Last year I made a momentous decision. I decided to set up my business ‘Copy That Sells’. I closed a long chapter in the corporate world, to embark on an exciting new journey to help smaller companies discover and embrace their own particular brand of business story, using it to market and sell. No-one else shares that identity about why they love going the extra mile and out on a limb. It’s the emotional pull guaranteed to capture and win clients’ hearts. I help smaller businesses write that story and make it intrinsic to everything they say and do.
So armed with my bright shiny new business proposition, after writing my marketing plan, I boldly set out, last year, panning for gold. But I ended up getting down and very dirty at the coalface, working hard to keep my head torch and 10 year old start-up dream on full charge. Yes, I’ve learned many tough lessons at the coalface but I’ve also had many golden moments and met some brilliant people. Here’s what I have learned in my first year which I hope will help other small businesses on their own personal journey.
- Learn from those who’ve trodden the same path before. There are many people who will be only too glad to share what they know with you, further ahead on their journey. Rather than invest in expensive advice, learn from free resources and YouTube videos. There’s a wonderful business resource run by Alan, Simon, Henry and Jack called the Popup Business School www.popupbusinessschool.co.uk who go around the UK giving straight talking practical advice to small businesses starting out. It’s full of inspirational people all wanting to succeed together.
- Focus on doing what you love doing with people who love what you do. You are now in the unique position that you can work with people with the same values as you have, doing what you love. At first you might be tempted to take just anything (I sometimes was). But this first year is a chance to follow your heart and do a marvellous job for a market you really want to serve. Don’t waste it.
- Accumulate to speculate rather than the other way round. Many people are tempted to throw their life savings at building their business. We’ve seen it on a grand scale on Dragon’s Den. If you focus all of your energy on finding leads, you will soon start to make money, then you can afford to buy in services for tasks you would rather not do yourself. Track everything. The PopUp Business School www.popupbusinessschool.co.uk taught me you can get start a basic Weebly.com website from day 1, scaling up to something fancier later. Cash is king, so don’t get into debt and resist the urge to splurge. The tax man is nobody’s friend if you don’t play by his rules.
- Network, network, network! It’s a lonely place out there on your own. So find a community of like-minded people who can inspire, support and join you on this rollercoaster journey. I chose Athena, a network of strong and inspiring women and a whole plethora of other networking groups in the Newbury area near where I live. Find your tribe.
- Be accountable. Find a buddy to walk with you on your journey. When days are long and dark, that friend will keep you faithful and strong. If you lose your way ask a mentor or coach to get you back on track. They’ll show you where to find light at the end of the tunnel. I want to thank my lovely buddies Heather Mills from www.ducksouphr.co.uk and Karen Bennett at www.karenbennettphotography.co.uk – we’ve drunk endless cups of coffee and tea and kept each other together on the journey. You rock!
- Look after yourself. No one but you can do that. If you burn the candle at both ends your light will soon flicker and fade. You are in this journey for the long haul so pace yourself and don’t burn out. Take a pit stop every so often and have a coffee with people are willing to share the ups and downs along the way.
- Be grateful. This is your time. It’s an open book and a brand new chapter. Your clients are the heroes and you are the supporting act. Don’t fall off the edge, stay true to your story. Make it honest, credible, lovable and most importantly use it to help others.
Although I wish I had avoided a few very expensive mistakes, I am so grateful that I decided to launch my business and follow my heart. Here’s to a new chapter in Year 2. Wherever you are on your journey, stay grounded. Keep your head-torch on full charge for there is certain light at the end of the tunnel. Stay harnessed, hold on tight and never ever let go of your dream. Thank you for helping me hold onto mine.