25 tips by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs
Ready to leave your job behind and become your own boss? It takes a certain kind of person to make it through the first few years.
To help you along, we've culled the best tips from our own members - people with years' of experience in running their own businesses.
Don't work for less than you can afford to, but do offer a discount to customers or clients who sign contracts with you.
Find people who will refer jobs to you. If they send you nightmare jobs, make sure they're balanced out with rewarding (profitable!) ones.
Surround yourself with supportive people and don't be discouraged by anyone. If your idea is good and you're determined to stick with it through the first few difficult years, your chances of success are great.
Be flexible in your thinking. Prepare to change the way you work, the products you use and the services you offer, in order to meet the demands of your customers. Admit your mistakes, correct them and carry on. (For example, if you purchase a piece of equipment that does not meet your expectations, send it back, sell it or exchange it!)
Develop a good relationship with your bank manager and creditors. Show a genuine interest in solving problems. Pay as much as you can afford to, to everyone to whom you owe money.
Get trained! You'll be spending a lot of time doing things that have nothing to do with your area of expertise, like bookkeeping, marketing, and IT support!
Avoid isolation. Even if you work closely with your clients, you won't be part of a gang anymore. Develop your own network of entrepreneurs that you see regularly and bounce ideas off. Ideally they’ll allow you to vent your anger and share your successes.
Separate your work and personal life. Set your working hours and stick to a strict timetable. When you're not available to clients, leave a message on your answer machine letting them know when they can expect a reply from you. Let them know how to reach you in an emergency.
Plan some ‘thinking time’ into every day. If you pack your diary with back-to-back activities, your business will never grow.
Plan time to do something you enjoy at least a few times a week - recharge your batteries!
Write a business plan so you're clear about what you're doing, and update it every year.
Develop an excellent telephone manner and react quickly to any complaints or problems.
Confirm orders personally and immediately, especially those you receive on email.
Never lose sight of the big picture – look for innovative, little-explored directions in which to take your business.
When you find someone cleverer than you, employ them! Solicit advice from people who know, for example, other entrepreneurs and reputable small business advisers – the DTI offers lots of information and support for new businesses.
Don't enter a business or a venture that you know nothing about. You'll be running to catch up for the rest of your business life.
Have an existing, loyal customer base and start locally.
Be aware that you will get through any initial investment quickly, so ensure you are covered financially until at least the end of the second year.
Focus on a specific goal and work at it until it’s achieved.
Never worry about how to get things done when you are first developing your idea.Money and resources will come together once you have set your goals and begun to work at them.
Make quality in every aspect of your business your primary focus and aim. If it isn't, you will eventually go out of business.
Use the Internet. Use email. Build a website (if you aren't familiar with websites, try HTML for Dummies), send out email newsletters, buy online banner advertisements and register your site with all the major search engines.
Delegate. You might have to hire a good PA, lawyer, or marketing professional to ensure you'll be profitable in the future.