MY BUSINESS TIPS
MY TIP #1 - DON’T BE AFRAID TO DREAM
If you stop dreaming you may as well pull the plug on everything. I still dream and I’ve had success and ticked a lot of things off the list. I will also dream, until I kick the bucket, as it creates, inspires and makes things happen. Without that, what’s the point!
Even if you’re starting out in business and you have an idea, and you’re thinking of what to do with it, dreaming helps you visualise success and that’s the perfect place to start. As the song says ‘dream a little dream’ and that’s where it can all begin. What a moment when that dream becomes a reality that you have created through belief, hard work and no doubt a bit of blood, sweat and tears.
MY TIP #2 – REDUCE THE RISK
Your business risk-reward ratio has to stack up. You’re not just deciding between a red or a black at the casino. This is your chance to build a business and you have to be clever about it. I believe that you should never bet the farm on any one thing; it is too risky and I can think of very, very few times that that has ever worked for anyone.
I am quite a conservative person in business, although inevitably have made mistakes and taken the wrong risks on certain occasions. You’re only human and no one is infallible. But my focus is always on reducing the risk, whilst ensuring that the potential rewards are high. How do you do this? Know everything, read between the lines, look at the numbers, and then look at them again! You will reduce the risk if you know more than the next guy or girl you’re competing against.
Circumstance can be everything and that is a lot about timing and luck too. In my career, I’ve often bought businesses out of receivership and that is because you can automatically dispense with a lot of overheads and focus on the wins. By doing this, you reduce the risk in taking on all its assets, all its liabilities, all its loss-making and then it’s more of a possibility to turn it around. You give yourself that wiggle room when you’re buying a company from receivership because all you buy are the assets, the goodwill and the equipment to carry on the business.
MY TIP #3 – DON’T FOOL YOURSELF
Be honest with yourself through every stage of progressing a business idea. If you have a business idea, market research is key to effectively launching a business and understanding just how commercial it is.
Most importantly you have to be honest with yourself about what you are doing to bring it to life. If the only people you’ve asked an opinion from are from the 3Fs (family, friends and fools), then you’re unlikely to get the difficult honest truth. If you’re saying ‘Everyone is going to want one’, and I don’t want one, then not everyone does want one! If you give samples away, that’s very different to people paying for your product. Those starting a business need not to be deluded and understand that honesty with themselves will get them the best results in a fledgling business. Life experience, and knowing yourself, can be very useful in this and in helping you create the best results.
MY TIP #4 – USE COMMON SENSE
This tip will never grow old. Lack of common sense is the most foolish reason for bad decisions. It might seem blindingly obvious but business is all about common sense. In fact, business is 90% common sense. I apply common sense in all my business dealings.
But common sense is not common. If it were, everyone would have it and people like me would have a lot more competition.
MY TIP #5 - DON’T HAVE A SMALL BUSINESS MINDSET
I run #SBS Small Business Sunday that welcomes 6 new businesses to the network every week that I select from the small business entrants and RT to my followers, when I think they have potential. Every year I hold an annual event to give them exposure to brands and people who can inspire them and help their business to grow. I am always adamant to make sure they know the power they hold as a small business and how they mustn’t have ‘poor old me’ syndrome and think themselves small.
We don’t measure businesses by high street presence or a TV advert any more, a tiny, miniscule business can be David against the Goliath in business if it pitches itself right and believes in itself. You are in business because you know what to do, you believe in what you’re doing and you are of value. If you don’t, you’re doing the wrong thing. Social media and being savvy online can help you be the underdog who triumphs, if you use it in the right way. Don’t think yourself small, or you will never achieve that growth potential you’re after.
MY TIP #6 – LEARN TO LET GO
When things are rosy in business, it is the hardest time for someone to sell their business - and why would you want to? The good times are rolling! It’s very difficult for an entrepreneur to let go, especially when it is something you have built up from scratch with your bare hands. That’s why it’s easy for people to sometimes hold on until sometimes the business has no value at all, and what’s the point in that. All that hard work, because you’re emotionally attached.
As business entrepreneurs, you must be able to create something and then sell it at the right time. It’s not easy. I still find it hard. You’ve put so much of your life, your body and soul, into something you have created and nurtured, and then you have to let go. And, there is always a right time to sell, because any business goes through ups and downs. Don’t look opportunity in the face and be blinded by something else, as you will regret that moment for a long time.
MY TIP #7 – CASH IS KING
Cash flow is king. Profit is sanity. Turnover is vanity.
A lack of profit is like a cancer. If it carries on for a long time, it will eventually kill you. But a lack of cash is like a heart attack. If you can’t pay the rent, you shut down just like you would if your heart packed up. You’re finished. If you can’t pay the wages, it’s all over. Don’t be without cash. You can live without profit but not without cash. It’s very basic and simple advice and a timeless one when it comes to business.
MY TIP #8 – CHANGE IS NOT THE ENEMY
The buzz word is agility, and it’s never been more important than right now for businesses and entrepreneurs. You have to be agile in everything you do particularly in an online environment when change is constant. If you’re standing still, it’s not good enough.
Internet selling means that you don’t need to pay vast high street rents and employ lots of shop assistants, so they are immediately at an advantage on one level. It’s fantastic – everyone can be a shopkeeper. The amount of business being done on the web now has shifted the balance of power, with the likes of Amazon, but has also enabled the young, old, retired and ambitious to create their own businesses online, with very little overheads. The internet has very much freed the business world but it’s changing every day, so be alert. To not be agile is to be in quick sand.
MY TIP #9 - DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE DECISIONS
Once you have the idea, it is the confidence to actually make decisions that is crucial in starting and sustaining a business. I often preach that people should never be afraid to make a decision, as this is the way that businesses begin to grow. If a decision turns out to be wrong, identify it quickly, deal with it if you can, but don’t let that bad decision cause the business to bleed to death. Also, if you can’t deal with it yourself, find an expert than can help you, as there’s no shame in asking others for help. Bad decisions left to fester will come back and bite you in the bum. So, commit to your decisions, but be realistic as to how they will impact your new business.
MY TIP #10 – KEEPING UP WITH THE COMPETITION
Never underestimate the strength of the opposition. Competition is everywhere now and it can often be a race to the bottom on price, with businesses trying to out-deal each other. You only have to look around the high street, where some of the biggest names, household names at one time, are no longer with us because they lost touch with the changes in how our customers were consuming. One of the problems for these high-street giants is the nature of their tiered system of management, where strategy and communication often get misinterpreted and lost en route to their rightful recipient – a bit like Chinese whispers. Don’t let red tape and old habits get in the way of you keeping up with your competitors; that’s the saddest way for a business to die.
MY TIP #11 – PEOPLE
Every business starts out as a small business and things will get all the more complicated when you take on your first member of staff. The people you surround yourself with matter, you’re with them day in day out and sometimes if it’s just you and one colleague, that’s a make or break relationship. They matter to your business, to your brand, to your customers and ultimately to you and your mental health.
A fantastic person, with a great skill set and a can do attitude can be a game changer for your business, and it’s important to develop, support and hold on to these people, even as you grow into an even bigger company. I surround myself with people who are experts in their field to ensure that as each area needs to develop, you’re in safe hands. You don’t need ‘yes men and women’, you need people who have the skills that you don’t to help you grow.
MY TIP #12 – MAKE SURE YOUR COLLEAGUES KNOW WHY THEY’RE HERE
In any business I buy, I get as many of the colleagues together as soon possible. The first thing I ask store managers when addressing them at such an event is who they think is the most important person in the business. I‘m never surprised by the answer, it’s always the same – the customer. Not so, I say. Then they point to me. Wrong again, I say. Eventually, I have to tell them the answer and I point to all of them, the workforce. They’re the most important people in the business because they are the people that speak to your customers and represent you and your brand day in, day out.
Motivating colleagues is not just about making them feel wanted. Tangible rewards are equally important, if not more so. Incentives go a long way to help staff focus on the work they do but think carefully about what is important to that person, and what will motivate them to success, for them and the business.
MY TIP #13 – DON’T BE A BUSY FOOL
I’ll let you into a little secret – despite having made a fantastic living from my business ventures, I’ve never had an original idea in my life.
Always remember that because something is innovative or uses leading-edge technology doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to make pots of money. All the planets have to align for it to come to life and not all planets have life on them! Many inventions that were thought to be technologically brilliant and ideas that seemed to have enormous merit never made their inventors a penny.
Just as the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so the road to bankruptcy is paved with good ideas. I know many millionaires that failed several times during their journey, and it is the 3rd or 4th idea that hit the jackpot for them. They persevered and made it happen in the end.
Sometimes an idea was good but it could not be translated into a money-making venture. There’s always the danger in business of making ourselves into what I call ‘busy fools’ – taking a project, devoting time and resources to it, and ending up with no financial reward. But when I do find an idea that I think will work, I get off my backside and do something about it. That’s the difference between me and so many other people - you have to be able to realise that something isn’t a viable venture when you have done your due diligence. Knowing when to leave something is imperative, before you invest too much of your time, money and heart.
TIP #14 - MANY CHANGES MAKE LIGHT WORK
Ecommerce has changed our world, and it’s hard to remember what it was like before we had everything at the touch of a button. The biggest learning here is that it’s not always the big changes that make the difference. Online, and with your businesses and your websites, you will make tiny tweaks to your businesses. Will they alone change your business? No. However, that tiny tweak with 10-12 other small tweaks will make that difference.
Don’t underestimate how it is a constant work-in-progress and that those small changes will make the impact and you’ll see the difference. You can’t stand still online, as there’s always someone out there to take your lunch who’s moving forward all the time. Keep improving - it’s never a finished product.