Starting a business is hard. Anyone who has done will know, and anyone who wants to should know. One thing any aspiring entrepreneur does before launching their business is seek advice from those who have been there and done it.
That’s why we’ve spoken to 10 winners of the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards to find out what one tip they would give to someone just starting out, or on how to stay productive.
‘Build a team that compliments you’ - Jodie Cook, JC Social Media & Clever Tykes:
Stay productive as an entrepreneur by building a team that compliments you. Short attention span? Quick at making decisions? Big picture, visionary thinker? If so, make sure others in your team have the exact opposite characteristics to you so that you balance each other out and make the right decisions for success. It’s easy to attract and hire people who are similar to you, but it’s not necessarily conducive to productivity or results.
‘Say yes’ - Lee Wilcox, On The Tools
It's so easy to say “no” to lots of things when you're first starting out. It's likely that you will be taking on the role of seven people when starting out your business, in doing so you're constantly trying to make sure every bit of time spent has an ROI. This leads to missing opportunities that may have an ROI in three months, a year or even three years. The point is, in the early stages you have to be willing to say “yes” as much as possible, knowing that there will be a lot of 'wastage' with your time. But dig in, do late nights, travel a lot and say “yes” to as much as you can. Do this, and there will be a few gems of relationships that will last the entire lifetime of your career.
‘Dare to Fail’ - Adeem Younis, Penny Appeal and SingleMuslim.com
Mistakes are not just inevitable, they are a crucial part of your journey. You will invest time and money and resources and you will think they will come to nothing but remember, you will learn more from your mistakes than any success you have. So, go ahead and make some mistakes. Just be sure to reflect on the lessons after all, a wise man learns from his mistakes but remember also, the wisest of men learn from the mistakes of others; so be sure to always be deepening your understanding of your market and what’s out there.
‘Challenge yourself’ - Anna Assasa, Tisski
I think the appetite to constantly challenge yourself is a vital trait in all entrepreneurs. I was naturally very shy growing up, so I made a real effort to expose myself to situations that would help me learn and grow.
Travelling improved my confidence and helped me better understand how to connect with diverse personalities and outlooks. An open, engaged and collaborative approach still sits at the very heart of Tisski’s culture and has been key to building long-term relationships with our customers.
‘Have courage and conviction’ - Chris Ganje, AMPLYFI
Starting out with a new business can be daunting, which is why one of my top tips is to have courage and conviction in everything you do. Stay positive, and keep things moving. For start-ups, time is money so decisions need to be made quickly. If something isn’t working, lose it or change it. If something is working well, then move quickly to complete it or maximise it. To be able to do this, you need to know your market inside and out and then you can prepared for any decision and every eventuality.
‘A clear mission’ - Dr Graeme Malcolm, M Squared
To stay productive and motivated as an entrepreneur, a founding mission is incredibly important. As your business expands, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of a sense of purpose higher than your day-to-day work. A clear mission, this fosters a wider sense of ambition that will lead to greater aspiration, bolder ambition and an ability for you to lead the business down avenues that you wouldn't have thought possible.
‘Don’t do it for the money’ - Hannah and Sophie Pycroft, Spectrum Collections
Don't do it for the money. You won't get rich quick, so don't start a business with this in mind, you'll only be disappointed. Instead look for success in smaller achievements initially, such as a purchase from a new customer or a positive comment online.
‘Develop the right mindset’ - Angus Drummond, Limitless Travel
I think the biggest challenge to staying productive is in developing the right mindset. You need to train your mind to be able to make the right decisions and in the right way. There’s this idea that to be an entrepreneur you have to work every hour of every day and sacrifice everything in your life, but I think that’s completely the wrong way to go about it. The most effective entrepreneurs are those that look after all aspects of their life so that they can work productively and focus on the business, but in a way that enables them to have a decent life outside of the business. Having that dynamic allows you to work harder and more effectively.
‘Have killer innovation’ - Melanie Goldsmith, Smith and Sinclair
My top tip would be to ensure you have a killer innovation or product that know will challenge and disrupt your sector not just neatly slot into it. And be confident with yourself and your brand. Don’t sell yourself short when you start as you will devalue your offer and ask people you respect and admire for honest feedback and input to ensure you always gather an outsiders perspective to guide your decision making. Gut instinct is everything to an entrepreneur but temper your passion with objectivity.
‘Surround yourself with radiators, not drains’ - Kirsten White, London Grace
Surround yourself with radiators, not drains. It's easy to forget that you aren't just growing a business or product for your clients, you're also growing a culture for your team. Most start-ups begin with a small team and even just one or two negative people can have a massive effect on the culture you are trying to create within the brand. Growing a business can be fun, but it's also a lot of hard work, so you need to surround yourself with people who radiate positive energy!
Francesca James is co-founder of the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards. greatbritishentrepreneurawards.com/