5 SIMPLE MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN STARTING A BUSINESS

When starting a business you can be filled with a mix of new-found confidence and nervous energy as to what lies ahead. The thought of becoming your own boss, instant success and your weekends off does sound really appealing. This passion and enthusiasm can certainly fuel your success if used properly. However, with many start-ups, this energy can lead to impulsive behaviour and rushed decision making which, in time, will lead to the beginning of the end for your new business.

Remember, every business decision needs to be thought through fully before action is taken.

Here are my top five mistakes to avoid when starting a new business:

 

SIMPLE MISTAKE 1

CONCENTRATING ON SALES AND NOT PROFIT

Have you heard of the old saying “sales for vanity, profit for sanity but cash is reality”? Well, when it comes to running a successful business no phrase is more accurate or relevant.

Constantly striving to bring in more sales, without looking at the bottom line, and more importantly, your cash reserves, will lead you on the road to no-where, which can be a very short and lonely road.

Sales mean nothing if they are not contributing to an overall profitable business. It’s what you get to keep after covering ALL costs that matters and is of most importance.

In business, cash is like oxygen. It’s not what we live for, but if it runs out, you will quickly notice.

 

SIMPLE MISTAKE 2

NOT CARRYING OUT ADEQUATE MARKET RESEARCH

You’ve had a brain-wave for a new business or product and all your friends and family think it’s a great idea and can’t fail. Stop right there! Whereas feedback on a business idea is always welcome you need to mindful that your audience (family & friends) are all on your side and, for fear of hurting your feelings, may not necessarily tell you the truth.

It’s very easy to get carried away with a business idea and set up a business without properly testing its viability. Obtaining accurate market information will help you to understand your customers, familiarise yourself with the competition and get to know what people are prepared to pay for your product or service.

It’s also important to consider what your customer ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ are and to use market research to test them. You then use this feedback in order to create a product or service that has definite market.

 

SIMPLE MISTAKE 3

POOR LOCATION – ONLINE AND OFFLINE

You’ve often heard that success in business can very much depend on “location, location, location” as it can be one of the determining factors in the failure rate of most new ventures. For start-ups a bad location is often a major challenge they face due to tight budgets and other priorities.

The prime retail units, with significant footfall, are simply too expensive so they tend to choose out-of-the-way locations in the hope that customers will come.

The same can be said about your online footprint. You may have invested significantly in the creation of a world-class website but if nobody knows where you are how can you expect to sell anything?

That is where the importance of a proper marketing plan can be hugely effective and can turn your ‘bad’ location into a winner. This doesn’t need to cost the earth. A savvy social media campaign can be just as effective as a 20 foot billboard in the city centre. Start to think outside the box!

 

SIMPLE MISTAKE 4

NOT REALISING YOUR PLACE ON THE PAYMENT HIERARCHY

Your business has started off really well and you have decided to give yourself a bonus for all of your hard work. But hold it! You have yet to pay your VAT bill, your suppliers or your bank loan.

When it comes to starting a new business unfortunately you need to realise that the business owner (YOU) are the last to be paid.

In reality, you will need to budget to not take any income from the business for at least 3 – 6 months. Once the business is financially secure (i.e. it has three months cash flow in reserve) your aim should be to take survival income from the business and to re-invest the rest. This may not seem overly appealing to you but believe me it is far more appealing than winding-up your business after just 18 months.

 

 

 

SIMPLE MISTAKE 5

FAIL TO PREPARE, PREPARE TO FAIL!

I cannot underestimate the importance of putting a plan in place. Whether it is in the form of a business plan for investors or simply an internal document for yourself, it is essential that you put your plan down on paper. It is not enough to claim that it is all in your head.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish”  – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a French writer, poet, aristocrat, journalist, and pioneering aviator.

Your plan, at a minimum, should include details of the monthly break-even amount needed by the business and a realistic 3 month cash flow projection that hopes for the best, but plans for the worst.

Remember, your plan is a moving document and not set in stone. As the business changes so too does your plan.

 

 

“IF YOU DON’T FALL THEN HOW DO YOU EVER LEARN TO WALK?”

KEYS TO BECOMING A SUCCESS IN LIFE & BUSINESS

 

Let us be under no illusions – the road to success is hard and paved with speed-bumps and pot-holes at every turn. If the journey was easy then everybody would be a success……. but it’s not and they’re not. The fact that the journey is challenging tells you that the destination must be worth reaching.

In order to become a success, in business or in life, you need to take control of your life. You need to realise that YOU are in charge of your own destiny – NOBODY else!

It is too easy to come up with excuses – they are endless. It is always going to be more difficult to take action. If you are serious about improving yourself, improving your business or improving your life then you need to stop talking, stop making excuses and start doing. It’s not easy but if you never try then you’ll never know.

This may be hard to comprehend but, in my view, there is no such thing as failure. It is all a case of trial and error.  You need to realise that failure cannot live with persistence. If you keep trying you will eventually succeed.

As Michael Jordan once said:

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed”

That brings me to the analogy of the 12 month old baby. Is that baby born with the ability to walk? How many times does that baby fall over before they learn to walk? If that baby decided after falling once, twice or three times that it was pointless, that they were never going to learn, then where would they be?

You need to fall (fail) in order to learn (grow).

 

Here are my top tips to help you on your way to running a successful business:

 

  1. Start as you mean to go on.

Start your day on your own terms. Don’t set your alarm for 10 minutes before you need to get the bus, or jump in the car. By doing this you are starting the day in ‘stress-mode’ before it has even begun.  Give yourself plenty of time and NEVER hit the snooze button. The snooze button is a cop-out. Have a shower, meditate, eat a good breakfast and don’t check social media or your work emails.

Get out of bed and take control of the day before it takes control of you.

 

  1. First things first

Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.

By this he simply means that if you do the worst thing on your plate first thing in the morning, the rest of the day will be simple by comparison.

Outline your ‘to-do’ list the night before. Put the most important items at the top and do them first…….and first means first!!

No checking emails and social media. Have a ‘no distraction’ policy. I have no doubt that you will see the benefits in no-time.

 

  1. Become a master

Whatever your chosen field, your aim should be to become an expert in it. You will need to read, research, practice and build your skills in order to achieve this mastery. This takes time – 10,000 hours according to Malcolm Gladwell – but you have time.

Immerse yourself in what you are doing, develop yourself in every way possible and watch how you will grow and succeed.

 

  1. Later becomes never!

This touches on my comments above that it can be too easy to make excuses. Stop overthinking it and start what you need to start today, not later, because later really becomes never!

There is no such thing as the right time to do anything. Have the courage and belief in yourself and take action now.

 

  1. Get out of that comfort zone

If you are happy with where you are in life and business you don’t really need to change anything.

However, if you want to grow you need to step out of your comfort zone. The other side of your comfort zone is where success lives. I know that this may be difficult for some of you but I can guarantee that if you take that first step you will be glad you did.

Write a blog, contact someone on LinkedIn, get out and network, do a presentation or a webinar.

Feel the fear, harness it and do it anyway.

 

 

  1. Prioritise everything

Learn to manage your time and to maximise what you get out of each day. Otherwise you can quickly become a busy fool!

It is very easy to get swept up in the minutiae of the day-to-day grind of running your own business. Don’t worry you’re not the only one. My advice is to take a step back and prioritise what is important to you.

Check out Stephen Covey’s advice from his bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

 

 

  1. Daily improvements

Success does not, and cannot, happen overnight. It only comes with hard work and discipline. Greatness is attained by doing a lot of small things really well.

My advice here is to try and leave every day 1% better than you were the day before. There are no dramatic changes needed here. These daily incremental improvements then become habits and we become what we practice.

Just think of how much better you will be in one week, one month and one year.

 

 

Remember, life may be a road filled with pot-holes and speed-bumps. You just need to realise that, within you, are the keys to a 4×4 Jeep.

Easy to follow tips to ensure GDPR compliance

The following are some relatively straightforward security measures worth considering:

Encryption

The GDPR does not mandate the use of encryption technologies for securing all personal data, but does suggest that it be considered.
For example, the use of un-encrypted emails to transmit data is commonplace these days, but the encryption of e-mails and/or attached documents (e.g. password protecting PDF files) is possible and highly recommended for financial data. In addition, all data held on laptop computers and other handheld devices should be encrypted. (Note that encryption is something more than just a user name and password.)

Pseudonymisation

Where possible personal data should be split into the identifying information of the data subject (i.e. name, address) and the further non-identifying data on that individual.

Each of the two sets of personal data should be held under a random identifier (i.e. “Employee 1”), so that only a person holding both sets of data can connect the non-identifying information
back to the data subject.

Portals

The use of the client portal is predicted to increase significantly as more and more businesses fall into line with GDPR.

When sharing documents with a client it is worth considering the use of a web accessible portal, which ideally should be able to store encrypted documents ready for clients to download.

Certification

Certification schemes can both check and prove the robustness of your cyber security. Examples of such schemes include the UK National Cyber Security Centre’s Cyber Essentials, Cyber Essentials Plus, IASME and ISO 27001.

A detailed list of examples of practical technical security measures to aid GDPR compliance

  • Ensuring that IT security is properly managed and overseen an appropriate person in the firm with adequate support from IT professionals;
  • Adequate Access Control is employed, including identity and access management;
  • Intrusion Detection/Pretention and Data Loss Prevention Systems are put in place;
  • Appropriate IT education to staff is undertaken. This includes demonstration examples of data unauthorised data access and malware;
  • Employees and other users are required to change passwords on a regular basis;
  • ensuring that all computing devices such as PCs, mobile phones, and tablets are using an up-to-date operating system;
  • ensuring all computing devices are regularly updated with manufacturer’s software and security patches;
  • using antivirus software on all devices;
  • implementing a strong firewall;
  • reviewing vendor supplied software and updating default system, administrator, and root passwords and other security parameters to ensure defaults are not left in place;
  • ensuring data backups are taken and are stored securely in a separate location;
  • ensuring that data backups are periodically reviewed and tested to ensure they are functioning correctly;
  • ensuring that data is collected & stored securely;
  • ensuring that mobile devices (such as laptops and mobile phones and tablets) are encrypted;
  • ensuring that two-factor authentication is enabled for remote access; and
  • ensuring that websites have TLS (transport layer security) in place to securely collect personal data via web forms (such as for newsletter subscriptions) or on e-commerce
    websites.

Examples of practical physical security measures to be employed at your firm include:

  • keeping offices and storage units locked;
  • keeping server rooms or cabinets locked;
  • cabling desktop machines and laptops to desks;
  • implementing clean desk policies;
  • ensuring that fire and burglar alarms are in place and that they are functioning correctly;
  • ensuring that ICT equipment such as hard drives and old laptops, computers and mobile devices are securely disposed of at end of life;
  • having specific and adequate insurance to cover the costs of any data breaches or cybercrime.

Managing cyber risk, either for practices or their clients, is not simply about managing data within the perimeter of the organisation. Therefore, it becomes necessary to document the security risks from your supply chain (e.g. cloud service provider), as well as your own organisation.

Testing your Cybersecurity and Disaster Recovery Planning should also be a key consideration to ensure GDPR compliance post May 2018.

For example, ask yourself if your company has a robust plan for the management of security incidents. If you are not confident, now is the time to assess that risk and implement the appropriate security measures that will allow you to deal with incidents within your own firm.