What Franchise’s resident business agony aunt Angie Coates, founder and CEO of Monkey Music, answers your business and entrepreneurial conundrums
I’ve been an employee for 20 years. How do I know if I’ve got what it takes to be my own boss?
Becoming your own boss, especially moving from a secure career, is a huge leap. It’s daunting, but also exciting, liberating and often incredibly rewarding.
Approaching it with your eyes open means you’re off to a good start. Do you have what it takes? As a franchisor and having worked with hundreds of franchisees, I believe two things are fundamental to success: hard work and resilience.
However hard you worked in the past, as a business owner you’ll work harder. In the early years, it’s relentless and I’m not actually sure it gets easier - it may just be you become used to it.
You’ll always live and breathe the business, but initially cash flow means you’re wearing so many hats you simply never switch off. Even while you’re hoovering, you’ll feel an immense sense of responsibility and have a constant flow of nagging questions. Am I doing the right thing for my brand? Can I afford this? What happens if I can’t work? What should I do first/ next? What help do I need?
And things will go wrong. Apparently, insignificant things take hours you simply don’t have and bigger problems feel like a kick in the gut. Some things will be outside your control; other times you’ll curse your poor decisions.
Initially, energy and enthusiasm will carry you through, then as the business becomes older the fact you’ve already invested so much blood, sweat and tears will give you the sheer bloody mindedness not to fail.
But here’s the thing: being your own boss is as rewarding as anything you’ll ever do. While every disappointment is your responsibility, so is every success. The sense of personal achievement is unbeatable. It’s your decisions and leadership that create everything.
The pride and sense of achievement I get from growing a wonderful head office team and a fantastic and thriving franchise network who provide outstanding service to our customers means that even during lockdown I have bounced out of bed every morning.
What’s your best piece of advice for someone who’s not a natural networker?
Very few people are natural networkers - some just fake it very well! Here’s the process I developed to help me:
• Target networking opportunities. Getting psyched up for an event only to find it a waste of time is so frustrating.
• Set targets for each event to push myself outside my comfort zone. Eg, get the contact details of five prospective customers or partners, discover three approaches other businesses are using to meet a challenge I faced, etc.
• Prepare some questions in advance. I know my business inside out, but I memorise nine questions in case conversation falters.
• Come up with some business related questions, such as what do you think about the latest industry development? Or what’s the biggest challenge your business faces currently?
• Have a few social questions and amusing anecdotes ready, eg: Have you got any holidays planned?; I like your hair/suit/bag. Where’s it from?
• World affairs. I’d read up on three issues and prepare a question about each one.
• Fake it. Pretend to be confident. In time you’ll find you actually are.
• Ask questions and listen. Studies show the more people talk themselves, the more interesting they think you are.
• Follow up. Always follow through on any actions or promises.