This week we have a guest post for you from a successful entrepreneur. He’s here to offer tips and advice about how to arm yourself for startup business success. We know that so many of you out there run small businesses, or have plans to. I believe economic and environmental sustainability is key for any business. And that for both of them to remain sustainable, they need to be in balance. Entrepreneurs who embark on business ventures that pursue their passions – as is the case with many ethical brands and eco designers – can sometimes lack business gumption and savvy, leading to stagnation. So here I shall hand you over to our guest blogger today who will hopefully help you on the right track to join the ranks of successful startups!
Hi, my name’s Richard Walton and I’m a serial entrepreneur. Over the course of my twenty year career, I’ve started and scaled multiple global organisations of which I still own, or part own, four. My entrepreneurial career started on an island off Honduras at the age of 21 and now at the age of 41, I’m back at the head of a new startup, AVirtual which supplies virtual assistants to small businesses all across the U.K. With the advantage of retrospect, I’ve noticed trends which lead to successful startups, which apply to all industries. It’s certainly not a fail safe formula, but it would have saved me a lot of time and stress if I’d known these tips before launching my first company!
In the course of my twenty year career, I’ve started and scaled multiple global organisations. Whilst industries differ, and markets grow and shrink, there are some things that every entrepreneur should do when they’re starting a new business. Here are five basic steps to prevent your startup from stagnating:
Step 1. Hire a great team and then just do it
Recruitment should never be rushed. It’s a long and tedious process, but it’s always worth waiting to find the best people you can, especially when they’re going to be your founding team. Your first few employees are the ones who can make the difference between success and failure. They’re the ones who will shape your brand’s identity and culture in the long term. So be choosy, and pay more if you have to because the difference between a great employee’s productivity versus an average employee is monumental. That said, remember it’s not just about skills and references, they’ve got to have passion and real belief in your vision otherwise they’ll lose enthusiasm when you need them the most. Passionate employees will also see opportunity in people and places others would not.
Once your core team is in place, just get going. Planning is important, but too many people get stuck in the brainstorming stages. The truth is you’ll only really know if your idea’s a good one when you put it to the test.
Step 2. Be precious about your time
As much as you might want to champion the egalitarian model of business, the truth is that your time is worth the most. You’re the leader and the visionary, you can’t afford to waste even a minute. Time is money, remember? So schedule obsessively and stick to it. I use 20 minute time blocks to break my day up into more manageable slots to make sure that meetings and phone calls never overrun, and that I don’t spend too much time mulling over one task. In those early days especially, you have to keep moving forward.
That said, breaks should be part of your daily routine too, even if it’s only ten minutes to meditate. It will help you stay fresh and refocus your attention
Step 3. Keep the bigger picture in mind
One of the main reasons entrepreneurs struggle to scale their business is because they’re focusing on the wrong things. It’s easily done. When you’re constantly bombarded with emails and requests from your team (“the tea bags are running low, can you approve the cost?”), whilst simultaneously trying to plough through an endless to-do list, it can be overwhelming.
So how do you know what to focus on first? Prioritise. I use lists. Numbering tasks from one to three (one being top priority) and everything that’s not one, I delegate to another member of my team or my personal assistant. As the CEO, you have to be concentrating your skills and time on actively moving the business forward, on creating strategies, building partnerships, innovating. There’s a huge amount of administration that comes with a new business and you’ll get lost in it if you don’t keep perspective. It’s the reason why the first hire an entrepreneur usually makes is a PA. That way, administrative tasks never even come into your head space.
Step 4. Learn from other people’s mistakes
When you were growing up, did your parents ever frustratingly advise you to “learn from your own mistakes”? When it comes to startups, it’s better not to wait for that moment. Read blogs, subscribe to business magazines, join a forum, listen to TEDtalks, attend networking events, join a business organisation. Surround yourself with information and more experienced people who can advise you on decisions, make suggestions and motivate. People love to hand out advice, and most of the time it’s free so use it to learn and grow – it might mean you can take a few shortcuts along the way.
Step 5. Be clever about outsourcing
In the past only big businesses with big budgets outsourced work, but new technologies have made it easier for small businesses to also find specialists for cheap hourly rates, which is great news for productivity and rate of growth. Instead of getting your core team to spread their time across multiple tasks, you can bring in a virtual freelancer to work on a specific project or to take care of sales, marketing, finance, HR, almost anything actually, but there’s no point outsourcing, if it’s going to damage the quality of your output. In other words, don’t just go for the cheapest option you can find. Do your research, use reputable outsourcing companies and be precise about the areas you need help with. The benefits are big if you know what you’re doing.