|London. We were there...|
By Richard Stone
Speaking to these people made me think about what advice I would actually give to a young person setting out in business now. What could I pass on from own experience to help them make their dreams into a reality?
I decided to put aside the platitudes. I think everyone who is considering starting a business should know that they have to be passionate, that they have to have a genuine dream that they want to fulfil and that they should be ready for long hours and sacrifices.
Instead, I thought I would focus on some practical tips. Thinking back to 2006, when I started Stone Junction, it was practical tips that I was really looking for. I was 29 at the time; I had an abundance of passion and motivation but I was terrified by the advice everyone was giving me; particularly that I shouldn’t expect to make a profit for the first year or three.
So, here they are:
1, Hire people who are better than youThe world is full of people who are better at nearly everything than you are. You should be hiring these people and getting them to apply their skills on behalf of your organisation. If your business is not for profit, you need to beg these people to help.
But remember, having talent, skill, ability and useful experience isn’t the same thing as being old, being a consultant or having twenty years of work history on your CV. Avoid the charlatans; there are lots of people out there who tell you they can help you set up a business, but all they peddle is trite advice that will make your business exactly like every other.
The people who are better than you could be graduates who haven’t worked a day on their lives. They could be pensioners that everyone else thinks has burnt out.
Once you’ve hired these people, put them first; make company culture your first priority and they will look after your customers and stakeholders as well as you would, or better.
If your company is B2B and you don’t have a list that starts with the name of the next business that is going to buy your product, there’s a good chance you will be one of the eight businesses out of ten that don’t make it through the first year.
2, Always know where your next sale is coming from
If your company is trading B2C, this could be a bit more difficult, especially if its web based. B2C companies need a list of the specific, actionable and results orientated marketing and sales tactics that will sell your product - and you need a very clear vision of who the buyer is going to be.
Remember, if you own a business, you work in sales.
This doesn’t mean don’t spend money. You can’t grow without spending. However, you should make sure you know what every penny is spent on and be certain that it’s delivering value.
3, Keep a Scrooge-like grip on your finances
The practical way of doing this is managing your own finances for as long as is viable. Do your own invoicing, chase your own debtors and reconcile your accounts every single day. There is no excuse for not doing this now that cloud based accounting has made it so easy.
Stone Junction spends money on lots of things that some companies would consider frivolous; from away days and business coaching to free fruit in the office and time off to do charity work. But we aren’t fools, we do all this stuff for a reason; because we want to be a better business that achieves its goals more effectively.
One last free tip, because you deserve it
You need a clear vision if you are going to run a business. That vision has to be bigger than, ‘let’s make a load of money and sell up in five years’ time, yah?’
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money, nothing at all, but no one will get behind that vision, no one will feel passionate about it and no one will work for you for anything but money. If you want a team that reflects your passion, you need to have a vision they can buy into.
Here’s ours, in no particular order:
1, We want to be the best PR company in the world to work for
2, We want to change the way that companies market themselves
3, We want to be the biggest independent PR agency in the UK, outside London
I believe that this is something people can buy into.
Don’t be fooled againSo don’t believe the hype, starting a business isn’t actually all that difficult. Just don’t get fooled by all the nonsense about not making a profit in the first year.
Know who your customers are, deliver a product or service that they want to buy and market it properly and you can make money almost from day one. Stone Junction had customers before it had a bank account and it made a profit in month two and in every month since then. Oh, and you probably do need to be passionate about it.
Richard Stone is the managing director of technical and technology public relations consultancy Stone Junction. We want to change the world you know? If you want to help us, get in touch on 01785 225416 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.