These things I wish I had known about turning an idea into a business the first time I did it, taught to me by the second and third times I did it…
I recently launched my third business. For anyone that’s keeping count, that’s one failed, one still in R&D and one in its infancy but thriving.
Like with anything, these things get easier with time and practice so it is no real wonder that setting up and launching Coco Creative has been marginally easier than the first two times I travelled this road. Don’t get me wrong, it has come with its bumps in the road, but we went from zero to profitable a lot quicker than any a lot of other startups.
Ask for help, ask a million and one questions, read books, read magazines, listen to podcasts. Absorb as much as you can.
the 6 things you need to know
- You need more practice. The fours years I spent running my distribution company were full of learning, and I am a firm believer that the best way to learn is by doing. But if you have an opportunity to learn a little more before you dive head first into doing it for yourself, then for goodness sake do! Launching my creative agency has been a breeze, both setting up the company infrastructure (because now I have had a ton of practice),and getting and servicing clients. Why? Because I have operated as a freelancer in the field for nearly 8 years. I know the work, I know the tools, I know the client landscape. Trying to start a business while also learning the job is exhausting! Not impossible – I did it with Finnis & Faye and I am doing it with Something Sassy – but it makes an already tough job that much tougher.
- Don’t wait for it to be perfect before launching it to your customers. Conversely to the point above, if you don’t know much about the industry, about your customers, about your product, then the best (if not only) way to learn is by getting out there. And the only way to get out there is to launch.If your idea is not something you have ever worked on before, and working for someone else or with someone else who is willing to teach you is not a possibility, then you have to just go for it!
- Think money! We have been conditioned to believe that in order to be truly happy we must chase our dreams with reckless abandon and not worry about the money. That as long as we are doing what we love, financially sensical or not, the money will come. I call bullshit. It is your job as a business owner to make sure the business is profitable.
- You know nothing. I wish I had known that I knew nothing. It’s like the old adage, the more you learn the less you know. Or the older you get the less you know. That could not be more real than when it came to my career as a start-up founder. When I first started Something Sassy I thought I knew exactly what I needed to do and exactly how long it would take. But the more I learnt about what needed to happen and how long it would take, the more I realized how little I knew. My advice here – because really there is no antidote – would be to stay humble. Stay aware of the fact that you know nothing (or very little), probably less than you think you do, and be willing to learn. Ask for help, ask a million and one questions, read books, read magazines, listen to podcasts. Absorb as much as you can.
- Learn the difference between assumptions and cold, hard facts. As entrepreneurs and start-up founders, we are hard-wired to having a bit of an ego. It is fundamentally what makes us founders – we think our ideas are brilliant and we think, with little to no doubt, that we have the skills and the wherewithal to execute them. This is not a bad thing. In fact I am very fond of the people who think highly enough of themselves and their ideas to go ahead and launch a business. The trouble with this, however, is that we sometimes struggle to identify the difference between what we know as fact and what we think we know (assumptions). I implore you to identify early on where the assumptions lie and where the facts lie in your business plan. Your role as a start-up founder is to test assumptions. It doesn’t mean that your idea is wrong or that it doesn’t stand a chance as a business, it just means you have a responsibility to be real about what the possibilities and impossibilities are, and if they do prove to be wrong, you have to find another way or shift gear.
- Your job is no longer to practice your idea. Your job is to be a boss. Once your idea becomes a business and your business is responsible for paying people’s salaries (including your own), paying back investors, consistently providing a service or a product to customers, your job is most likely no longer to do what you love. I made this mistake more than once when I was running Finnis & Faye. When I first started out, I loved visiting clients, hustling for listings, working on product tutorials and training clients – it was the stuff I woke up the morning excited to do. The stuff I did not wake up in the morning excited to do was cashflow, forecasts, budgets, targets etc.. Mostly because I didn’t know how to, or even that they needed to be done. I learnt the importance of these things the hard way.
If you are one of the brave ones who is taking steps towards turning your idea into a business, I applaud you.
You will stumble and you will fail, but you will figure it out! Pick yourself up, learn from the mistakes, move on and don’t make them again 🙂