If you have embarked on, or are just about to embark on setting up a business, then, although to start with it might be small, it’s no small feat to achieve what is required to become a business owner or founder.
I’ve been lucky enough in my career, in that I’ve gained the experience of working, not only in a large corporate company, but also at my own business. The advantage of working at a large company is, of course, that when you lie on the beach you know you’re getting paid for your holiday! Unfortunately, when it’s your own business, it’s something you don’t ever get to put down, not even on holiday. It’s a fulltime occupation and I don’t think that’s bad, but it has to be a passion. If you don’t want to think about your business all the time, you’re probably not the right individual to own one. Your own business lives with you, it breathes with you, it becomes part of you.
I’ve set up a few businesses in my time, most of which have failed – however, my current business is actually doing quite well! I don’t want to sound surprised but I guess I am. Success in business isn’t something you have the right to; it is something you have to earn. Having worked so hard at making Dice Matrix Consulting work, I’ve suddenly realised what’s driven it. Success in business is about providing excellent customer care and service with an offering that you are truly and totally passionate about. You can’t go into running your own business with the mentality of purely making money, because the majority of the time that won’t work. Customers are so savvy now that, if you don’t believe, they won’t either. Your company has to be about delivering something you want to share with others. To make your customer’ lives easier, better, more effective, efficient or just happier!
So, my simple rules to a start-up are to follow the one word rule and that one word, ‘collaboration’.
The letter C, is the Customer, which obviously always has to come first. If you’re not providing what your customer wants you simply won’t survive in business.
The O, it’s for Originality. You have to offer something different, always. What is your Unique Selling Point? How do you stand out from the crowd?
The first L is for Leadership. This is something that comes with time: being a good leader is about engaging your staff, listening, not being afraid to lead by example. However, if this is too daunting or too large for your business currently, replace the L with Liberating; you have to want to feel exposed, vulnerable and ready to take the challenges that any business will throw at you. If you do that then, when others join your company, you will already be a naturally good leader.
The second L is for Lifestyle. You will have to commit to delivering, not just for you, but for your employees too. This will be the first time you’re responsible for more than just your own income. It’s scary, it’s exciting – but it’s a lifestyle choice you have to be prepared to embrace.
The A is for Achievement. What are your goals? What does success look like? When will you be happy that you have actually achieved what you originally set out to? Make sure you have clear SMART (Specific Measureable Achievable Realist Timed) goals and a plan in place with financials aligned to deliver those objectives.
The B is for Bold. To literally, boldly and daringly, go where no one has tried to go before. Don’t be afraid to try new things and don’t be put off if you feel it’s right. Be honest to your values and your goals.
The O is for Others. Work together, support other small businesses, but, make sure you give first before you expect to receive anything in return. Never do something to get something back; offer help because you want to help that business, and you believe what they’re offering to their customers is absolutely correct. Then, if you never get anything back in return for your support it doesn’t matter; you’ve done something good for someone else and the essence of good businesses is providing and collaboration.
The R is for Relationships. Make sure that all your relationships are full of integrity. Be the company you want to be. Surround yourself with businesses that you agree with ethically, and just always be true to who you are and what you want to deliver as an organisation. The next A is for Attitude. Go get ‘em! You need to know that in the morning when you don’t feel like getting up, you have to; you have to get up put your running shoes on and go get ‘em. Ultimately, nothing will get achieved if you don’t deliver the right attitude; you literally lead and support those who work for you, and your positive attitude will drive that forwards. As a good manager and leader you have to be focused and determined.
The T is for Tenacious. Not only must you feel passion for your business but you must be relentless in your quest, determined to make it work, adamant to get the best for your customers and resolute to make your employees happy in their roles every day.
The I is for Insight. Owning a research company, you’d think I would strongly advise on insight! It absolutely is a necessity. Without insight you can’t understand what your sector is doing, what your competitors offer in your industry, or if you are offering what your customers want. Insight and research doesn’t have to cost the earth; but what it must do is give you a clear path towards your future strategy. If it doesn’t, it’s of no value.
The last O is for Onliness. Make sure you have an Onliness statement; if you don’t – get one (Google ‘Onliness Statement’). This statement denotes what you offer; the why, how, when and to whom. It’s like a mission statement, with built in strategy and deliverables. It will help you and your team remember why you’re working so hard and what you’re trying to create. It holds people together, gains engagement across your business and allows continuity.
The final N is for Now. Don’t procrastinate. My father always said that ‘procrastination was the thief of time’, if it can be done today, do it today. But, above all, do it now because you want to, because you can, and, most of all, because, if you start your own business now, knowing and taking into consideration the commitment required, you will never look back. Now will be the start of something amazingly rewarding. Now will be the embryo of your future pride, your legacy. Now will be just the beginning of your future success story.
So – my key to running a business is Collaboration. I work with people I trust, like and who are different to me. That way I get a good mix of views, opinions and balance and, I hate to admit it, but since I’ve been more collaborative I’ve realised I’m not always right – just don’t tell anyone I said that!
Susannah Schofield OBE