More and more women than ever before are choosing to start their own business; seeking flexibility, freedom and wanting to create success on their terms.  As the end of 2017 approaches, aspiring entrepreneurs will be reassessing their situation and may consider taking the plunge into the world of self employment in the new year.

Nicola Huelin

Nicola Huelin

But what does it take to start a business, and more importantly, what does it take to grow and sustain a business once it’s up and running?  Every recipe for success is different, but there are some essential ingredients that you’ll need to have in the mix if you want to build a successful business you love, without compromising your quality of family life, health or sanity in the process.

Business coach and mum-of-four Nicola Huelin believes that women can build a business they love and make a difference at home for the ones they love most, without having to struggle.  And she’s on a mission to help one million women achieve that goal!  On the release of her new book The Invisible Revolution, Nicola shares her advice with Female First.

Know why you’re doing it 

What is your true why for being in business and why does it light you up?  Making money is certainly part of the equation, but if you’re thinking of starting your own business for the money alone - and hoping it’ll be easy money - I strongly recommend you think again.  Business success is never plain sailing and we can all reach points when we question why we’re doing what we’re doing.  The women in business that find the extra something to keep going, even when the going gets tough, all have a secret weapon - what I call ‘Paramount Purpose’ - a clear sense of why they are in business, over and above making money.  

Have a bold vision

There’s a great Chinese proverb that says ‘A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step’.  Well, I’ve created a new version which says a journey of a thousand miles starts with putting the destination in your sat nav!  How do you want your life to be?  Your vision is your idea of how you want your life to be at some point in the future.  Spending time crafting a clear and compelling vision is the same as setting that destination on your sat nav.  Before you start, have a very clear idea of what things like success, wealth and living a ‘rich' life really mean to YOU.  Don’t just focus purely on your business vision, think of the big picture; what kind of lifestyle do you want to enjoy alongside your business success?  To craft an inspirational vision you are going to need to be a bold pioneer - going deep within yourself, using the power of your imagination and drawing on your courage to dare to connect with what you really want out of life.  Don’t just focus on the destination, get clear about how you want the journey to be.  After all, that’s what life is really all about - how we choose to live the journey.

Know your own mind

What does that little voice in your head say to you?  Be aware of the power of thought.  It took me years to realise that building a successful business didn’t start with what I was doing, it started with what I was thinking.  Having the life we desire all starts in our head.  I believe that business success is 20% about know-how, tools and techniques and 80% about developing what I call a Performance Mindset - a way of thinking that empowers us to step outside our comfort zone, try new things and not be held back by the fear of failure.  

Be prepared to take the right action

You’ve probably heard the story about the Hare and the Tortoise, where the moral of the story is the fastest person doesn’t always win.  We live in a world where it’s easy to get sucked into focusing on the end goals, where we measure success based on our ability to do and to get more, more, more and faster, faster, faster.  Truly successful people understand that the aim is to build a successful business and lifestyle, not create a life of busyness.  One of the secrets to building and sustaining a successful business without sacrificing our quality of family life is to learn to ‘slow down to speed up’.  Prioritise the key tasks and spend your time wisely.  This is even more important for business mums who are juggling their start-up around childcare.  

Be brave enough to be Marmite

To build a successful business takes three different types of business intelligence: Business IQ (business knowledge), Business EQ (the level of emotional intelligence we need to bring to our business) and thirdly what I call Business AQ (our ability to show up authentically).  Even if you sell products, ultimately, when you meet people, it’s you they are meeting and hearing.  People do business with people they know, like, and trust - and people will only really connect with you if you are being your true authentic self. ‘Be yourself’, sounds trivial right?  How difficult can it be to just be yourself?  Well it actually takes great courage to find our voice, take centre stage in our own lives and reveal our true self to the world.  It might feel more comfortable trying to be vanilla, ‘all things to please all people’, but the only way to be successful in business is to stand out from the crowd.  We all have imperfections, but successful marketing needs you to be Marmite - the unique and true essence of you.  This will attract your ideal clients who will love it, and for others, well, you just won’t be their cup of tea - and that’s more than ok.  So, be real!  

Have a Plan

Do you have an amazing idea, but lack clarity about how to turn it into reality?  In the words of Benjamin Franklin ‘failure to plan, is planning to fail’.  Sadly, I see so many business owners lost, stumbling around in the dark, wasting time and energy on the wrong things, because they don’t have the right plan in place.  Worse still, I see entrepreneurs and small business owners only planning for success in their business.  This is one of the fastest routes to success in your business, at the cost of sacrificing your success and happiness in other important areas of your life - such as your quality of family life, relationships, health and sanity!  Make your plan a ‘Life & Business Plan’ all in one.  Unless you’re trying to secure funding, you don’t need anything more than a one-page business plan - what I call a ‘Pareto Plan’.  Based on the Pareto-principle, which states that 80% of our biggest results come from 20% of our efforts, a Pareto Plan is simple yet powerful.  It provides a clear and guiding framework to help you stay on track, whilst enabling you to remain agile and flexible as your business journey unfolds.  Without planning, you will most likely become overwhelmed by an ever-growing, never-ending to-do list in your business.  

Surround yourself with the right people

As entrepreneur Jim Rohn quite rightly put it -  we become the average of the five people we spend the most time with.  Surrounding yourself with the right people gives you what I call People Power.  Successful women in business also have the right blend of five different types of People Power: their support network (those who support them personally - emotionally and logistically), their business network (mutually beneficial and supportive relationships that can lead to mutual referrals, collaboration, joint ventures, partnerships), their Dream Team (the professional support we build into our business over time through staffing or outsourcing), their Tribe/Community (a group of like-minded people who share similar passions, have similar values and are perhaps on a similar journey), and of course their ideal clients (the simple fact is, no clients means no business!)  

Know how to get clients

Sadly, marketing and the ability to get clients is the bit I see women in business struggling with the most - even those who are amazing at what they do.  I advise entrepreneurs to invest in understanding what marketing really is and what it is not.  It’s essential to build a strong marketing platform from which to raise your visibility and naturally attract your ideal clients - so they find you, rather than you having to worry about how to find them.  Getting the right marketing ingredients in place and crafting your unique recipe for marketing success will be one of the soundest investments of your time, energy and money you’ll ever make.  You should never need to be too ‘salesy’ or pushy to win new clients.  When you get your marketing right, the selling part just happens naturally.  

Keep going when the going gets tough

How do we make our business journey and our family life sustainable, especially when times get tough?  Life throws us curve balls sometimes and in my experience - and that of the hundreds of successful women in business I’ve connected, coached and mentored - building and sustaining a successful business and lifestyle, even in the face of adversity, takes something called Persistent Sustainability.  Persistent Sustainability = (Persistence + Resilience) + (Consistency + Agility).  The combination of being able to keep going and bounce back after a knock, combined with the ability to consistently take the steps that lead towards success while remaining flexible and able to adapt along the way.  Life inevitably has ups and downs and resilience is a necessary skill in business.  

Learn to get comfortable with discomfort

Life is one long lesson and successful business owners are always learning.  Even those we assume already know everything they need to know - the Richard Bransons, Oprah Winfreys and Bill Gates of this world - are undoubtedly still learning and growing every day.  Learning and growth does not always feel comfortable.  We learn by doing things we’ve never done before, we learn by making mistakes, we learn by not getting the outcome we wanted (some call this failure) and we learn and grow the most outside our comfort zone.  Your personal growth is linked to your business growth, so you need to be open to new challenges and welcome opportunities to learn.  In business if you’re feeling excited yet uncomfortable, perhaps even terrified, you’re probably on the right track! 

Nicola Huelin is founder of Mpower for Mums in Business - a business support community for women in business - and author of the new book The Invisible Revolution: Inspiration, insights and practical advice to build a business you love (Practical Inspiration Publishing). Find out more at: