Over the years I have noted a lack of genuine understanding to the challenges facing Business Start-ups & aspiring Entrepreneurs in particular Women & Young entrepreneurs. There are very few public organizations that provide a sufficient standard of service that functions to the speed & pace of the real business world. But more importantly many public organisations demonstrate an ignorance of the simplest frustrations & obstacles of the business start-up or small business.
Here are 20 lessons that every entrepreneur wishes they had known before starting a business! So you don’t have to!
TOP 20 BUSINESS LESSONS
No.1 Find a “Mentor” a veteran entrepreneur whom has built their business from scratch & operated it for over 15 years.( If inherited has ran it themselves for 15 yrs+)
No.2 Study the life stories of the Entrepreneurial Greats; be inspired, take notes, learn from their challenges, successes & failures.
No.3 Understand your financial’s better than your accountant; your operating costs, break even per month, bank balance, tax bill forecast, outstanding balances of debtors or creditors (if you don’t know what these are get learning quick).
No.4 Master the skills of both buying as importantly as selling. For your crucial business start-up capital spend research, shop around, negotiate & haggle.
No.5 Get your business name & logo right first time, secure; URL’s(domains), check conflicting trademarks & brands, registered company names.
No.6 Take the time to write a concise business plan, with your start-up costs, cash flow & profit & loss projections. Primarily for yourself to question the vision and viability of your business and secondary to assert your level of commitment to your bank manager or investors.
No.7 With any major business decision; always follow your first instinct.
No.8 Remember Banks are a business like everyone else and are in business to make a profit; Start-up Loans, leases, credit agreements, business terms; always read the small print, don’t be afraid to ask questions (even if it sounds stupid) and like any agreements only sign what you fully understand.
No.9 If establishing a Partnership clarify that both parties share the same vision, commitment and values to make the business a success in terms of time, labor and financing. And most importantly from the outset establish clearly your individual & defined roles, functions and responsibilities. (Plus who has the final decisions if you cannot agree)
No.10 From the outset decide what is most important; the need & speed to start trading by raising funds yourself or put up with delays to secure public funding or grants. If you are dealing with organizations with independent consultants many are oblivious to your need for momentum & getting your business up & running & turning a profit a.s.a.p.
Here are a few basic tips on your pre-start and business start-up finances.
As soon as you have decided to go self employed and start your own business take action to get your “financial house in order”.
No.11 For anyone setting up in business, if you have a current day job, try & keep your day job until your business is financially sustainable. Or for as long as possible to buffer your income. This is particularly important if you are a single parent or the primary earner. If possible start by operating your business as a part-time income. This way you can test your concept & model iron out any problems and begin to build your customer base.
No.12 Are you going to register as a sole trader/ partnership or limited company. What financial risks are involved with your business model and do you have personal assets, savings you wish to protect by registering as a limited company i.e. equity in your home.
BOOK-KEEPER OR ACCOUNTANT
No.13 Decide on your requirements and whether you need a Book keeper or qualified Accountant. Seek endorsements from individuals and experienced entrepreneurs. Find a reputable & reliable accountant you can relate to and trust.
No.14 Check your credit score or personal credit report including everyone registered to your household address. Ensure you don’t have any unpaid debts with lenders. If you have a low credit score simply because you have never borrowed or used lines of credit look at ways of improving your credit score. Prepare your credit report to reflect positively for potential lenders including your business bank manager and suppliers (especially if you are working from home & using your home as your registered address for business)
No.15 If you are a single parent or the primary earner research all your financial entitlements i.e All financial support from grants, loans, training grants, free rent or rates as a new business start-up. If you are a parent establish your entitlements for Nursery, after school childcare costs, Family Tax allowances etc.
No.16 Before you give up your day job, if you are a homeowner with a mortgage look at your current mortgage terms and renewal period. Consider and anticipate when your business income & profit will match your mortgage approval requirements and how this relates to your current circumstances. If you have equity in your home do you wish to utilize or take benefit of it based on your current income and whether you will be able to access this confidently after 1 or 2 years of trading. (seek advice from your personal financial advisor).
If meeting the bank manager seeking investment “dress like a business person” this is one compromise that even Dame Anita Roddick always endorsed.
Options to consider discussing with your bank manager; personal loans, business loans, small firms loan guarantee scheme/ grants, overdraft facilities, free banking period,on-line banking, business credit card facilities, credit card payment facilities and services, approved business insurance brokers.
LOANS vs OVERDRAFTS
No.17 Accurately research and cost out all your set up costs and month to month expenditure. Then decide what you really need in terms of Loans or an optional overdraft. Understand the nature of your business. Is your business dependent on the reliability and use of your capital equipment i.e. manufacturer (loan) or are you a service based business with customers that will demand a 30 or even 60 day account(overdraft). Alternatively can you negotiate with suppliers extended trading terms to avoid loans or overdraft.
No.18 The initial period of a business start-up can be extremely difficult and challenging in particular in relation to cash flow and controlling expenditure and risk. Therefore the preparation and time taken prior to start-up is essential in terms of exhausting all forms of “Grants” available. A Grant isn’t like a loan which must be repaid in most cases Government or EU grants are given to new entrepreneurs as a one off payment towards capital equipment and is not repayable. There are still some sources of grants available in particular if you are a resident in an Economically deprived area or if you belong to a minority group i.e. Youth, Women in business. Often all that is required is that you meet the basic Grant criteria and provide the relevant receipts for your capital equipment purchased.(Unfortunately these are very limited today! particularly for small startups- women & individuals from economically deprived areas)
No.19 For anyone starting up in business without a basic knowledge of accounts or book keeping I would recommend that if you do not have a family member or friend who can help and guide you through your basic accounts, enroll in a basic book keeping course or study the basic principles of Cash Flow, Profit & Loss and Balance sheet through resources on-line or from your local library. One primarily to understand the significance, necessity and function of each of them. It isn’t rocket science but is essential to the success of your business.
2 X BIGGEST SMALL BUSINESS MISTAKES!!! Tax & Pensions:
From day one open a (Free) second deposit account and set up a direct debit every month to make a deposit to the value of 15-20% of your drawings and wages each month (to start with). This simple habit will ensure you have made provisions for your annual Tax bill and avoid getting an unexpected or nasty shock in January (especially when in most business’s this can be the most difficult month in the year for sales).
From day one open a (TAX Free) Savings account and set up a direct debit every month to make a deposit to the value of a minimum of 15% of your drawings and wages each month (to start with). Then take Professional advice on preparing for your Pension-whether you decide to go down the savings, stocks, pension, property (business property, investments) investing in other business ventures.
SOLE TRADER/PARTNERSHIP TO LTD COMPANY
No.20 For most business start-ups they start out as sole trader. This is often due to the fact that Banks are more likely to offer you finances and loans as a Sole trader or Partnership where you are personally libel for any debts. Unfortunately most organizations don’t advise or inform you when and at what stage you should look at becoming a Limited company.
Reasons I would suggest to consider becoming a limited company include;
1. You are in an industry where your customers are at risk of defaulting on payment or going bust i.e. House builders, new emerging markets.
2. You have personal assets that you have worked hard to obtain; investments, inherited property, family home (with high level of equity).
3. If you are a Single parent household or have a young family and have your home as your main financial asset.
4. You are expanding your business into areas of high growth or risk.
5. Current Economical state of the Economy.
6. Anticipated level of profits within company versus your take home wage (seek advice of accountant).