Consider this - Starting your own business

Final part of our Career in Focus series

Have you been harbouring a secret passion to start a business of your own?  What is holding your back?  For many wannabe entrepreneurs the fear of making that leap into the unknown is real and there are a great many factors holding them back from taking the plunge. 

There is no doubt that running a business and becoming your own boss is a challenge and requires a great deal of thoughtful planning, homework and hard graft.  Be prepared to put in the hours, warn your family and friends, and get the support you need beforehand. 

Perhaps one of the most daunting issues is incorporation and taxation.  Complexities vary with each country so it is always a good idea to find out before you even think about running a business what your responsibilities and liabilities are.  If you are in Spain, take advantage of online resources such as declarando, and respected business consultants including Glenda Smithson who, incidentally, can also assist with Gibraltar business finances and taxes. 

Seek out business networking events in the jurisdiction you wish to trade and learn from other people’s experiences.  You do not have to be alone or spend a fortune to get help on your journey to entrepreneurship.

The next big question to ask yourself and answer with sheer honesty is “have I got what it takes to get past the proverbial drawing board stage?  There is no easy formula to successfully running a business, as there are too many variables to factor into the question. 

A list of common excuses include:

  • Finances (or lack thereof)

  • Hesitancy of taking risks or moving outside the comfort zone of employment

  • Lack of knowledge of intended market

  • Time (or lack thereof)

Whilst all these factors do actually represent reality for many people, quite often they are excuses.  Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg never formed Facebook due to being too busy or Steve Jobs worried about Apple being a bit too risky.  The list of excuses exists to weed out those not 100% committed or those who come down heavily on the side of playing it safe with risk free career choices.  However, these are choices rationalized accordingly and provide a gap for true entrepreneurs to wade into those dubious waters and take those risks.

Research has shown repeatedly that successful business owners share a scattering of common attributes, the three most common being task driven, motivation and having confidence to take certain risks.

We use the word “risk” a lot in business.  In order to succeed, entrepreneurs have a certain mind-set, a unique instinct to set limits to risk taking, and is something only a true entrepreneur will comprehend.  Running a business is a gamble, similar to a game of blackjack.  A successful businessperson will know when to stick and when to hit without going bust! 

Nevertheless, success is not only about taking risks, it is also about making intelligent, well thought out decisions.  In addition, being honest.  Honesty is always the best policy when striking out alone to ensure you do not set yourself up to fail.  Do your homework and research your idea so that you know how it is going to work in the marketplace, understand how customers will perceive your product or service, distinguish yourself from your competition as they are your biggest threat.

If your idea or product already out there do not be put off.  If you can demonstrate that yours is an improvement that will set your product apart from the rest.  Facebook for example was an improvement on Myspace, and mobile phones have come a long way since first inception in 1973!  Many concepts have been around for years, and improvements on these existing concepts have led to many business successes.

Before going it alone, make a realistic list to include the following

  • Ultimate objectives

  • Pragmatic time scales for achievements

  • Compromises willing to make

When listing timescales for implementations of various elements of the business, for example a website, it is important to be patient and realistic.  A good idea is to err on the side of caution and make your timescales longer than you want, for example 18 months, but break this down into small bite size chunks.   It may be the case at 18 months you are still not hitting your targets in terms of, say, anticipated ROI, and you may have come across hurdles you did not expect.  You need to be aware that this is inevitable, and accept that there will be failures and mistakes along the way.  Unforeseen occurrences are normal and provide a learning curve for even the most astute entrepreneurs.  Overcoming obstacles and embracing even the smallest rewards will provide you with the strength of character to drive your business forward to success.

Personal finances are always going to be an issue for many would be entrepreneurs, but if the passion and drive is there (and a good business plan), then there are various solutions.  Before hitting the high street banks, look online to see what the Government is offering for new business start-ups.  Often these government backed business loans offer low interest rates, flexible payment options and other benefits such as mentoring and business support.  Also research what grants are available, these can through government initiatives, local authorities supporting local businesses, or private organisations wanting a bit of local entrepreneurial action.  There are normally hurdles such as meeting particular criteria and vetting processes and usually the grants are full grants or matched grants where you are required to put up half the funding.   Last year saw an incredible amount of third party investment, and it is not too late to join the party.  Research the possibility of raising funds through investors, such as Business Angels or Crowd Funding who have been very popular investing in the tech industry especially with the growth of AI, cybersecurity and Blockchain start-ups.

Grow your Network

Considering everything above there is one further essential tool to assist you with opening your own business.  Even before your official launch date, you should be out networking, expanding your connections, engaging and getting to know more people.  In turn, this will help build not only a strong professional support for your business, but you will gain extra knowledge and become even more business savvy, plus begin to build your customer base.  Do not delay in exploring opportunities for business networking in your area.

Take on board the importance of social media, link your website to all the main social media sites, and make use of trending keywords especially in relation to your product or service.

Ultimately if you have the passion, the drive, the energy and a product or service you are fully confident in, do not let anything or anyone hold you back. 

All that remains is to wish you the very best of luck in your exciting new adventure.  Keep us informed of your progress.

Glenda Smithson