Eager Young Entrepreneur Seeks Advice


This time of year always makes me feel reflective – something to do with the first autumnal mornings; hints of winter in the air. Somehow I find my thoughts fast forwarding to next year – and for me that’s a very short step to business planning…

But never mind next year. Let me ask you a more basic question. Why did you start your business in the first place? There are almost as many reasons as there are entrepreneurs, but what was it for you?

• The desire to make a huge pile of cash?
• Freedom?
• Fed up with being told what to do by people less competent than you were?
• You saw a niche?
• To spend more time with your family or get your work/life balance rather more balanced?
• Or was it something that you just had to do? You didn’t want to sit in the old folks’ home thinking, “If only…”

And there’s another question which follows very naturally. Would you still start your business today? Knowing everything you know now – the hassle, chasing people for money, dealing with the banks, unhelpful bureaucracy, hopeless suppliers, economic doom and gloom… Would you still go into business for yourself?

Knowing my friends and Board members as I do, despite all those obstacles (and more) I suspect the answer is an overwhelming ‘yes.’ (I do realise that the comments could now make me look very foolish.)

But maybe ‘yes’ is too simplistic an answer – because I think the real answer is almost certainly, “Yes. But I’d do a lot of things differently.”

So what are you waiting for? Grab a piece of paper and jot down the five things you’d do differently if you were starting your business today.

Now imagine another scenario. You are a highly paid consultant, consulting on your business. An eager young entrepreneur comes to you for advice. He’s starting a business exactly the same as yours. What five pieces of advice would you give him? Again, write them down.

There might well be some repetition between the two lists, but I very much doubt that they’re identical. Anyway, go ahead and cross out any points that are repeated. OK, this exercise has taken you what, five or ten minutes? And I’m guessing that you’re now looking at eight or nine points and thinking, “Hmmm…good advice.”

So here’s the key question. Of those eight or nine points you identified – things you wish you’d done when you started your business: advice you’d give to someone starting the same business – how many are you doing right now?

Some (“I wish I’d had more capital behind me”) might not be relevant today. But I am prepared to wager that when you’ve crossed out those points that have become irrelevant and put a line through the ones you’re now doing – you’re still left with three or four points that you know would be good for your business, but that you’re not doing.

Why? The three or four points you have left would undoubtedly improve your business – so why aren’t you doing them? As the saying goes, are you too busy working in your business to spend some time working on your business?

This is an area where we can help each other through the comments; so let me leave you with some direct questions:

• On the assumption that you’d still start your business today, what’s the one thing above all others that you’d do differently?

• What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to the fresh-faced entrepreneur starting your business?

• And (honestly) if you did the 5 + 5 exercise, how many points were you left with at the end?

Enjoy your weekend – and thanks for your help.

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12 comments

  1. Joni Gammage · September 23, 2011

    Neat exercise, Ed – a great way to focus the mind on what’s important. I think one of the points I come back to time and time again is have a plan and USE it! We’ve found that committing to actions we need to do to achieve our planned objectives and using each other to hold our feet to the fire is the most effective way to move the business forward… as a natural procrastinator this is extremely valuable! Hopefully we’re now doing this, so I’d advise a new entrepreneur to start as you mean to go on… PLAN and DO IT!

  2. edreidyork · September 23, 2011

    Plan and do it – wise words indeed Joni – thanks!

  3. Dave Rawlings · September 23, 2011

    I started my business after being made redundant – but paradoxically it was avoiding redundancy a few years before that really unsettled me and made me want to be my own boss. Some of my colleagues went with no notice and I was left feeling “victim guilt” and a complete loss of trust and security. When it was eventually my turn I was looking forward to it. Whatever happens to me now will be something I can learn from – not so for decisions made far away at corporate HQ.
    It seems that having a job, and fear of losing it, becomes more and more disempowering every day. So I’d definitely encourage anyone to go on their own if they can.
    What would I do differently? Use the capital I had to grow the business rather than trying to make it last as long as possible.

  4. edreidyork · September 23, 2011

    Hi Dave – terrific candid advice (as ever) – thank you. Hope you’re keeping well, Ed

  5. Julian Smith · September 25, 2011

    As always Ed, great food for thought. This very exercise i will share with many of my Board Members. Interestingly i have just been reviewing my own plan and asked myself similar questions. I also love the ‘Power of One!’ We can only ever do one thing at once and really focus on one thing at once! Something i remind the 2 ‘budding entrepreneurs’ I mentor at the local Uni.

  6. Mike Santopietro · September 25, 2011

    Excellent thought provoking item. Thanks Ed, like Julian I believe this will be useful for the people I talk to. For myself, no regrets yet, but maybe I should undertake the exercise in six to 12 months time.

    ps Really enjoying the blogs – well done on a great job.

    Mike

    • edreidyork · September 26, 2011

      Hi Mike – thanks for your comments; let’s ensure that you ARE saying the same thing in 6-12 months time!

  7. Sarah Shafi · September 25, 2011

    Good on you for flagging this one up Ed!

    Oh, there are dozens of things I would do differently with the benefit of that treasure chest of hindsight! However, I would absolutely encourage anyone who wants to run a business (whether alone or in partnerships etc..) to take a step back a take personality profile test such as Wealth or Talent Dynamics right at the very outset.

    Why?

    Well, we all have a natural preference in the way we operate and relate to one another. There are things that come naturally to us and things that don’t. There are jobs we love to do and jobs we cannot bear to do. In business this is a big challenge.

    Absolutely every business on the planet has the same 4 fundamental cornerstones that all need to be functioning properly to secure sustainability and growth. They are Innovation, People, Timing & Process.

    Some of us are better at engaging with people (extrovert), whereas others just love analysing systems and data (introvert). The extrovert will naturally (and perhaps even subconsciously) look for ways to sabotage the systems stuff by convincing themselves that connecting with the market, coming up with new ideas and securing business is more important than tending to spreasheets, pipelines, balancing cashflow and checking the business infastructure is actually intact (trust me…I know!! :-))

    Conversely, the introvert, could over relate to the processes, lose touch with the speed at which things are changing ‘out there’, be completely risk averse, crap themsevles at the thought of presenting to others and could end up with an archaic business that becomes outdated faster than a mobile phone!

    Out of the 4 cornerstones we, as individuals, generally excel in 1 or 2 of those areas. Your personality profile will give you a very clear breakdown of exactly the type of roles you are best suited to and those you should avoid. That way, you will see for yourself where your potential business shortfalls are.

    Once you know where your preferences lie, then try to look for partners, mentors, sounding boards or even trusted friends who’s preferences are in different areas from yours and who can shoulder/support or just guide you throug some of the responsibilities that come with those other camps.

    This means that you get to keep doing the jobs you love and know that you have the support and guidance in the areas where you know you’re not good at.

    With all the energy, passion and enthusiasm in the world, we can start to fade when we constantly have to do the jobs we hate and work outside our path of least resistance or ‘flow’.

    So, let’s take a good look at ourselves, so we can spend more time building a solid healthy business without simultaneously kiling it!

    Sorry for the essay Ed..I just love this stuff! Oh and btw…if your entrepreneur is real, I’ll give him/her a personality profile for free 🙂

    Take care,
    Sarah

    • edreidyork · September 26, 2011

      Sarah – don’t apologise for the essay – I think it’s a terrific piece of advice (as it always would be from you, having received some myself!)

      I’m obviously going to buy into the concept of surrounding yourself with complementary skillsets and personalities, which can be a difficult thing to accept for many (often headstrong) entrepreneurs.

      Finally, thanks for the offer of the free test – let’s have a chat about that

  8. edreidyork · September 26, 2011

    Loving your focus Julian – I’d expect nothing less, obviously!! Thanks as ever for your comments

  9. Kirsty · September 26, 2011

    Hi ed, Love this subject – very close to my heart & have mae all the mistakes along the way (and are still making them) it’s really made me think though so i’m off to get my bit of paper…..Kirsty

    • edreidyork · September 26, 2011

      Hi Kirsty – thanks ever so much for your comments – I suspect we’re on the same wavelength on this kind of thing. Good luck with your thoughts!

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