detail on a ‘need to know’ basis.

You may also be tempted to keep your business idea (and plan) close to your chest for fear someone will steal your idea. This is understandable but, in reality, you’re go further faster by telling as many people as possible. This does not apply if you have an idea which should realistically be protected – in which case you need to find out about Intellectual Property Protection.

Think of it as a publicity brochure: Bearing in mind that a business plan is circulated to a limited readership, it should not be conceived as a publicity document. It should be written clearly and concisely, free of jargon and bullshit. A business plan is all about communication – showing why you and your business idea are a perfect match – but you are selling that pairing in a special way that’s positive, but honest and persuasive.

Make it complicated: Apply the KISS principle – Keep It Simple [Stupid]! A business plan is great for downloading all the muddled ideas that are probably buzzing around in your head, but it should also untangle those ideas. When you’re very close to your business idea (and if you’re really passionate, you may even be obsessed by it!) you could find it difficult to think clearly. This is another reason it’s good to get someone sympathetic to act as editor – or at least someone with whom you’re comfortable talking through your ideas.

Make it sound very tentative: While a business plan is only a plan not a promise, it’s good to make it sound more definite that it probably is. It’s natural [and honest!] to use phrases like ‘may do this’ ‘could do that’ ‘if this happens then…’ when talking about ideas that might be quite vague at the planning stage. In reality, you need to present your plan in a more positive way to persuade the reader you’re likely to put the plan into action and make it work.

Use long words and lots of abbreviations: As with most good writing, avoid any words and phrases that are going to cause the reader to stumble. People sometimes think that using complicated phrases and loaded words like ‘new’ ‘exciting’ and ‘unique’ will impress the reader – it doesn’t!  If you must use technical terms, include a glossary at the front in your business plan (or at the bottom of the relevant page) to explain them. It’s OK to use abbreviations to save space and make it easier to read, but you need to explain them when first used (and include them in that glossary).

Make it long: A good business plan is about quality not quantity. You may be proud of your 30 pages, but the reader is unlikely to be (particularly if they have to read lost of plans). Only use as many words and figures as you need to ‘do the job’ (and know what that is – getting an investment, communicating your thinking with a would-be mentor, whatever). And if you can’t describe your business in less than 20 pages, maybe you need to re-think it?

A last tip – if you can use illustrative material – photos, graphics, interesting diagrams – to communicate your idea effectively, don’t be afraid to use them in moderation. It can also make your plan stand out from the rest.

See also:

The business plan paradox https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/the-business-plan-paradox

What makes a great business plan? https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2017/07/08/what-makes-a-great-business-plan

For a sample business plan template, go to  https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/help-for-young-people/tools-resources/business-tools/business-plans

Enterprise essentials #1 – 21 tips from StartUp 2018

It’s January 13th 2018 and hundreds of entrepreneurs both young and old (but mainly young) are gathered in East London to consider anything and everything to do with starting a business. A great day with loads on on offer – so ‘pick and mix’ was the way to go.

The event was also refreshingly free from business bullshit and the hero-worshipping of edgy, sweary entrepreneurs spouting ‘awesome’, ‘cool’ and ‘disruptive’ all day. In no particular order (as they say on Strictly) I picked up the following tips by keeping my ears pinned back during the day.

  1. The recommended maximum number of questions and completion time for market research surveys is 22 questions and seven minutes (after that there’s a severe drop in response rates)
  2. Success in starting  business is largely down to a combination of ideas, skills and persistence, and lot of them – 90% of business start-ups fail within a year, 47% of retail businesses survive for 10 years
  3. Making products is not business, selling products is the business
  4. Focus on your passions, understand the core mission of your new business, be clear why you are different from other similar businesses (the competition)
  5. The difference between masculine and feminine marketing is the difference between ‘hard sell’ and ‘heart sell’
  6. Talk to as many people as possible- share your ideas freely. Unless your product is technical, forget patents (they’re expensive) and concentrate on protecting your trade mark
  7. Get your products out there as soon as possible – stop talking, start selling – just do it!
  8. Write down 50 people you think should know about your new business, decide how you’re going to reach them, and tell them
  9. “Success is selling something that doesn’t come back to people who do” A cliche, but true.
  10. Work hard, be nice to people, do your research, know your customers, be prepared to sacrifice sleep
  11. Start small, never stop learning and the business will grow with you
  12. When you start out in business think about your definition of success – is it making money, making a difference, or what?
  13. Ideas are worthless, execution is everything
  14. In your business pitch start with the pain for your customers
  15. When you start business planning, list all your assumptions and test each one [before someone else asks you awkward questions]
  16. Mentors are great for keeping you on track and keeping you going, particularly at start-up stage
  17. The highs and lows are more extreme when starting your own business [rather than working in someone else’s]
  18. Know your strengths and [particularly] your weaknesses when starting a business
  19. Tough times at start-up stage can be a springboard for great business development
  20. Understand your brand, focus on the core of your mission, follow your passion, talk to lots of people
  21. Starting a business takes three times as long as you think it will

Further support from www.enterprisenation.com and http://www.princes-trust.org.uk/help-for-young-people/support-starting-business

 

What makes a great business plan?

There’s no right and wrong way to write a business plan. It’s about getting the job done – which is probably to make the best case to readers (investors, collaborators, potential customers) to persuade them to support you and your business idea.

Below are 10 questions that most business plans should aim to answer…

  1. Why are you the right person to be setting up in business? What’s your personal and professional situation – relevant life experience/ relevant training and work experience. What are your interests outside of work but relevant to your business success? 
  1. Why is this business particularly attractive to you? What’s the source of your passion – personal and professional? Why you will put in the extra effort and time to succeed when the going gets tough?
  1. Who will buy your products or services? Define your target market/s in a meaningful way (their demographics, attitudes, behaviours)
  1. Why will people want to buy your products/services? What ‘needs’ do your product/ service meet? And what ‘wants’ will you satisfy such that people will buy from you rather than your competitors?  
  1. How do you know that there is demand for your products and services? Explain your market research – show real, meaningful evidence of there being enough people willing to pay for your product/service. The views of your friends and family don’t count! The best market research is test-trading
  1. How will your business plan show the figures add up (with more income than expenditure)? This is your best estimate to show there are enough people willing to spend enough money to allow you to pay your bills (use your market research and cost/sales estimates to make the case ) 
  1. What is ‘plan B’ if things don’t turn out as planned? Will you … Scale down? Slow down? Do something slightly different? Do something completely different?  
  1. How do you know the overall business idea is realistic? Can you point to others doing the same thing successfully? How self-aware are you about your strengths and ways to compensate for your weaknesses? 
  1. How will you monitor the performance of your business? How will you know how well you’re doing? This is about more than just money – the ‘bottom line’. Will you set targets and milestones, identify relevant measures – outputs and outcomes – over the short/medium/long term.
  1. What will success look like? Imagine yourself in 12 months – what will a typical day / week look like? What‘s your vision for the period covered by your business plan?

 General advice:

  • Show development stages in your business plan. Targets for month 3, month 6, and month 12 perhaps
  • Make your plan sound certain (be positive but realistic and honest) even if some elements are not very fixed
  • Keep it simple – write for a 12 year old with no knowledge of you/ your business Quality is more important than quantity
  • Know where your figures come from (and explain the main assumptions in your plan)
  • Add other materials, such as photos, at the end if it helps the reader get a better grasp of you and your business idea.

Further reading:  https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/the-business-plan-paradox/

Enterprise essential – Sell the ‘why’

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” says marketing consultant Simon Sinek. When you want to get people on board at an early stage in developing your business, it’s more important to ‘sell the vision’ as people’s feelings about the enterprise are likely to influence their behaviour much more than the details (which come later).