Most people think about running their own business, some try and fail, and others invest their life savings without thinking about the ramifications.
But at some point there may be a ‘moment’. The moment you say ‘Let’s start a business’ and make to leap into the unknown
Our ‘moment’ was August 2017, whilst drinking a glass (or three) of wine when those four words were muttered. Everything seemed so logical, so obvious and fail-proof. We’d have a cool office, loads of customers and take holidays when we wanted. The next morning as the haze faded, we decided to take our time, discuss, debate, sound people out, discuss more and eventually said ‘let’s give it a go’ in December 2017.
This Christmas we enter our third year and we’re very grateful that Harler is a success. We’ve created a neat company, full of great people and working with some amazing customers. We knew there was a gap in the market that needed independent advice to fill it, but we didn’t appreciate how big the gap was and how busy we would become. That makes us very happy!
What have we learnt?
Board meetings are boring
The nuts and bolts of running the business are simply a distraction. The hours we wasted discussing company names, selecting accounting software, checking out swanky London offices and phone numbers are eye-watering. We quickly learned to stop all that. Our board meetings now aren’t really meetings at all … if we need to talk, we talk. In truth we talk too much, but 99% of these conversations are about how we can help our customers and are usually with a coffee when we have some down-time or a glass of wine at Liverpool St station. The other 1% of the time we save for the boring but really critical stuff!
Do it for the right reasons
Redundancy, you can’t find the right job or it’s time for a change are common and good reasons, but not everyone can run a business. In fact, we would argue that most business owners question their abilities every day – we certainly do!
It’s expensive and you’ll burn cash in the first year with no return. You have to say goodbye to your little luxuries in life and be prepared for austerity.
However, owning and building something cool is very satisfying. It’s a life-style choice so you need to make sure you’ve got the support of your family, friends and bank manager.
Relationships matter from all dimensions
The saying ‘it’s not what you know …’ is true, but refers to every type of relationship.
Having a good relationship with your team drives the day and makes the hard work, fun work. Having wider relationships to support networking will win you some new business at some point but it is unpredictable. Building solid relationships with your clients so they recommend you is simply common sense.
Don’t over complicate things with MBA methodologies, stakeholder mapping or CRMs – just do a good job and be nice, polite, honest and helpful and your customer will soon become your promoter.
Don’t be lonely
Harler has two founders and we help each other every minute of every day – we mostly know what each other is thinking and we respect each other’s view. But running a business can be lonely.
Surround yourself with good people. Call them for a chat when you’re feeling low and need a boost and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Sell, sell, sell
Find the best way to sell your business and stick to it – it takes months, years, to build an income pipeline and reputation. We have a simple measure where we connect with 10 potential customers a week, every week. Clearly that’s not 10 purchase orders, but 10 conversations on email, telephone or online and many, many meetings. This built our brand and filled a pipeline.
Oh, and never stop doing this when you are busy doing the real work.
Manage your own expectations
We all think things should happen quicker, should be bigger and or better than they turn out to be.
So it’s a whole lot easier on your own stress levels to under-estimate everything!
Don’t swim with sharks
Finally, follow your instinct – if the conversation doesn’t feel right, move on. Quickly.