Seven brilliantly simple ways to get it right each time
You’re the point at which the buck stops, so it’s no wonder creating and launching your own endeavour is a daunting prospect. But it doesn’t have to be, of course. Yes, being responsible for finding customers, building relationships, achieving sales targets and all the rest is down to you – but it’s also a journey that can be embraced and enjoyed. A question I always ask myself when I feel a bout of overwhelm coming on is: would you rather be a cog in a bigger machine again, executing someone else’s agenda? The answer is always no.
No one writes a manual on going it alone, not least as there are so many ways to do it. Personal preferences. Industry nuances. Commercial necessities. Whatever they are, they all impact the way things play out. But there are a number of areas that can apply to anyone starting out, which can certainly grease the wheels of progress and accomplishment, however that manifests.
1. Bring energy and an open mind
The rawest and most necessary ingredient of all is energy. I’ve learnt from experience that my energy isn’t finite. It’s a fragile commodity that can be gained and lost in equal measure – with many internal and external influences bidding to take it from you. And yes, that includes the dreaded phone scroll.
Understand where you get your energy from and make sure you give yourself time to refuel. This can be an energising run. A quiet, focused read. Meditation. Laughing and playing with loved ones. Meeting friends. Walking the dog. Whatever it is, give yourself that fuel and distance yourself from the things that drain it from you. No one else will do those things for you. Building a business takes time and plenty of energy. Make sure you give yourself ready access to it.
2. Have a plan (and be prepared to change it)
A famous historical military strategist once said that ‘a battle plan never survives first contact with the enemy’. While this is true, it’s crucial to have a plan in the first place. Without one, your energy won’t be focused, and you’ll more likely be a busy fool.
I’ve found planning a three-month goal broken down into monthly sub-goals is the way to go. It gives me purpose and drive, keeps me honest with myself, and ensures I have a barometer of progress. Allow room for the plan to change because it will (normally in week two). Go with it and adapt to it. And it’s a good idea to have a ‘bare minimum’ goal for the days when you’re just not feeling it, so you don’t fail before you’ve begun.
3. Embrace failure to be successful
Yes, everyone says this, don’t they? But you have to. I see everything that goes wrong as something new learnt. I visualise what I’m doing as being a machine under development that keeps being tweaked as it goes. Every setback is rectified and makes the machine stronger, better, more durable, and more unique to you. It also helps you be a better person and resource for staff or fellow entrepreneurs. Seeing the value in making a change and then sharing your vulnerability with others will give you a jolt of confidence and simultaneously build your own credibility.
4. Be creative with how you market
You may have a ready market with a killer message, but if you don’t reach those people and move them to action then they’re not going to buy from you. And it’s often you they’re buying, too.
I go by the principle that if something makes me feel a little uncomfortable, I should probably do it. Often, this is simply putting myself out there, and this can take many forms. Writing an article. Posting a view. Giving customers an offer. Being speculative. Being open.
Whatever you feel you need to do, trust your gut feeling and don’t agonise over a decision for long. If something doesn’t work, then fine. You’ve strengthened your understanding of your market (see the previous point).
5. Invest time in gaining inspiration from outside
One of the things I learnt early about entrepreneurship is – if you’re not careful – your world can quickly become small. This can take the form of being just you and your computer screen, or conversations had solely with a small and tight group of people.
I’ve found that a varied ‘diet’ is good to graze from. This could be meeting new people. Deepening your knowledge of your subject. Learning about new techniques and from other industries. Asking for help and advice. Or anything.
Some of my best decisions and clearest thinking have come from listening to and being emboldened by an external perspective.
6. Get yourself a mentor
Spending time with and learning from others is crucial, but it’s also good to learn from those that have trodden your path before. I’ve found this useful on two levels. The first is when I’ve had a hunch on something and sought the counsel of my mentor who’s given me guidance based on their own experience, which has either given me a shot of confidence or a dose of reality. The second is when I get dispirited (and that does happen). Having an ally who can sympathise and suggest some quick wins to get me back on track is both welcomed and much needed.
7. Celebrate success
Very important. Giving yourself little success gates is great. This can be winning a client. Publishing a piece of content. Getting good feedback. Hitting a sales target. Whatever it is, mark the occasion with something that’s right for you. A bar of chocolate. A chat with a friend. A trip to the gym. Something that will give you a jolt of feelgood as well as the impetus to carry on and achieve even more. While not achieving a goal can be disheartening, not taking the time to give yourself a high five can be equally detrimental. It keeps you grounded and – taking us back to the top of this piece – you draw energy from it.
Taking it forward
The path to success is as varied as the people that embark on the journey, yet the seven basics I’ve talked about here go some way to ensuring you get to roll with the many punches that come the way of a new entrepreneur. Embracing the journey and being open to how it unfolds is key. Strap in for the ride!
Following a career in marketing agencies working for blue-chip clients, Steve Jefferys created and built his own accredited coaching practice for professionals looking to make a shift.