These wonderful Yorkshire business owners have shared their stories to champion and inspire others. Here’s a summary of the lessons they’ve learnt along the way.
Work incredibly hard – use weekends and evenings to make your business work. Most of my work is done on an evening and I wouldn’t have got to where I did without putting in the hours.
Put customers and employees before short term profit – always do what you can to make these key stakeholders happy. Don’t cut corners and costs at the expense of leaving customers with a positive experience.
Enjoy the process – find a way to like what you are doing or choose a business you know you will love. This means enjoying the challenge of difficult days where things go wrong (as there will be many). If you want to run a business you need to know you’re not going to get too down in the lows or it can get too much for people.
Be honest – be open and honest with customers and employees. Don’t try to trick anyone as if you are not genuine or authentic, people will see right through it.
Here are five of the most valuable lessons Callum and I have learnt since setting out on our mission to change the status quo:
Always look for positive opportunities, even in the bleakest of situations. Fight adversity with positive action, do not let bitterness take control.
Nobody can put you down if you know your strengths and trust in them. If somebody calls you an idiot, then they haven’t tried to get to know you. The fault is theirs.
Trust your gut instinct, even if it means that you must swim against the current. You will be in the right place at the right time eventually.
Don’t take it personally if people let you down. You are not the centre of their universe. Eighty per cent of people in this world are inconsistent and unreliable. Stick to your principles and rely on people that have the same values as you.
Never give up! The sun could be shining just around the next corner.
Starting a business from scratch can be tough, not to mention a global pandemic! I have learned some key lessons along the way which I hope will help anyone starting out.
Keep the faith
Building a business takes time and you have to be able to stick with it, so many people have told me how bad their first year was, and how things start to improve in year 2. This was scary at the time but I can completely see what they meant now and so long as you put the right foundations in place and keep working hard, you will get there.
Don’t stop learning
You may have stepped away from a company where training and development was the norm, but it’s really important to keep learning. There are so many organisations out there offering free training to small business owners, take advantage of it, it’s a great way to meet people too.
Networking is key
Often networking hasn’t been that important when in employment but it is critical to small business owners. No matter which industry you are in there will be networking events out there for you to attend. It is also a great way to make sure you get out there and mix with other humans!
Get comfortable with selling
As a small business owner, you have to sell yourself and your product or service. This was one of the biggest revelations for me and I’m by no means an expert now, but I read books, go to training sessions and continue to refine my approach.
Be kind to yourself
There will no doubt be ups and downs, and as humans we tend to beat ourselves up when things don’t go well. Celebrate the wins, and try to see everything else as a learning opportunity, and then move on.
There were many, many lessons learnt along the way….. I think, as a business owner, the importance of delegation was one of the key ones. You can only get so far on your own. Being able to ‘read the numbers’ is also important. We all now have access to lots of information on our businesses, but the ability to look at the data, work out what it’s are telling us and, most importantly, deciding what to do next on the back of it, is a vital skill.
One of the key lessons I picked up later in my career was the importance of regularly tracking numerical KPIs. Because we didn’t have investors, I had no-one to answer to, so as long as we were generally heading in the right direction, everything was OK. Getting more specific on numbers was something we needed to do.
And throughout the time, the importance of a consistent target, our BHAG, which meant were focused. Looking back now, the benefit of outside help, particularly at key times, those times when you take the big next step, was vital.
My advice for new business owners would be ‘go for it’. Follow your gut instinct. Yes do the market research, stress test your assumptions, but when push comes to shove, do what you ‘sense’ is right. Trust your instinct. I’d also say that you should minimise risk as much as you can, but not too much. Keep it at a ‘controlled risk’. You should always keep ‘nimble’ as it allows you to change and react to situations as they present themselves, although that’s not to say fall for every new shiny object that you see…. and you’ll see many!
It’s essential, I do something I’m passionate about and makes a difference to others.
To trust my gut, but back it up with a bit of due diligence.
Continuing to learn ignites my creativity and builds confidence in my own abilities
We were not perfect. As Founders we tried our best, but ultimately we failed to control our stakeholders and we lost
You can instantly tell who will be there for you in the good times and the bad times. If you know someone won’t be around in the bad times, don’t have them around you at all
Never give up. Don’t let anyone else determine whether you are deserving of success
When you have investment you have more choices and more time – but act as though you have neither and you will grow quicker.
Split the risk. Create multiple start-ups across differing sectors and share the rewards with whoever backs you.
Everything will take longer, be more complex and cost more than you anticipated – so practice being patient and watch the pennies.
Don’t try to do everything yourself – don’t be afraid to outsource as it will save you time, money and effort.
Go with your gut – especially where people are involved as some will appear to want to help but really are just in it for themselves – 99% of people are great though!
Be careful with your time and schedule a minimum of 4 hours a week to work on rather than in your business.
Don’t be afraid to dream big – and tell people what you want to achieve. Some may mock you but most will help – and you inspire others.
Have a real purpose and communicate it. Don’t be in business just for the money.
Treat your clients like people. It’s important to show them that you really care about their business, to help build trust and a long-lasting relationship.
When starting out, the most important thing you can do is research your industry.
You can’t please everyone, so follow your own gut, but always be kind.
Don’t spend money if you don’t have it. Use free trials and resources where available.
If you are jumping from a world where everyone knows your name to a brand new planet you will need connections, and fast! Try networking, offer your services to worthy causes and offer to run workshops and your time to those in need.
It’s important to give yourself structure and set out a plan of attack, but don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go as you thought they would. Take time to reflect on the things you have achieved rather than focusing on the things you haven’t.
If you are going to invest in something like your logo or professional photography take the time to set a proper brief and think about what you really want to get from it. The cheapest isn’t always best.
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