As any entrepreneur will tell you, founding your own company is far from an easy ride. Starting my business was the most rewarding thing I've ever done. I had a very clear vision of my product and what I wanted to achieve so I was lucky, but it still took an awful lot of determination and hard work.
As O2 Business research has found that this week in April is the most popular date to start a business in the UK, with over 1,679 businesses founded on April 2nd in 2013, it seemed fitting to reflect on the advice I'd give to anyone considering starting up on their own.
Firstly, I cannot overstress the importance of investing in your team. These are the people that are going to help grow your business and you'll be working with them every day. Most importantly, make sure they share your passion, because it's not something you can teach. Being flexible and willing to work around your employees always helps, and is often a huge draw for prospective employees too.
But, of course, a business would be nowhere without its customers. It's easy to make assumptions about what you think they want, but even entrepreneurs get it wrong sometimes! We've found our customers really enjoy being involved, when we're launching new products we'll ask for their opinions on social media, and seeing a product launch, that they helped design makes them feel truly valued.
Having a strong social network and using your channels to communicate makes it much easier to keep in close contact with your customers on a day-to-day basis - and don't underestimate the power of their feedback and advice. Ultimately, they are the ones who will be buying the products you create!
I'd also say that, whilst it's easy to get caught up in the task of day-to-day operations, never underestimate the value of PR. We started with a very limited marketing budget, but what we had went on PR, and in our first year we had features in TIME magazine, all the national newspapers, and a few primetime TV slots. When our BoostApak (booster seat/backpack) appeared on The Apprentice a few years ago, our sales increased by 400% overnight.
You can have the best product in the world but if no-one knows about it, you won't be any better off. On the same vein, never miss an opportunity to network. You never know who you'll meet and how they might be able to help you, even if not now, perhaps further down the line. Having a strong network is invaluable in assisting with business growth.
But, perhaps the most crucial advice I can give is - just do it! There's so much information around on how to start a business that it can be overwhelming at times. Rather than getting bogged down in advice, just get out there and start it. It's much better to learn from your mistakes than never having the opportunity to make them at all.
Always remember that a business plan is only exactly that - a plan. It's important to be flexible, ready to adapt and prepared that the final model of your business might not be the same as you're initial bright idea.