Starting a business from the outside, looks like a walk in the park, everything nice and easy.
But the reality is, underneath there is a lot that goes on and many lessons to learn.
Here are my recommendations, if i were to start over again and lessons learned:
1. If you are not madly in love and passionate about your business and industry, don’t do it
Making a business succeed, will require more of you and probably more hours, energy and drive that you initially anticipate. I see many people start businesses for the wrong reasons then they see themselves dealing with a whole lot of responsibilities, people and circumstances that really hate or they are just not willing and motivated to put in the hours and effort required to make it work. Given that really you need to give your all and be motivated at a deeper level to make things happen for your success and business success, you need something more than money to drive you - you need to be terribly obsessed and in love with what you do, to the point that you can become unstoppable. So, find your why and make sure it's a strong and valid why, enough to carry you through the lifecycle of your project or business.
2. Create a business around the lifestyle you want to have, not the other way round
Once you have your business idea planned and clear specific goals and objectives, there are many ways in which you can achieve that goal and many ways to structure and execute your business idea. If you start from the business strategy without having a clear picture of how you want to live your life and what your personal goals are, your life may have to fit around that business, and some of your own personal goals be sacrificed or put on hold so to speak.
When I started my international real estate company, i started the traditional way, with traditional offices and staff and based in London. In 1 year, very few clients came to our office - most preferred to do everything via phone, email, or meet directly on site during an inspection trip/ in the country where the property or project was located. Then I found myself also closing deals from one location say I would be in Cape Town, closing on a deal in Cannes. I also travelled a lot and lived in different places, and so until today, flexibility of location is something that is important to me - I need to be able to pack my bags any day and not have my business be affected or feel like i have a huge burden on my shoulders.
This flexibility is now something that I value a lot, and I want people in the business to be able to work from anywhere in the world. Any of my new business strategies have this factored in - freedom and flexibility for all parties involved - investors, clients, and team.
So be true to who you are and create a business around the lifestyle you want to have, otherwise you will feel like a prisoner.
3. Create Systems and Processes from the very beginning
Your business should be able to run without you. In the beginning you may start by doing it all or a lot yourself, but then you need to hire people to help you. If you don’t have clear structured systems and processes, it’s more time consuming to delegate effectively and train staff or even to structure your own workflow. If you are a solopreneur, you may not need to hire like a big company would but you still need clear systems and processes to run your business effectively so you can focus on the aspects that most matter.
If there is any task and process that you do over and over again, you need to systematize it. If there is an email you send over and over again, you need to template it. If you need to hire a VA or other help, it helps to have all instructions, access codes, documentation, training videos etc available and in the cloud.
4. Hire before you need to
Don’t try to do everything by yourself. Hire as soon as you can, those who are the best in areas that you don’t particularly excel. If you cannot afford to hire, try to do some collaborations, or perhaps start working with freelancers on certain tasks to move you ahead. But be willing to share the load and accept help as you will grow a lot faster, and focus on your key strengths and income generating activities.
5. Cashflow is King
When i first started my business it consisted of large chunks of cash, but seasonal. So for instance, you would do a deal one month and only receive the payment for it a few months after. Whilst the amounts were big enough to get anyone excited, if someone delayed or defaulted it would also have an impact. Artists also have this fluctuating income where they might sell a painting, do a project, a job one month, and not have anything coming in for the next few months until the next job. In your business, whether you work for yourself or have a team, you still need to pay attention to cashflow.
Long term plans are good, and the big deals are amazing, but try to have a recurrent source of income, so you can continue to operate, invest in your business, staff, and yourself. And to have that cushion of sanity and security, to allow you to create and provide more value in peace.
The last thing you want is to live in anxiety thinking how you are going to pay your bills or how you are going to fund your projects and so on. Even if you are just a model, you still need to invest in your business which is your own self, so you can stay presentable and show up ready for the job. What I mean to say, is this advice is applicable for everyone.
6. Goals create Magic
Goals are everything. You know the saying that if you don’t know where you are going you might end up anywhere? That’s exactly what will happen if you don’t have clear written down strategic goals. It’s like sailing a boat with no destination and leaving things to chance. To achieve your own personal goals and business ones, you need a clear system for setting, achieving and measuring goals. I remember back in my days when i first started working in real estate, i was the best performer in my company, bringing in more revenue than people way older than me and that were doing the job for many more years than me. But before i was even allowed on the floor, i was forced to set goals for my personal life (and it was more complex than just writing down what you want) because those would ultimately drive my work performance and they did. Massively. There was another guy, Jeff who was turning 26 and about to make his first million. His coach would also start the process from a very specific system of goal setting. Projects that started from 0 and became super successful, all started from goals - personal, business and project based.
Do not get out of bed without goals. And look at them often, everyday if you can. They will help you stay focused and achieve more.
7. You Matter. Don't forget to take care of you
I know many workaholics like me, who work long crazy hours, and don't mind because the business or project is something they are passionate about, care about and needs your special attention.
For me, i often have to force myself to actually take a day off or time off to rest and socialise and so on. Some days, you could be Barak Obama and I still wouldn't want to drop what I am doing lol. If I am in "creation mode" i'm zoned out, on another planet and only after i finished 'downloading' and expressing it all I feel okay to mix and mingle again.
For others it's just obsession with work to the point that work comes first and they come second.
It's important for all of us to remember (myself included) that actually we come first and work second - for if we are not well and balanced and at our best, how can we give our best?
So take care of your business but take care of you too.
8. Your Clients Matter, don't forget to take care of them
This one seems obvious, but it shocks me how many people don't get this. If you take a job, always be courteous, professional and put the client first. Putting the client first means listening to them and what they want. I see, especially in sales, where the person providing the service is more worried about their own personal needs and agendas, rather than truly being of service and added value to the client. Whilst your needs will be met as a result of meeting your clients needs, you still must be able to deliver and be of service.
If truly you cannot deliver or are not right for the job, rather point them in the right direction instead of wasting their time forcing your product or service to 'fit' when it doesn't.
If they hired you for a job, don't act grumpy or as if you are doing them a favour, because you are not. Serve from the heart and take good care of your clients, even it's a tiny little job, have an attitude of gratitude.
What are some of the important lessons that you have learned in your business journey?