How I started my business

posted by on February 26th, 2013

“The scan results are clear”, those were the words I’d been waiting for. My health scare had passed and I was so relieved. A few hours earlier I had been contemplating what to do if the results were poor. Perhaps I’d been foolish in making that promise to myself at my lowest moment?

You see I’d made a deal with myself that whatever the outcome I would hand in my notice and go and live my life differently. At the time it seemed like a good idea, but now it occurred to me I could let myself off the hook. After all running a large marketing agency and juggling family life wasn’t so bad. Sure I was exhausted most of the time dashing around the country, but there were some perks nice hotels, good salary, interesting people and projects.

The truth was my career to date had been a success, but the reality was I found it hard to switch off. It wasn’t the business that was suffering, it was my family. They were slotted in and when I had the time and only a few hours ago I had promised to change all that. I could feel myself starting to talk myself back into the idea of staying put, I’d be silly to jack it all in, wouldn’t I?

Then it hit me, was it really going to take a death sentence to jolt me out of my comfort zone? It was then l realised that was a far crazier notion than handing in my notice and flying solo. Before I knew it my mind started working overtime and to make sure I didn’t lose my new found faith in myself I handed in my notice the very next day. I was still uncertain as to exactly what I was going to do but I needed the motivation that comes from not having a safety net.

Fast forward ten years and here I am running my own successful training consultancy amongst other business interests and dancing to my own tune. There are no secrets to what I have achieved but there are principles that I still follow to this day and you can have them for free!

Do what you Know and Keep it Simple
Starting a business is hard enough, there is so much to learn. I think people hugely underestimate how long it takes them to learn about the practicalities of running a business. In my view it helps if you are a financial whiz, a marketing guru and a superb sales person, it’s a lot to ask. Products or services do not sell themselves so unless you have the resources to buy in experts, stick to what you know how to do already so at least you are not trying to learn everything along the way. In my past career I had already been an effective trainer and manager. I understood the challenges of running a team and working in a corporate environment. I knew how to communicate effectively and present well. So starting a business for me was simple, all I needed to figure out was to find a way to sell my knowledge and myself!

Add Massive Value to Customers and Give More
Business is about adding value, but that value needs to be recognised in the mind of the customer. If customers do not value what you have whether it is a product or a service then they will not buy. My radar is always looking for ways to solve client’s pain. When you focus your efforts on making life easier for clients and help to solve their problems with your service or product then selling becomes a doddle. So keep looking out for ways to add value and if you can be innovative at the same time, then so much the better. In my business I make sure I spend time with clients throughout all projects to provide them with feedback as to how they can continue to enhance the performance of their people and business. I lavish them with attention which is focussed on their needs and not mine. Give a little and you will get lots back.

Network your butt off
I have lost count of how many networking events I have been to. In fact it’s a large part of my marketing strategy and my biggest marketing cost is coffee! Networking is crucial to small business start-ups but beware falling into the trap of becoming disillusioned because you are not making direct sales. Networking is not about selling, rather it is about building a reputation and relationships. I made sure that I grabbed every opportunity to talk at networking events as a speaker. I knew that if I could muster the courage then everyone in the room would get a chance to hear what I had to say. Make sure that you find ways to network with people offline as much as online and make it part of your on-going marketing activities. The key is to follow people up after the event so offer to for a coffee (make sure you pay) and work to build relationships.

Be flexible and Persistent
Amongst other training I also provide small business training to those starting up in business. In my experience the people who seem to get on are those who adopt a flexible approach to their business. Unless you have lots of resources then the truth is you are going to have wait to see how customers respond to your great new idea! The truth is if it’s not for them and you decide to stick to your guns then you may need to wait a long time for a payback. There are countless stories around how many rejections people got before they get their big break. In my mind they are in the minority and I have no doubt that persistence is a crucial factor in success. Being flexible means being prepared to work the hours needed to get the results you want and being willing to adapt to the needs of your potential customers. Being persistent means working beyond the point most people give up.

In summary I hope that these few principles may help and please make sure you don’t wait like I did for a scan to show you that you can make it in business!

Caroline Rust is founder of WorkshopsWork Ltd a bespoke training and development consultancy.