Afraid to go it alone?

Have a clear picture of what your new business will look like
Have a clear picture of what your new business will look like

Starting your own business is a life-changing experience. Getting the right advice early on is vital...

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3 September 2008 | 0

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Have a clear picture of what your new business will look like

THE PROBLEM: I’ve just turned thirty and really want to start my own business. I have lots of ideas and have worked in the retail trade for the past 12 years. I have a small child (three years old) and next year he will be going to school. This will give me more time to try and start my own business.

The problem I have is that I don’t have much money, in terms of investment capital. Is there any way I can approach someone to be a business partner? I’m reluctant to go to a bank because I know they’d probably laugh at me. My idea is to open a deli-shop that sells seasonal and mainly organic Irish produce.

There is a large business park nearby and I want to provide a really good lunch offering. However, I have little or no experience in business matters and am a little frightened of all that is involved. What advice can you give me?

THE ADVICE:
Thank you for your question. You have certainly taken a very smart first step. Discussing your proposal with a coach is a great way of moving things forward. A coach is probably the only person that will not give you advice; instead the coach will guide you through your thought process using various coaching tools and questioning.

You are the one that will answer the questions and these answers will allow you to move forward in the best way possible for you. What is really promising about your proposal is that you are giving it sufficient lead up.

The saying “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” applies to all business start-up situations. So often entrepreneurial people come up with promising ideas, but without sufficient preparation, fail at the first hurdle. This is one of the main reasons for high failure-rate statistics. As a coach, I always look for the positive outcomes and steer my clients in a positive, realistic direction. I have spent a considerable amount of time over the years looking at how successful businesses are run and at what differentiates successful business from those that fail.

In response to your query, I am going to provide you with a five step success system based on some of the experiences of successful businesses. Five steps that will prepare you to set up your business in September 09, when your child starts school. This gives you approximately 15 months to put your plan in place. Perhaps you can consider 12 months planning and preparation and three months ramp-up phase until you formally launch your business.

Step 1: Your Financial Reservoir – Money

This is the most important step. It is very difficult to have a successful business when you have limited access to money. It is not impossible, just more difficult. Don’t fall into the trap of making poor business decisions or negotiating poor business deals in the first year because you ‘need’ the money. You must have financial freedom. If you recognise that you need E3,000 a month to live comfortably, one of the best goals you can set yourself is to have €18,000 in a reservoir savings account before you go full time with your ‘heart’ business.

You can build and work on your business while you earn your keep through other sources. Stop trying to control where the money comes from and open up to different possibilities. Let go of your money worries and make a list of all of the ways you can increase your financial reservoir. At this point, I ask my clients, how much do you want to own your own business? A couple of questions that may help you start the reservoir are: If you could be paid to do what you love, what would you choose to be paid to do? How much money you want to have each month while you are working towards doing what you love? 

Step 2: Create your own Board of Directors/Advisors

When you are starting off on a smaller scale, it is just as important to have your own board of directors and advisors. Imagine that you are a large corporation and complete the picture.

Who are your shareholders? (who has provided funding etc?).

Who is your accountant? (or someone you can rely on for business advice).

If you are unsure where to get advise try your local business enterprise board. Government agencies are full of specialist advisers who can provide business expertise to you at a fraction of what a commercial business adviser would charge.

In selecting a partner, carefully consider what type of person would you be willing to share your business with.
When you have nominated all of your directors and advisers, write the names down and talk to the advisors about your plans. 

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Step 3: Expanding the Dream – what will your new business look like?

In addition to giving a general idea of how your business will take shape, the answers to the following questions can also form part of your preliminary business plan (the formal business plan to follow later). Business plans are crucial to any successful business and will steer you in the right direction.

•    What will my business do?
•    Why am I in the business?
•    What are some of the longer-term outcomes for my business?
•    What will I do to achieve these outcomes?
•    How will my business operate?
•    Who are my customers?
•    What have I done up to this point to get things going?
•    My competitors include?
•    Imagine that it is one year from today and it has been my best year yet, what have I achieved?
•    To drive the business forward, I personally intend to …
•    What are my major obstacles and how will I overcome them?
•    What is the competition doing?
•    What’s missing? Where can I add more value?
•    How do I reach my target audience?
•    I will market to my ideal customers by …
•    How will I know when I am finished with this business?

You should decide what level of success are you looking for in your business and what level you would be comfortable with. Doing so will remove so much self-criticism and self-doubt, especially in your first year. There is no reason for you not to move up a notch on your ‘successometer’ in year two. For example, you may be happy with a mobile deli in the first year – a van that will go to the business park –  but in year two you will expect to open your own deli shop etc. 

Step 4: Building your Network

Build your network and surround yourself with successful people. Start by thinking of all the people you know that may be able to help you, people who may be interested in your product, people who can help you with your child, your board of directors, other deli-owners in areas that will not compete with your business.

These are the people you will rely on to take you forward with our business. Running a business can be a lonely experience but this can be helped by building your network. 

Step 5: Taking Action

Make a list of the actions that you could take in the next 90 days to move your business forward. Ensure that one of your board of directors is appointed as your ‘conscience’ to keep you on target. Otherwise meet with a good business/personal coach on a regular basis (once a month, maybe) to ensure you keep on track with your action list.

Steps 1 – 5 will take you much closer to either your goal or your reality. Either way it is well worth transferring your dream to paper in facts and figures. It is only then that it can become a reality. I wish you the best of luck in the next 12 months – Live your dream! 


Meet the Coach
Eibhlin Johnston is the managing director of thinkCoaching, which works with business teams, executives, managers and self-employed professionals to help them discover their core strengths and create bottom line results. Her specialty area is talent retention of individual high performers.

Eibhlin has over 17 years experience in financial services and uses her past expertise to help business-owners. For more information visit www.thinkCoaching.ie or call 353 87 8583564. 

 

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