Because starting a business isn’t difficult enough, life decided to throw in some distractions too along the way. I have listened to so many people rhyme off what they think they need to have or do to start a business. Most of them fail to realise that all you really need is a good old fashioned hard work, a dash of inspiration and a whole load of motivation. And don’t forget to ride out the rollercoaster too
I often hear the same things repeatedly. Start-up owners getting bogged down in the details of things that ultimately are irrelevant to the success of their business. They forget that in the beginning, you have to work in your business as much as at it. And if you’re a sole trader, freelancer or one-man band, then you are your business. It’s entire success or failure depends on you. I have lost count of the number of times that I’ve seen a great idea in the hands of the wrong person. Even the best business idea in the world will ultimately fail in the wrong hands. And often because those hands are distracted by the fluffy stuff on the outside taking them away from the actual business stuff on the inside.
So, are you like a business magpie being distracted by lots of shiny things? Or have you got some misapprehensions that are distracting you from actually starting that business you’ve been dreaming about for years?
Here are the top 5 business start-up distractions I see the most and why you need to avoid them
Why do you think you need loads of money to start your business? List out what you think you need the money for. Then cut out the crap you really don’t need. A few weeks ago I was talking to someone who was obsessing over the cost of her stationery. The letterheads, envelopes, comp slips, pens, pencils, keyrings, notepads. All with her perfectly designed logo on. Great, yes, oh so pretty. But a big cost. When I asked her how many letters she envisaged herself sending in the first year of business, she couldn’t give me a figure. That’s because it was probably a big fat zero. A total waste of money.
There are many things you can bootstrap for your startup if funds are low. I think a lot of people are put off going into business because they get all these daft ideas about it costing them a fortune. It doesn’t have to be that way. Unless you must buy stock (consider drop shipping to start off with if that’s an option) or you need premises, then stop sending and consider the more cost-effective alternatives.
Did you see my post about going freelance without going broke? Keep your money to cover your basic living expenses and bulk buying toilet rolls.
Do you really think that cheap plastic pen with your logo on is going to clinch you some business at the overpriced trade show you just bought a stand at? No! So why are you ordering 5000 of them?!
How do you know your product will sell? Or people will buy your service? Or an online course? You don’t. Realistically you can’t put a figure on it starting out. So why spend all that time and probably money on getting it absolutely right before you’ve tested the water? This is why people build prototypes or order a really small amount of products to start with. Why they have webinars about their fantastic online course when they haven’t even written it yet. Don’t go all-in on anything until you know you’ve got the sales lined up.
Likewise, don’t be afraid to bring your unfinished product to market. The feedback you get from a soft launch will enable you to fine-tune to what your buyers want and provide you with invaluable insights into your customers needs. By listening to your customers wants and needs you will deliver them a product or service they value more. More value equals more sales. Your short term profits may take a hit but at least you won’t be stuck with 10,000 units of something stuck in your garage forevermore that didn’t sell.
HIRING (THE WRONG) STAFF
It’s easy to think, in the early days, that by Christmas you’ll have an office full of staff all calling you boss. The reality is, staff are probably going to be your biggest investment. So, don’t hire in haste. Do you really need someone to do the admin? Or answer the phone? Really? Or will they be just a glorified tea maker? It’s more cost-effective for small business to outsource rather than hire in the early days. With the rising costs of pensions and national insurance, not to mention all the legislation, can your cash flow withstand the expense in the quieter periods? It’s not that easy or simple to just get rid of staff during the quiet months. But outsourcing to a freelancer means you only hire them (and pay them) when you need them.
If you really must hire someone then be cautious. Very cautious. One bad hire could give you one almighty headache. Make sure you are 100% confident in your new hire before letting them loose in your kingdom.
Oh, the joys of sitting back in your big fancy office chair, surveying your beautiful, modern offices in the swanky end of town. But it’s just you. And you don’t get many visitors. So why do you need it?
Office space is a cost draining myth. You don’t always need it. Can you use a virtual office address instead and work from home? Or use a coworking space? Do you really need that fancy office? Or is it just an excuse to say you have a fancy office?
I know working from home may not always be the most practical thing or productive for that matter. But neither is committing to a large chunk of cash to pay in rent every month that you haven’t actually earnt yet. Start-ups be warned: don’t spend it until you’ve earned it. Could a little bit of furniture moving around at home or finally sorting out the spare room be a far more cost-effective alternative? I’m guessing yes. Especially if you took my advice about not hiring staff and using freelancers. They come with the added bonus of having to sort out their own working space.
“Let’s do lunch” is just the best phrase to hear when somebody else is paying. A sniff of free food and I’m there. And chances are I don’t care what you’re trying to sell me. The free lunch isn’t going to convince me. So stop offering to buy lunch for every single potential prospect you encounter. You’re wasting money, you’ll get fat and spend your afternoons being unproductive. And you’ll be distracted by the amount of time you’ll be wasting chasing a potential client you think is going to sign on the dotted line just because you bought them lunch.
Save the free lunch for when the prospect is a client that’s paid a few invoices. It’s a reward then not a bribe or just a free lunch.
Whilst I’m on the topic of dining out, I was invited along to sample the new menu at Grill In The Park at Worsley Park Marriott Hotel and Country Club last week. The restaurant has recently had a renovation and launched an amazing new menu. The food was absolutely delicious. Here’s a little sneak peek and you can read the full review over at this post.
THINGS WHICH DISTRACTED YOU
What things distracted you as a startup? What did you waste money on? If you could pass on one tip for startups to avoid, what would it be? Let me know in the comments below!