Mystified about how to set up and run a business? Join the club! In this series of blog posts, I will discuss my top tips for start ups. Some people like to keep all their cards close to their chest and don’t give anything away for nothing. I’ve never really been one of those people. I’m all for sharing information, which was not always possible in my previous profession as a lawyer due to client confidentiality. Law can also be extremely competitive, especially in a large commercial firm, so some people can be reluctant to help their colleagues develop both as a practitioner and in their professional career as a lawyer. During my journey as a business owner thus far, so many people I’ve met along the way have passed on some gems of advice which I have gratefully received. I’m paying it forward, as a way of giving back to the community that’s given me so much support.
This is the fourth blog in a series of posts on this subject. In Part I of my top tips for start ups, I covered the subject of money. In Part II of this series, I outlined 10 further principles regarding creating and running a business. In Part III of this series, I outlined another 10 key principles related to start ups. I will keep this post a bit more brief. After reflecting on the issue further, I’d like to share five further tips for start ups.
1. Use your common sense
In the day-to-day running of a business, you need to use your common sense. An issue recently arose where a person posted negative feedback on my Facebook page regarding a product which I was trialling on behalf of another business. I contacted the businesses involved and mentioned the comment that had been made in respect of the product. While I hated being the bearer of bad news, I don’t think I would be doing my job of being a brand ambassador properly if I didn’t draw it to their attention. Sometimes you need to use your common sense in dealing with delicate situations such as this. You don’t learn everything at business school.
2. It’s fine to do things from first principles
As I have mentioned in a previous post, I don’t have a Commerce degree or an MBA. I also haven’t read a single book on how to run a business, even though there is a lot of literature on the subject. It’s fine to do things from first principles. Don’t worry about different theories, concepts and big words. Break everything down and think things through for yourself. Learn from the bottom up, rather than the top down. While I was a university student, I held a few part-time positions in retail, including at a pharmacy and a clothing store. It taught me so much about how a business functions and I’m implementing a lot of that knowledge in my own start up. Don’t worry if you don’t have an MBA from Harvard. Learn from your life experience like me.
3. Have role models
If you’re thinking of creating a start up, it’s a good idea to have other entrepreneurs that you look up to for advice, ideas and inspiration (which is my slogan for Anita’s Garden). I personally admire Elon Musk for his creative streak and sheer ingenuity, as does the partner who I previously worked for in the Corporate team at Bell Gully.
4. Don’t worry if you don’t know all the answers
I once found myself questioning whether an item used in the course of running my business was an asset or an expense. I remember feeling upset that I didn't know the answer, despite studying accounting at secondary school and having a father that was a chartered accountant who spent lots of time discussing the discipline of accounting with me. It’s okay if you’re not sure of the answers to these thorny questions. A friend from law school once told me that the one thing he really admires about me is that while I don’t have all the answers, I’m not afraid to ask the questions. Remember that things aren’t usually black and white. Try to come up with your own conclusion based on your analysis and reasoning.
5. Be open-minded
Recently, I had two people approach me asking if I wanted to become a sales consultant for Arbonne, a cosmetics company based on a multi-level marketing model (formerly known as network marketing). While I decided it wasn’t for me, especially since I have so much on my plate with my start up Anita’s Garden, I did learn a few interesting things about business models along the way. This information might be valuable when considering how to structure my business in future.