As I sit here, winding up the year in a damp, cold England. The usual British “let’s wind down and go to the pub” mentality is sadly absent. And the “I’ll just get a few more emails done before Come DIne With Me starts” continues.
It’s fair to say, 2020 has thrown more curveballs than a Dodgeball match, but on the plus side, it has created a strange, yet wonderful perfect storm that has allowed me to do something that I’ve dreamt of for years.
I’ve lost count of how many ‘million dollar’ ideas I’ve had, and the loose budgets I’ve sketched up on the back of napkins. There’s even a full blown business plan sitting on my desktop. But for some reason, the security and sanctum of full time employment kept me firmly in its bosom.
But weirdly, thanks to Covid (and it pains me to say that) it did give me the kick-up-the backside I needed to do it.
Here are some tips on setting up by yourself. Inspired from the 5 things that came together for me; at the right time, and in the right place, to give me the business idea and the confidence to set up on my own.
- Find a gap in the market that is close to home
- Speak with honesty, and don’t go in with the big sell
- Embrace your new found freedom
- Don’t take on unnecessary overheads
- Start small, and celebrated the wins
- Find a gap in the market that is close to home
I’d been in the marketing industry; mainly on the agency side for over 15 years, and the model had always been the same. Get big clients, with big money, for as long as possible.
But what happens when these big clients don’t want to spend big money on agencies any more? They want to spend money on smarter technologies and efficiencies. The Facebooks and LinkedIn’s of the world, don’t use service agencies, they invest in their own talent. It wasn’t going to be long before others followed suit.
But what about the new businesses? The exciting ones with new ideas. Traditional services industries are just not set up to support them. They’re far too big and lumbersom to work with a fast moving startup, and have way too many layers of people with different specialities to move quickly.
So that was it. I found a gap in the industry and a highly engaged audience who were crying out for help. The Point Consultancy was born!
My tip: Look for a business idea close to home. You know your industry better than anything else, and in most cases there are usually huge gaps that are affecting productivity. Or there is a shift occurring that isn’t being addressed because the business itself hasn’t been built to adapt to the change.
Plus, if you’re going to be looking for investment, a deep industry expertise is something Angels and VC’s will be looking for.
Stick to what you know, and find a way to make it better.
Speak with honesty, and don’t go in with the big sell
Like this year wasn’t bad enough, without having some Johnny ‘flash-suit’ salesperson repeatedly calling you at month end, or the relentless LinkedIn InMails stating “I hope you’re keeping well in these difficult times; but I may have a solution that will be the answer to all your problems.”
It was annoying before, but now I find it downright rude. “No Paul, I don’t want to have a zoom call about a revolutionary analytics platform. I want a large glass of wine and to hug my friends.”
These aggressive and impersonal sales tactics have had their day. And it should go without saying, that emotional intelligence should prevail.
I’ve found that being fully transparent from day one, and having honest and open conversations, are much more valuable and rewarding than a pushy one.
My tip: Just be honest. Say what you can do, what you can’t do, and how you think you can help. Be clear with your pricing from the outset and don’t try to sell them the titanic from day one, sell your clients a small sailboat and help them to set sail.
Embrace your new found freedom
I may be in the minority here, but I have loved working from home and having the ability (within government guidelines of course) to be able to work from wherever I want. It’s a new found luxury that I never foresaw coming, but one I now don’t want to change.
Creating a business that is completely formed on these principles; means there isn’t a scramble to try and adapt to a new way of working. The culture haas been set from day one.
It also meant I could work with people who wanted the same flexibility and freedom. The wonderful Consultants listed on The Point Consultancy are all self-employed and are located all around the world.
The different time zones can be a pain, but we’ve actually used it to our advantage; being able to deliver work much faster and choose from a much wider range of available talent.
My tip: Forget the old restraints of office culture and think where and how you would be happiest working, then build the team and operating model around that. Create a working culture of collaboration and flexibility, and use it to your advantage.
Don’t take on unnecessary overheads
In the 764 aforementioned ‘million dollar ideas’ I’ve had, and the scribbled P&L’s on the back of beer mats, there was always the list of overheads you’d expect to need. Staff, rent, technology, medical cover etc etc etc.
The truth is, most small businesses starting out don’t need this. And now, thanks to ‘Rona, we’ve discovered we can work from home if we need to. This means you can cross-off a lot of previously assumed expensive overheads and take on as little risk as you can.
The commercial model for The Point Consultancy enables us to enlist and promote a list of exceptional talent, who are all freelancers with other forms of income. It means there is little risk on both sides, and our client’s can get access to incredible people without taking on any risk themselves.
It’s a win win for everyone involved.
My tip: Strip it back to the bare essentials. Keep your investment to the minimum in the first instance and start small. If you can start with no investment, you can ease some pressure and build the business progressively.
Start small, and celebrated the wins
We’ve all heard of the iterative approach to a startup, and although many preach it, from my experience – not many are good at practising it. By their nature, entrepreneurs have big dreams, and although it’s important to keep the big goal in mind, boiling the ocean from day one never works out.
Figure out your proposition, and think about how you can make money / prove it works tomorrow? Find a way to show that your theory is correct. Pick up the phone and speak to someone from your target audience; try and sell them a very cut-down version of what you want to sell. Deliver it. Learn from it. And go again.
Then, and probably most importantly… celebrate the small wins. If you’re only focusing on the big end goal, you’ll end up feeling pretty crappy most days if you’re not achieving it.
If this year has taught us anything. It’s the small things that matter.
My tip: Having a big end goal is important, but only striving for that can only set you up to be disappointed in the short term. Set yourself small, tangible goals that lead up to it. You’ll end your day feeling much more fulfilled; and feel much better about rewarding yourself with that glass of wine!
If you’d like to chat about how we can support your startup in your next phase of growth, get in touch.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org | LinkedIn: Laura Kaye Bell