How about some important business startup lessons from a good friend of mine who recently started her own coaching business.
Hi my name’s Claire Gallear and I’m a qualified Personal Performance Coach. I’ve been coaching since August 2010 and I started a business doing full time coaching in September 2012.
I thought it would just be a matter of time before I would have enough clients through referrals, doing a bit of handing out of flyers and a tiny bit of networking….. ahh! It’s not quite the stampede I thought it would be.
This marketing thing, OMG! I had no idea there was so much to it! So much to learn and set up! And the more you learn the more you realise there is even more you can do!
However, I have been very grateful for a charity funded project called Enterprise as a Life. I have gone on their free seminars and learned about SEO, Mobile Marketing, Email Marketing, Time Management (run by Karl), Social Media, Confidence and Motivation and Selling in a Recession. Plus they do “Meet and Mingle”s which are also free. These are networking events in the early evening with a choice of about 3 mini workshops or talks on similar topics to the seminars.
Over the last five months I’ve met some really nice people, some of whom are becoming mutually supportive friends outside of the project, as we are all in the same boat. Struggling to start and grow our businesses.
That’s another thing: the loneliness, which saps the motivation. If you work for yourself like I do, sometimes you might not talk to anyone all day if you don’t have a client that day. I miss the camaraderie of colleagues.
I used to work with in a team when I was employed in a “normal” job. You could have a bit of a bitch or a moan if someone had annoyed you and laugh it off a lot more easily. Now things tend to go round and round your head more.
So, I decided “Claire! You need to get out more!” I began looking for free networking groups! (You’re getting to know me now; I like free stuff).
This has as least three benefits:
- You get out and talk to people who are going through the same things as you and are not your clients so you don’t have to be on your best behaviour,
- You may get leads to future clients,
- Sometimes they have speakers who you can learn a lot from to help with your business growth.
Some of the ones I’ve found are: Creative Coffee, Business Biscotti, Madhatters (women’s one), the Meet and Mingles mentioned earlier, Friendly Fridays, Leicester Business Event and Entrepreneur’s Circle (free first time).
Now, after learning all the stuff on those seminars, I’m going to sit down and give myself a coaching session. The aim (goal) will be, to implement all of it into working solutions to building my client base. See you at the free networking events!
Claire is a qualified personal performance coach and can be reached through her website http://gallear.co.uk/ or by email email@example.com. You could also give her a call on 07930 427518.
If you have any important business startup lessons we'd love to hear about them. Please write them in the comments section below.
Everyone is in sales. Yes, everyone, including you.
Now it may sound a little daft to say since very few of us think we actually sell anything. But I'd like to show you just how wrong we all are on this score. And wrong just about every single day.
You see, from the moment you're born you're trying to sell something. And that something is you. You smile to get a positive response, a response that is repeated and affirmed throughout our whole lives. If you smile at folks as an adult, most of the time you will still get a smile in return.
When you get a little older you start to realise the value in asking for things and then demanding things and then kicking up a fuss when you don't get what you want. How many times do kids ask for ice cream before they either get want they want or realise that it's not going to happen? Quite a lot, right.
So we move on in life and by the time we get to our teen years you've (hopefully) stopped throwing yourself on the floor screaming when you're not getting what you want. But then you go into a different kind of selling: selling yourself to the opposite sex.
And this is when sales skill starts to develop. You preen yourself to look and smell good, you try and be on your best behaviour, you aim to say the right words. All in the hope that when you finally ask he/she will say yes to going out with you.
But what happens when all this effort comes to naught? What if she said no? Do you go home and sulk, cry, vow never to ask again? Or do you try a dating site in the hope that you won't have to ask anyone face-to-face?
Or do you realise that the word 'no' doesn't really hurt that much at all and try again with the same or a different person?
Eventually you get to job interviews. Again you're having to sell yourself to someone who might hire you. You go through a similar kind of process as you went through asking for a date: preen, polish, best behaviour, the right words etc. In the hope that the interviewer will see you as the person they need and offer you the job.
But what if you're turned down? Do you go home and pull the emotional Huggies over your head, vow never to apply for another job? Go to a different job site hoping that you'll never have to confront an interview again?
Or do you realise that being turned down here and there isn't a life-threatening condition and you try again with a different approach?
You might even have made some friends along the way. Did they just turn up and instantly become your friend or did you go through a kind of 'getting to know you phase'? The part where you're doing your best not to be the jerk/bitch you know you can be. This bit is the selling bit, you're still trying to win friends and some approval by presenting the best you.
Perhaps you managed to get a job. I'll bet you're still selling your worth to someone and this someone is now a boss. You may be trying win promotion, get that bonus, win employee of the year. You're still selling.
So life moves on, maybe you got lucky and have a (dare I say it) wife or husband (or partner or whatever the fashionable term is). You would still have gone through a selling process to try and impress etc.
And now you may even have kids. And I promise that they'll be selling to you in the same way that you did to your parents.
So, now that you realise that everyone is in sales, my question to you is:
What's your kids' closing ratio on you?
Many folks have heard about having a positive attitude but is that all there is to being successful? The old addage 'Believe it and achieve it' seems to have been kicked around a little too much in my view. And if it were strictly true then many more people would achieve success in their chosen endeavour.
But having said that, having a fair bit of simple belief and motivation can carry you a long way. Your reasons for what you're up to mean a heck of a lot, especially when you're self-employed or running a small business.
And in few other areas is your belief and motivation tested more than when you run a business.
When you run a business you have to absolutely believe that what you are doing is going to work, And that you will be able to make a success of your activities.
But have a think about this:
If you've ever been in any kind of sales role you will understand that believing in the product that you are selling is vital. You also have to have confidence and belief in your ability to make sales. Without any of these key components you will not likely succeed, in all honesty selling is very much about belief and confidence (more than skill much of the time).
But there is a huge difference between working in sales role and running your own business. That difference is that when you work for someone else you normally have a boss who will help you and support you and usually guide you in the right direction. When you run a business you simply don't have that, you are the boss, you have to find your own motivation, belief and encouragement.
And that's where many people who start their own business fall down. When things get tough, and they undoubtedly will, unless you have strong motivation and absolute belief in your enterprise you will almost certainly start to flounder (and in all probability).
So, what can you do to try and ensure that you believe in what you're doing and have faith in your business and/or abilities?
One of the most important things to realise very early on is the reason or reasons why you're doing this in the first place. This is fundamentally your motive, from which motivation comes. Without this motivation you are at a disadvantage to begin with.
Now your motive doesn't have to be anything high and mighty. It could be as simple as “I don't want to work for anyone else”. But whatever reason you have for doing what you do it needs to be very clear in your mind. Because in the tough times this should spur you on to take action despite how you feel at the time.
Personally I have a number of reasons for having a business, one of them is that I really don't want to work for anyone else. Another is that I love having the freedom to steer my own career rather than having to rely on someone else's pay or promotion structure. I like being the captain of my own ship, so to speak. And last summer I was able to just have a few hours off to watch our oldest daughter compete in her school sports day. I was only one of three parents there but it was great not having to ask for permission.
But do I struggle? Are there times when my motivation and belief aren't so great? Do I sometimes think that maybe I should just get a job? The simple answer is yes, like everyone else I have times of doubt. I don't want to scare you off if you want to start a business but it really is like an emotional rollercoaster at times.
But when I get a big hug my three-year-old daughter or a welcome-home kiss from my partner I'm reminded that there are very good reasons/motives for putting up with the stress that having a business can sometimes bring. And these reminders give me the motivation to work hard, to focus and to have belief that what I'm doing is worthwhile.
And the key element here is knowing what it is that drives you. Without this there will be little motivation and you will struggle to truly believe in what you're doing. And those reasons need to be your reasons, you won't find much motivation and faith in someone else's.
So, if you want to “believe it and achieve it” it you need to start with the reasons why you would want to achieve in the first place.
For a little more on belief and achievement read my piece called "you have to make change happen, not just hope for it"
One of the biggest challenges that many of us in business have is the sheer number of potentially good business ideas or potentially profit-making concepts that we tend to generate.
Now I say that's a problem because very few of us have the resources available to have someone else do some digging to work out if the idea is feasible. Just because you might think it's going to be the next sun-dried tomato concept doesn't instantly mean that the market is going to open its wallet and let you in.
So let me explain some of my thoughts on how to recognise a potentially good business ideas and maybe it'll help you.
At the time of writing I'm working on couple of ideas that are likely to lead to profit. One of them I can do on my own and the other I will need help with. And these are just 2 of many business ideas I've had lately.
But how have I decided that these two ideas are worth pursuing?
Well I have a little process for checking out whether business ideas might be right for me and also the market. And it starts with just 2 simple questions:
- Does the idea keep me awake with excitement?
- Have I checked with trusted business buddies about whether there is potential in the market for the idea?
So let's have a think about the first question: Does the idea excite me?
Most of the ideas I generate are just that; ideas. They are thoughts for where I might take the business to add profit streams or completely new business concepts that have little to do with what I'm involved with at the minute.
I often write down the ideas to see if they weigh on my mind at all. And if they do then I'll do a little digging about whether it's something I could legitimately fit into what's going on now and within the near future.
But the one thing that goes through my mind at this stage is whether I'm excited about the idea at all. Do I find myself sharing the concept with people? Have I mentally begun to write the business and marketing plan? Does the idea give me a buzz? Does it keep me awake at night?
If I can't see any of these things happening around an idea then I often dismiss it. And this is because I know from experience that any business idea will need lots of work to make it a success. I'll need to put time, effort and money into it and if I can't see myself continuing to be excited about it when things get tough (and they normally do at some point) then I'll likely lose enthusiasm and this increases the chances of me giving up.
That's not to say that the idea as a bad idea. I just have to recognise that it's not necessarily right for me.
The next question is about the market: is there potential in the market?
This is a little more tricky in many ways because sometimes you could be bringing an unknown product or service into the market and will have to create demand for it.
Thankfully most of my business ideas relate to existing markets and could be considered a favourable variation on an existing theme.
These days I tend to look for ideas where the potential market could be huge if tapped in the right way. Not easy, since many people want big markets, but it certainly cuts out trying to get attention in crowded niches.
When I've worked out the idea a little I'll then share the thought with a few trusted business colleagues to get their responses. I belong to a business group that I trust to give me honest feedback (both bad and good) that I can take away and consider.
If the feedback is mostly positive then I can move forward with more detailed feasibility study about the market and how to take the idea into market. Again, I often ask the same group of people.
So, that tells you a little more about how to recognise potentially good business ideas and if you've any further thoughts then please share them in the comments box below.
In today's fast moving work environment there can be no standing still with your skills and knowledge.
But if you really want to get ahead then you need to be willing to go beyond what most people will do, which is normally just enough to stay where they are. Even those in the professions (lawyers and accountants) often do the bare minimum to meet regulatory requirements, they rarely go above and beyond what most of their peers will do to develop skills and knowledge.
Don't get me wrong, many (if not most) people have little driving ambition and are happy staying put.
But if that's not you, if you have some ambition to move yourself and your career forward then you have to start thinking about how to be better in your skills and knowledge.
And this starts with having an idea of what you'd like to be doing in one, three or five years time. Where do you want to be living? What work would you like to be doing? How much do you want to be earning? How much fitter and healthier would you like to be? And so on...
In other words "you have to have some idea of what you want".
But knowing what you want can be the most the difficult bit. So it's worth spending some time over.
You see, once you know what you want you can then begin to work out a plan to get you there. But deciding what you want and wanting it enough to start learning and developing can take some time.
Now I heard a saying a few years ago that has stuck with me:
"If you want things to get better YOU have to get better!"
In other words 'you can't expect things to improve if you do nothing to make them improve'. And, in all cases, that starts with some kind of learning.
Think of it this way: you wouldn't take your car to a mechanic who hadn't spent quite a lot of time learning about cars and how to maintain and repair them. So if you want to be a successful car mechanic you need to be learning about cars etc. Not only that but you have to continually learn about cars and how to fix and maintain them because auto technology changes very quickly.
But let's come back to the main point: To earn more you have to learn more.
And here's what I mean by that: In today's austere times it's no good just waiting for a pay raise or promotion. Here in the UK many civil servants haven't had a pay rise in a couple of years and most folks in the private sector have had raises that barely cover inflation (if at all).
So, with that in mind, what options do you have? To start with you could look for another job, along with everyone else who feels as though they're worth more. The job market is fierce right now. You could also apply for promotion, along with everyone else who feels that they deserve it.
Or you could try something new: You could start learning for additional knowledge, skills and qualifications to give you a better chance of getting a job or promotion.
Alternatively you could start a business in your spare time, perhaps something that might grow over time to replace your full-time income. There is no shortage of opportunity there.
But, however you look at it, if you want to improve your finances you'll have to take on board some new learning to improve your chances of making it happen.
So whatever you choose to do please don't sit on your hands and wait for things to happen, go out and shake things up.
Got some thoughts or experience on this? It'd be great if you would share them in the comments below: