It is that time of year when many of us start to re-evaluate our life goals and long-term plans, and for some of us that means reviewing our current business goals or even starting the business we've always dreamed about.
We've all heard the phrase "there is at least one book in all of us" and I also believe there is at least one business in all of us, and it seems many of you agree. It's never been more fashionable or popular to start a new business and the UK is creating more start-ups than ever before. Of course, turning that business into a success is another matter, but it's far from impossible with the right tools and advice.
I've recently become part of a panel of experts created by Plusnet to support budding start-ups on their incredible journey. The opportunities for growth are clearly there for business owners to capitalise on, but sometimes it takes a little bit of help from the outside. If you are keen to start a new business, here are some things which I think might set you off on the right track.
1) It's okay to feel like you're 'winging it' sometimes
Their recent research says that 85% of start-ups feel like they're winging it and this is something all new business owners can relate to - including me. At times, I've felt like an imposter in a male driven, executive environment, but I didn't let it intimidate me, and that's the key. Most startup business owners will be pushed out of their comfort zone at points, but it's important to keep your goal in mind and stay confident and you can realise your dreams.
2) Surround yourself with brilliant people and use them to your advantage
Surrounding yourself with brilliant people is an excellent way to ensure you have the support you need to successfully grow your business; and experience is not the only thing you should be looking for.
There's a whole range of skills that you need, not just one cookie cutter model. Be open to working with people you trust who are there to support you and look out for you. Having people in your business with different skill sets to you often means you will reach your goals quicker and less painfully.
I have often had business owners come to me asking for investment, confusing this with the need for help and support. Having a circle of peers will make it much easier to tap into existing relationships and will create opportunities for your business too.
3) Get to grips with new methods of funding
When I was sourcing finance in my late 20s it was hard because the options were limited to solely traditional routes for funding and many founders were constrained as they needed an advanced understanding of business to achieve it. A great idea and unlimited passion just wasn't enough. However, the landscape is very different now and business owners should take advantage of this.
Research says that nearly two thirds of small businesses believe 'new' sources of finance are not accessible, which is not always the case. Invoice discounting is a great option for businesses with bad credit terms and crowdfunding is a brilliant tool for certain businesses, with platforms like Kickstarter providing capital and a pool of funders who are excited about your business and willing you to succeed.
4) Find investors that match the company's interests and plans
A clash between company interests and investor interests will create problems. It's as much about you choosing the investor as the investor choosing you. Like a successful date, there needs to be mutual attraction and chemistry, which gets both parties excited and talking about planning for the future together. Many of my previous investors have gone on to become great friends. An investor can not only provide valuable finance, but they can also give superb advice based on their own experience. Investors who back your business goals will help guide and propel the company forwards.
5) Know how to position both your business and yourself to secure investment
You've got to be clear on your business model and able to demonstrate where investment will be spent and what the return is. Make sure you can present key information about sales to date, margin, cash flow, outline of basic profile and loss and balance sheet. Don't be intimidated by cash flow forecasts - I always say it's as simple as running a household and making sure you don't run out of money when the bills come through!
Sarah Willingham, along with fellow Plusnet Pioneers, will be giving her advice to startups at Plusnet's funding masterclass for small businesses in Birmingham on 8th March. You can book your ticket now here