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?
• 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.