Make a plan, have fun and always take a raincoat with you

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Some lessons for getting out and messy with a new business.

Two years ago I sat at a desk with a new computer. Ha! Yes, I was starting my own business.

This is a continuous learning journey, so I am reflecting today on what I have learnt these last two years. But I am also keen to share my experience, in a positive way, with many others who are going it alone this January.

I was eager. I had a genuine and urgent desire to give honest and professional communications support to organisations going through transformation and change. I wanted to surround myself with creative people, with innovation, and with professionalism. I wanted to do a good job, work hard and take home a decent income to support my family.

1. Think about it very hard first

The time I spent thinking about the business before I took the plunge was invaluable. I lived with the idea for quite some time. If I am honest it was several years. In a more focused way it was four months. I used to run and think, talked to people already doing it, read books about juggling family and work, write spreadsheets to work out income and time ratios on various service models…

2. Have a plan, and be prepared to change it

The plans I made in January 2012 are not those I am working with today. But they are the parents of what my business is today. And the business will need to change and adapt. The plans need to be there, the compass to return to when things are blown a little off course, or are confusing.

3. Believe in what you do – fully

It is really important to love what you do. It is also really important to believe in what you do – with integrity. Your business is not just work, it is your vision and you can only effectively communicate your vision to prospective clients, partners and staff if you believe it can make a difference.

4. Work hard

Obviously! But no: I mean really, really, really hard. Be prepared to work beyond the hours and boundaries that are common to most roles. You are now a leader, innovator, contractor, vision maker…

5. Have fun

You don’t do anything as much as work (unless you raise children or have other care duties full time – which is arguably harder). So you need to love it. Running your business is a chance to work with people whose company you enjoy, in situations that stimulate you and in service to individuals or companies you believe in. So enjoy it. And steer the work toward these opportunities.

6. Follow your instinct

You have probably set up the business because you know how to do the thing your business offers. So follow your nose, work within environments that feel positive and do something with niggles (they usually mean something is not quite right).

7. Where you can, run your business, don’t let it run you

Some places in your life are sacred spaces. The business may be important and you may be passionate about it. But it is not, and should not be your entire life. Partly because, hopefully, you have other meaningful pursuits but also because creative spaces away from work often fuel the energy, ideas and drive you have within your business.

I have only been doing this a very short time. What I know I am confident about. What I don’t I am excited about learning. In the journey there are bumps in the road, difficult situations, wrong turns. So here is a very difficult point to take on-board.

8. Make some mistakes

When you make a mistake, recognise it, work it out and rectify it. Reflect on it and chose how it might positively change how you work. Move on. Don’t linger or dwell too much.

9. Have a raincoat for rainy days

Difficult moments (created by you or others) can be hard to take – especially when you are running to keep up to start with. Running a business, even with staff or contractors, can be a lonely affair. So for difficult days you might need some skin, a tough shell to take difficult moments without letting them effect beyond need. A friend of mine calls this a beautiful but invisible mac (raincoat) – for the business equivalent of a rainy day.

Any regrets? Loads, but rather than regrets I prefer to consider them opportunities for change.

So, for all of you standing at the edge of starting your business…

10. Dive in

Ready, steady go…

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