My Start Up Journey A Year In – Key Learning (Vol 1)

Having helped get more than several start ups off the ground in the last 10 years...

.....I have to admit that I don’t think that I could see myself working in any other environment!

That all hands on deck, almost boundaryless way of working and the camaraderie that taking an exciting idea forward brings, is second to none.

I remember in the early days when I was involved with helping Zulily when they launched in the UK, their growth was at such a fast pace. From a core team of just 7 of us through to 45 people within the first year, it was truly remarkable. And one of many start up journeys I have been lucky enough to be involved with along the way.

Having launched PA&GO 12 months ago now, I have learnt so much and it has been a wonderful journey thus far.

From those early days working at my dining table to seeing the brand come alive with the body of an awesome team to the enthusiasm of our clients in what we do, this has made the journey so rewarding.

So what has been my key learning in the first year? There has been so much.....

Be Prepared To Sacrifice

There isn’t always the perfect time to launch a start up. I have come across countless people who are in a full time jobs with such passion for launching their own company but stuck in the fear of the financial change.

What are you so worried about? Take it from me, it will be sometime before you will have the safety blanket of a similar income as your full time role anyway, so that is no excuse for not getting stuck in and starting.

Too big a step? What can you do in the interim to help you make the move? How much capital does the business need to start? What is the minimum that you would need to live on and get by? Could you work less hours or part time while starting?

Sometimes just taking that leap and knowing that you are driving your new business forward makes up for the required change in lifestyle to be able to do it.

‘’Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ – Benjamin Franklin

Stay Focused On The End Goal

Sheer grit and determination in your DNA is a pre requisite for starting your own company for sure!

Stay focused on the reason you started your business in the first place as the inevitable peaks and troughs come your way.

It can be tough when you are in between client invoice payments and need to pay your team, or when you get home after a long day and after putting your kids to bed have to then spend the rest of the evening working.

It is relentless, and along with that can come other peoples negative opinions or your thoughts on how others may be doing it better.

Remind yourself why you set your business up in the first place and deal with issues methodically, practically with the end result in mind and just keep moving forwards.

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”  -  Winston S. Churchill

Get A Mentor

You will have heard this countless of times, however it’s true, getting yourself a mentor is such a valuable exercise when starting your own business.

Finding someone who can give you key insights into your industry with the experience of having tread the path before you is something of a must in order to gain valuable insight into what lies ahead.

It can also very much be a reciprocal relationship. Your mentor will learn a lot from being on your journey too.

Try Launch22 or Seedcamp to name a few.

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.”  -  Phil Collins

There Is Enough Success In The World For Everyone

In the early days I will openly admit that I struggled with other brands that were in the same market place. I would just think that what we were doing is better and didn’t pay much heed at all.

Now, as I have grown the business, I realise that there is more than enough success in the world for everyone and a lot you can learn. I appreciate the journey that they have gone on to build their brand and that rather than competitors, they are in fact great sources for learning and potential future collaborators.

There will inevitably be others in the same market place as you, so take your time to see what they are doing. By aligning yourself with others in a similar industry and their current marketplace, you can actually increase your brand exposure and help your business grow.

In fact, some well-known brands have made fantastic collaborations or mergers with their competitors. Think of Currys and PC World or Lloyds and TSB bank.

As said, there’s enough success in the world for everyone!

“A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace.”  - Ovid

People Will Copy You

Let’s face it, if you have a great idea or way of working at some point someone is going to come along and look to copy what you are doing.

As an entrepreneur, taking a great idea forward you are always going to be torn between the excitement of talking about your brand with others and wondering whether they are thinking at the same time how they could take your idea.

My advice is to just plough on, stay true to the reason you set up your company and know what separates you from the rest and keeps you a cut above them.

Ensure that you have the right contracts in place with your team, NDAs for sub-contractors or any other person outside of the business that you talk to about your start up. This is particularly important in the early stages.

Also be realistic, anyone can come along and look at what is on your website and gain an idea for a company. So be clear on what you can and can’t control and just focus on taking your brand forward through to success.

If someone does copy your idea, know when to invest in getting them to stop as they are a threat, or when they just won’t cut the mustard and are no threat at all.

‘’If you want to be original, be ready to be copied’’ – Coco Chanel

Embrace Your New Network

Working on and in your start-up will bring along a new world of connections especially when you start to network and take your business and brand forward.

They say you are only as good as the 6 people that you spend the most time with, so embrace your new social circle as an opportunity for personal development.

At the same time, you may find that some friends or previous colleagues are less than enthusiastic about your new venture or the changes that this brings about in you. And just as you will gain, you will also need to ask yourself whether these people have your best interests at heart or whether it Is time to move on.

Harsh but true.

‘’Strong people don’t put others down…They lift then up’’.  -  Michael P. Watson

Get Help When You Need It

Getting your start up off the ground at the beginning can require a lot of work. There is a point when you need to consider having other people on team to help you.

If you need flexible support for your start up, get in touch today.