Tricia Fox, Managing Director of Volpa, shares her top 15 tips for entrepreneurs after 18 successful years in the business:
1. Learn to love outsourcing. You will never be good at everything, nor do you need to try to be. While it might be fun to be in charge of the whole ship, your time will become your most scarce resource. I find women business owners in particular have more difficulty letting go of “doing it all” – find experts, build a team, and point them in the right direction.
2. Be honest with yourself about work/life balance. It’s OK to love your work, it’s OK to take the morning off to get errands done, work weekends if you like, take days off to spend with your kids. Do whatever works for you – don’t let anyone tell you what that balance should be.
3. Value yourself. Too many start-up business owners go in with the “I’m better and cheaper” mantra. Your skills are valuable, price them according to what the market will pay, not what your competitors are charging.
4. Find a mentor. These people will help you adjust to managing the ups and downs of running a business. There’s no law saying you can only have one at a time. Meet them regularly, ask them questions, people are usually happy to help.
5. Get a good accountant. Find someone who understands what you are trying to achieve and will help guide you to achieving it. We’ve worked with Henderson Loggie for over ten years and they give us sage advice, strong suggestions and have worked with us as the business has grown.
6. Get an office. This is obviously something to consider at a later date, given most people are working from home if they possibly can due to the current Coronavirus pandemic. While I love working from home, I do miss the clear distinction between work and home. In the past, I have never regretted separating the two. With co-working solutions nowadays it’s incredibly cost effective and will also give you an opportunity to network with other business owners.
7. Network your socks off. Find creative ways to do this virtually given the current lockdown restraints. When the time comes when we can do this physically, don’t beat around the bush, get out there, go to every event – regardless of whether you are interested in the speaker or not. The more people you know, the better.
8. Read books. Business books. Immerse yourself in new ideas, more knowledge. Know that you’ll never have all the answers but keep actively trying to find them.
9. Invest in learning time management skills. I popped myself on a Priority Management training course about 12 years ago and while it was a lot of money for me at the time, it was the best money I’ve ever spent. Knowing how to prioritise what little time you have is critical to your success. Otherwise you’ll simply become overwhelmed by the demands on your time.
10. Recognise overwhelm and step back. At times you will be busier and under more pressure than you can ever imagine. Recognise when this is happening and step back to give yourself perspective. Focus on the future, don’t panic.
11. Don’t neglect the finances. Cashflow is king, as they say. Keep your eye on invoicing and payments. It can be an elaborate juggling performance from time to time but it’s your duty to keep things on track so don’t drop the balls, so to speak.
12. Invest in your marketing. Don’t (please) be taken in with offers to get cheap business cards. Stand out from the crowd. Invest in a logo, make sure your business cards and website are top notch. Cheap might be appealing in the short term but it will cost you more in the long term.
13. Be careful who you trust. Don’t judge everyone by your own standards. Business can be tough and not everyone has the same agenda as you. Protect your business as if it was your child and if you are not comfortable with something or someone, walk away.
14. Trust your gut instinct. It’s vastly underestimated in an era of big data where we should always be able to analyse everything within an inch of its life. However, over the years my gut instinct has also served me well. You know, those times when you can’t quite put your finger on it but you just have a feeling…..trust the feeling.
15. Learn to manage people. Most people know how to manage tasks, very few are good at managing the people who do the tasks. Growing a business is as much about inspiring and enabling people; being good at managing them so they can perform at their best is key. Learn about different work types, different motivators and listen to people.