I left Microsoft three years ago to start my own business. Since I left the world of the salaried worker and created a company, I’ve had many conversations with my ex colleagues who are planning to start up in business too.
There is no structured formula for success. Setting up in business for the first time is a lonely, scary place. Everything is different to the safe, secure world of the 9-5 worker. Timescales differ, responsibilities differ. And yes, the buck really does stop with you.
The great thing about running your own business is the sense of control you have with your working life. If you choose to work 18 hours a day, weekends and holidays, you can. There is no boss breathing down your neck with deadlines and stress inducing meetings and calls.
You can choose to work as much or as little as you choose, turn down clients that you do not want to work with, and delight the clients you do want to work with. It is a very empowering experience – if you can stick through the difficult times and make a go of it.
So at the start of my third year in business, here are some tips that I’ve found useful in making the transition beyond my first three months in business. I’ve taken time to reflect on how I’m doing, and how things are working out and so far, all is good.
But the tips I tell each of my friends who want to follow in my entrepreneurial steps are:
- Get a mentor: Find someone who runs a small business who can give you help and advice and lead you step by step down the road to setting up on your own. Their advice is invaluable and you will find yourself with a new friend.
- Ask questions. Other entrepreneurs have successfully gone down this path before. Ask them how they did it and their tips for success.
- Have a good, recent business plan. Banks and other Financial institutions will be reluctant to invest in your business without seeing your business plan. Update your plan before you go for that all important business meeting. A scrappy, out of date business plan does not inspire them to believe in you and your success
- Be prepared to try it and see. If things go wrong, then change your plan, change your approach and try it again.
- Refresh regularly: Keep your profile image, biography, company biography and capability document up to date. You’ll be able to quickly send it to anyone that asks for the details. Don’t keep customers waiting for the information they need
- Reuse knowledge: Use the skills you gained in company life to help you writing proposals, web site copy, press releases and external communications. Create templates to make your life easier
- Follow up: If you take a business card at an event, contact the person after the event reminding them of the conversation you had at the event. Making the connection electronically means that you can be sure that they have your contact details even if they have lost your card.
- Keep in touch: Use LinkedIn to maintain and keep contact with your ex colleagues. If they change jobs, or leave the company, you will still be able to keep in touch with them and continue the relationship. You never know. Your skills might be just what they need in their new workplace so it is important that you work at the relationships you have
- Open up new networks. Don’t go to the same networking events all the time. Try a new event. It might just be fruitful. You will be a fresh face, with fresh ideas and skills. you will be able to gauge the need for your skills in the market.
Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.