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10th October, 2016 No Comments
The more successful entrepreneurs you speak to, the more you will begin to realise that failure is all part of the job. From Richard Branson to Steve Jobs, many of their great successes would not have been achieved if it wasn’t for previous failures.
Being an entrepreneur is risky business; there’s no other way to put it. If you’re committed to being a successful entrepreneur you will need to take risks to both start and grow your business, with the potential of risks yielding bad outcomes.
When you have to take a risk in your business, don’t shy away from it. Learn as much as you can about all possible outcomes and make an educated move. If the risk you took doesn’t pay off, at least you know you made the most informed choice you could. You then need to move on. Get comfortable with taking risks and learn to live with your mistakes. It will make you a stronger, more confident business person in the long run.
As an entrepreneur, you are your own teacher. Unlike people who are employed by a business, you don’t have a structured role – your role is whatever you want it to be and your business success is a reflection of that. The decisions you make don’t have to be agreed by a board of directors or approved by management; however you can’t rely on others to pick up the slack if you’re feeling unproductive.
As a result of this, you will be forced to learn from yourself and the saying ‘try, try, try again’ will begin to ring true. If you try out a new idea, whether it’s a new product or a new marketing strategy, and it doesn’t work out, you will know what not to do next time. If you need to gain new skills to succeed, you are responsible for that too. Either outsource the weaker areas of your business, or up-skill yourself.
You will most likely experience failure at some point during your entrepreneurial journey, but it’s important to see these failures as experiences you can learn from. Remember that yes, this is your life, but you are also building a business. Think critically and don’t let emotions get the better of you.
When you do experience failure, take a step back from the disappointment and think critically about what went wrong. Was it a problem with finances? Did you fail to train your staff adequately? Or was it something out of your control? Whatever the reason may be, spend some time finding the cause and create a plan to avoid repeating the same mistake next time.
What doesn’t kill you …
… makes you (and your business!) stronger.
While it is often easy for start-up businesses to go bust in their first few years of trading, this isn’t always the case. Luckily, every failure you experience won’t mean that you will need to start a new business from scratch, but it can result in some serious setbacks.
The way you handle your failures not only says a lot about your personal character, but of how you behave in the business world. You may be looking for investors, or working to develop partnerships, and you need to display confidence. If you’ve experienced failure and fall at the first hurdle when a new opportunity arises, you risk making people feel nervous about working with you in the future. It’s not the fact you failed that matters; it’s how you pick yourself back up and keep going. How you learn from mistakes and keep chasing success. And how you stay focused on your goals, realising that today is just the next step in your entrepreneurial journey.
Written by Amanda Orton, Marketing Executive for Business West, delivering business support in the South West.
For support to start and grow your business, contact the Start & Grow teams.
2nd September, 2016 No Comments
“What lies behind us, and what lies before us, are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Oliver W. Holmes Jr. (Civil War veteran, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice from 1902 to 1931)
It’s that time of year again when most of us return from, or head off on our summer holidays; a much needed escape from the office and chance to reset the work/life balance.
Have you considered, however, the benefits a holiday could bring to your work place? We are living in turbulent times with a lot of uncertainty, so this is a golden opportunity to step back and reflect.
As employers or employees, we all enjoy (and need) time away from the office, whether it is a day indulging in day time television or two weeks on a secluded beach somewhere hot. In fact, many of us return feeling refreshed and recharged, but how long does it take to get absorbed back in to the daily routine on your return? 10 minutes, 2 hrs, 3 days… a week?
Well, why not take some of your holiday enthusiasm and introduce it into your business. Of course the emails, mail and meetings will all need to be dealt with when you return, but there is no better opportunity than the ‘post-holiday calm’ to take a step back, take stock and plan for the future.
How long have you been fire-fighting the daily tasks and problems without focussing on the bigger picture? Are you wasting time and money by doing things the hard way? Are your employees motivated? Are you maximising the benefits of customer relationship management? The relaxed approach you take to tasks after a holiday is the ideal way to deal with any outstanding issues that you may have been putting off.
It is also important to share your goals with your staff that may well have their own ideas after their own re-energising break.
However, it is also important to leave the office behind when taking a break. Many of us are guilty of going on holiday physically but not mentally. Does ringing work from the beach or checking emails on the hotel computer sound familiar? It is very difficult to switch off completely, but when you succeed you will return to the office completely refreshed!
It is also important to have a long break when possible. Many experts believe that the benefits of a longer holiday, say one, two or even three weeks is far more beneficial than two or three days here or there. After all, it may take you two days to relax and wind down!
With a little bit of forward planning, our summer holidays can not only re-charge our batteries – but can re-charge our future business too.
Written by Carole White, Chief Executive of TEDCO Business Support, delivering business support in the North East of England.
24th August, 2016 No Comments
At the beginning of this month. Tara Gillam, Head of Enterprise at Business West (the Cavendish partner delivering business support in the South West) touched briefly on business plans and validating the content. Here, Mike Gibbs Business Advisor at NBV, reiterates Tara’s sentiments and looks at why the business plan is such an important document.
So, you are all excited about starting your new business when you are asked the question ‘Have you written a business plan?’
And what goes through your mind? “Oh no, that thing, I know I am supposed to have one, but I can’t be bothered.”
You think to yourself “I have all the information I need in my head! What do I need to write it down for?” Very few of us have the ability to completely plan a new business and keep the details stored in the brain, most of us need to get those thoughts onto a piece of paper, the very act of which will trigger all sorts of other ideas you would have missed if left in your head!
And you’re also thinking “My friends and family have told me it’s a great product!” But friends and family will usually tell you what they think you want to hear, not what you need to hear! Showing your business plan to an independent person will give you honest, unbiased feedback, and will potentially give you ideas for improvement.
Always bear in mind that there are two main reasons for writing a business plan:
1) To help you to lay down a plan now and in the future
It is your route map of how you get from today to some other place in the future and all the things that might happen on the way, and what you will do about them, profitably!
Before you start your business 100% of your customer base is in the hands of your competition, and you need to figure out how you are going to break into their market. Think of your potential market place as a picture, a jig saw, and as you gather little bits of information you can start to paint the picture, you will never get all the information, but you need enough to convince yourself that there really is a business to be done! This is the ‘homework’ doing enough research to suck as much risk out of what you are proposing to do to give yourself a better that even chance of success. If you can’t find that evidence then it is probably best to rethink the whole shebang!
2) To show others how sustainable your business idea actually is
You may need someone else to help finance the project, in which case the plan is going to be the only chance you have to persuade them it is a good idea to lend or give you some money.
If you are going to apply for a loan or a grant the first document you will be asked for is a Business Plan. Often you will not get the chance to explain your business in any other format, so the plan is it! It had better be good or your idea will stumble before it has even started. Put yourself in the position of a bank manager. You may see several plans a week, most of which are barely adequate for the job, but if yours stands out you have a better chance of success.
Templates for business plans can be sourced from several organisations such as banks, the Princes Trust, enterprise agencies and commercial software companies to name but a few. They come in all shapes and sizes, but generally speaking they all want the same information; who are you, what is your idea, what is the product or service, who are you competing with, how are you going to talk to customers and what does the money look like? The more thorough you are in preparing the information the more risk you take out of the project, but business is inherently risky, so the better informed you are the less likelihood of costly mistakes.
Just a thought about templates! If you put your information inside my template, to me it looks like my business. You need the content, so lift the headings from the template and create your own document, personalise it, illustrate it, and make it come alive. You have a vision of what your business looks like; your business plan should reflect that. Difficult to do inside someone else’s template. Think of that old bank manager again, another template, how boring!
Don’t be tempted with doing the bare minimum – the headings and details requested in a Business Plan are there for a reason. If you are going to spend time and money and effort into launching a business shouldn’t it be the best it can possibly be?
As an example the number of times I have seen the answer to the question of ‘Who are you customers?’ as ‘Everyone!!’ Dooohhhh!!! You won’t have the resources to market to everyone, so be more focused, who is most likely to buy your product or service and where will you find them?
OK, so now you have written it, the bank has lent you some money, now we can chuck it in the cupboard and forget it! I wouldn’t; it should be a working document that you revisit regularly to check if things are going to plan. The only thing you can be absolutely certain of with a forecast is that it is wrong! The question is by how much and when!
Get into the habit of taking a regular review of the business and update the relevant parts of your plan accordingly. Once the business is underway you will start to get access to the reality of the results; actual sales rather than forecast, so your knowledge bank builds with experience, and this is invaluable for looking further into the future and anticipating things that will command your attention.
Written by Mike Gibbs, Business Advisor at NBV, the Cavendish partner delivering business support in the East Midlands
Under the Start & Grow initiative, the business start up and growth support programme delivered by Cavendish Enterprise partners, new businesses will get help, advice, and guidance in preparing a business plan to the standards required of most financial institutions and other lenders. To join the Start & Grow programme contact the Cavendish partner working in your region.
11th August, 2016 No Comments
Our latest Guest Blog from LawyerFair, the on-line law services platform, reviews how pricing in the industry looks set to be revolutionised:
LawyerFair recently delivered a presentation to 80-100 business owners and opened with a simple question … “How many of you, when instructing lawyers for your business, had advanced knowledge of your fees?”
Remarkably, but perhaps not surprisingly, the show of hands was zero.
Not one business owner, in a room of relatively sophisticated and regular buyers of legal services, had forward visibility of costs on their legal fees. And this anecdotal experience of how lawyers still charge, has been endorsed by a recent report from the Centre for Policy Studies – The Price of Law – which accused law firms of “using a lack of transparency on fees to distort the free market in a way that creates inefficiencies and undermines the wider economy.”
The report continues “The high level of legal fees is an efficient drain on commerce. British industry is forced to suffer a deadweight loss as excessive amounts of time and money must be spent dealing with legal issues.”
Jim Diamond, former lawyer and author of The Price of Law, revealed in an article in the Daily Mail that firms typically bill in six minute units of time, and that “for typing ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and hitting ‘send’ on an email, the partner might count it as a six-minute time unit and bill £110 for 30 seconds’ work.”
To those who know how the traditional solicitors model works, this report is hardly a surprise. Law firms continue to measure success, by the growth of their hourly rate … an anachronistic charging model, that places all commercial risk on the shoulders of the buyer.
But, there are shifting sands in the legal market, and the era of guesswork surrounding expertise and cost is coming to an end.
We’re addressing some of these issues with my own platform at LawyerFair, where we pre-approve all panel lawyers and insist that quotes are fixed, but other services are emerging that help shine a light into this opaque market.
One particular service that’s starting to ruffle legal feathers is Premonition. Co-founded by a Brit, now based in Florida (Toby Unwin), the service utilises big data and Artificial Intelligence, to expose which Lawyers win the most cases, and in front of which Judges. It’s ground breaking transparency and, having already caused a stir in the US, it’s expanding into the UK and beyond.
Buyers of commercial legal services – from start up to general counsel – have suffered from a lack of transparency in legal services, but in this new era of legal procurement, a variety of services have emerged that have started to shift the balance of this industry from supply led, to demand led.
You might say that historically when it comes to fees, it’s the land of the blind where the one eyed lawyer is kind but …. in the future landscape of legal services, consumers with market intelligence will be King.
Written by Andrew Weaver, CEO & Co-Founder of LawyerFair
If you would like to compare legal fees, LawyerFair can do an audit of fees for free, as well as offer legal advice, so please do get in touch.
9th August, 2016 1 Comment
You’ve come up with a great idea for a new product or service and you need support, whether it be financial, technical, or professional partnership. The next step is convincing the right person to give you that support.
So what do you have to do?
Finding the right audience to pitch to is the obvious first step (and there’s a few links below to help with the search), and then you have to prepare your pitch. And prepare you must! Your idea will be as clear as crystal in your own mind but you have to portray that idea to others with the same clarity.
Whether pitching to a friend or associate, a group of business angels, or a bank manager, and whether it be face-to-face, using a business plan, or online, there are some fundamental rules to ensure you make your pitch the best it can possibly be.
Make sure you have all the relevant facts and figures at your fingertips – have a print-out with you that you can refer to both at face-to-face pitches and when preparing a written or online pitch. You should also consider producing a one or two page brief summary; use your business plan as a back up to your pitch (in some cases your business plan will form the major part of your pitch – particularly if you’re talking to a bank about finance); consider producing a PowerPoint presentation; and develop a 5-minute elevator pitch.
Investors are as interested in the entrepreneur as they are in the business idea (maybe even more so) so prepare yourself too! Be confident in your idea and show a passion for the business. Investors need to know that you are logical, efficient, quick-thinking, and able to see your idea through. They also need to know who you are, so be yourself!
Practicing your elevator pitch for face-to-face meetings will bring confidence but you also need to have answers to all the potential questions that might be asked of you. Know your product, costs, market, and processes inside out and you will not be caught out by questions you cannot answer.
‘Knowing the enemy’ will give you an advantage too. Research the investors wherever possible and use the information to your advantage to benefit your business – do they have experience in your industry? ; have they invested in a similar business before and how successful was this? ; how much time do they have to support you and your business? Pitching to the wrong people is both a waste of their time and yours!
Pitching your idea
Spencer Waldron, presentation expert at Prezi, suggests that the best pitches tell a story. Consider formatting your pitch with an introduction, a middle section of ‘chapters’, and an end where the main character in the story is your proposed market / customer.
The introduction could cover what is available now and the gap in the marketplace that your product or service will fill. The middle chapters will cover your target audience and their needs; why your product will benefit them; why they will buy from you; who might stop your business being successful and how you will counteract this. And the end would be the growth plan for your business and your exit strategy. It would be worthwhile adding a brief summary which highlights the 3 things you want people to remember from your pitch – choose the 3 wisely!
Ensure your content covers all the issues that your potential investors will want to know about: customer base; your team; costs and financial forecasts; competitors; and, of course, what exactly is it you want from the investor (and, where applicable, what do they get in return).
And finally your presentation should be well designed – smart, crisp, and to the point. And make sure your personal appearance is as polished as your presentation. In any printed or digital material keep text to a minimum; highlight important parts with ‘bold’ / text size / text colour; discuss one point at a time (in a PowerPoint that’s one point per screen); and use photos and images wherever you can. Finally, maintain your branding throughout your presented materials.
So, there you have it – pitching your business idea is easy, isn’t it?
Written by Davina Young, Marketing Manager at Cavendish Enterprise
Cavendish Enterprise partners are able to advise and support you in writing your business plan. Our business advisors can also assist with other skills and knowledge you may need to develop your business idea.
Some useful links:
Once you’ve got your pitch ready, the following links may be useful:
Looking to start a food and drink business? Pitch on 16th Sept 2016