“Life is too short to be working for some else’s dream”

By Donnavan Finlay, Co-Founder of Guyding Principals.

Starting your own business venture is one of the most rewarding and scariest things you can ever do.  Stepping out from a steady job is daunting and will never be easy. But when done correctly and passionately it can give you unknown freedom and pleasure. Many say they would like to be their own boss one-day but very few have the guts to actually get out and do it.

I have started many ventures on my own. Some that were great successes and some that were not so great. The most important thing is to learn from your mistakes and move on to the next. Remember that it is not a race. Forward is forward.

Since I am in the process of doing it again I thought I can note my experiences as someone may be thinking to venture in the entrepreneur field. I am not talking about a massive company and getting involved with venture capitalists. I am talking about a normal small business. A coffee place or a small grocery store. Places you can start on your own and your own money or limited investment from outside parties.

  • Have an Idea

Without an idea there is no business. Brainstorm and do your research to see if there can be such a business. What are the options? Start your own place, go for a franchise or partner up with an already existent business. You need to look at all the options and get all the information to make, what will be one of the most important choices you will ever make.

It needs to be something you are either good at or very passionate about. Passion is fundamental, as this business will consume most of your time and life. If you are not passionate about the product you will offer you will lose interest and the venture will fail. You will have to separate yourself from your normal life at the start. You will have to choose work over parties. I read an interesting quote a couple of weeks ago.

My friend told me they never see me at the parties. To which I replied “I never see you at the bank”. Not sure who said this but it is relevant in this case.

  • Build the Plan.

Once you have settled on the idea of the product or brand you want to offer you need to look at how to put it in place. You need to look at location and how the final product will be served.  There are actually many more questions but let’s start with the basics.

Key question you need to ask yourself: “what is the purpose of the business”? Once you have an answer for that you are in a good place. From there you can put the smaller details in place.

At the start you will need to ask some tough questions.

  • What obstacles may you encounter?
  • How will you manage the cash flow?
  • How will you ensure sustainability?
  • What are you going to do to grow your customer base?
  • How will you ensure quality control and customer satisfaction?

These are only a couple of questions you will have to ask yourself to build a clear path during the first couple of months. This time period will put all your skills and experience to the test. From experience I always tell people to just calm down and never make rush decisions. Focus on a solution and never let the issue at hand overwhelm you.

  • Look at the Finances.

This is an area that is too wide for just one article to look at for a variety of businesses. The variables are just too many. It is very market dependent and things like location and just size will make a big difference.

There are many options out there. You can go the more traditional route by loaning the money from a bank. There are also other options out there and I strongly advise you to do your research. It is fine to take on investors but make sure you understand how repayments needs to be done and that you are comfortable with ALL the terms. Last thing you want is to fail due to a misunderstanding or over eagerness with a loan or investment.

Also make sure you have enough funding to keep the business afloat for up to 12 months, as that will be your toughest time concerning money. There will be many unplanned events that will cost money. Things you cannot possibly plan for. Equipment issues. Rising supply costs. Employee strikes.

  • Choosing a Partner.

You might be considering taking on a business partner. Nothing wrong with that, as it can spread the workload and the risk. In my current new venture I am alone and there are reasons for that. I have a very clear vision for what I want this product to be. It is something I have done before, successfully so I know what to get done and what to expect. Taking on a partner at this stage will just slow down the process and dilute the vision I have. Maybe I am just stubborn.

I can’t tell you what to look for in a partner but I can tell you what to be wary of. Be careful of friends and family. From personal experience I have been in many awkward situations with family members due to money issues.

Look at a person’s work ethic and overall personality. You need to remember that you will have to deal with some tough situations with your business partner. You need to be sure the person will be able to be a solution to the problem and not make a tough decision even tougher.

  • Building a Team.

Finding the perfect employee and team members is task you cannot make mistakes with. These are the people that will represent your company to your clients. These are the people that will be the face of the brand. You need to know that you can trust them and that they will care for the business as much as you do. They need to be passionate. They also need to be good at what they do. Make sure they have all the training they need before you open for trading.

  • Brand Yourself.

Start by putting together a mission statement and have a logo made. You need to stand out from the crowd. Be present on social media and be active to inform your current clients and potential clients of all new deals you may offer.

Make sure your staff have the correct uniform at all times and the guest facing area needs to be in immaculate condition at all times.

And branding goes beyond just this. I was walking towards a shop this week and saw some of the staff smoking outside in their uniforms. This is something I hate in my own businesses and I do not tolerate this from any of my own staff. When I walked into the place the one person put out their cigarette and came straight to assist me without washing his hands. This is part of the branding process. This whole experience made me question if I will support this business again. Branding is everything your customers and potential customers can see and experience.

  • Open the Doors.

Congratulations on starting your own business. Now the real work starts. In the beginning months you need to be very active in the business to ensure the business is growing towards what you envisioned right at the start. You need to ensure quality is consistent and that you deliver exceptional service. This is key to your success.  Delivering a quality product and great customer service will ensure you are separated from the competition. That is the ideal. To be seen as different from the rest.

There are a number of other areas you need to cover and they are as listed below.

  • Make sure you have correct insurance.
  • If the place is going to sell any food you will have to be cleared by a health inspector. This will be dependent to state or country.
  • The company needs to be registered with the IRS. Go see an expert for this matter.
  • The building will have to be inspected and approved by a safety inspector. This will be dependent to state or country. There will have to be fire extinguishers and correct safety signage. Staff will also have to be trained for emergency situations.
  • Your staff needs to be interviewed and make sure you check with the previous employers. I have never seen a bad resume in my life.
  • You will have to look at areas to promote the business. Will the local paper suffice or will you have to do more work online.
  • You will have to make contact with all the possible suppliers. Choose the suppliers that can best keep consistent flow of merchandise. No point in getting the best price but they are always out of stock.

If you have ever started your own business, what is the one thing you wish someone had told you before you started?


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