5 Nuggets of Advice For Every Start Up

(This post was originally commissioned by and posted on Inspiring.ie, Ireland’s Most Inspiring Women in Business Online Magazine.) 

62 new Irish companies formed every day in 2018. Figures released in January 2019 showed a record breaking number of new company start ups. CRIF Vision-net showed that 22,493 new companies were formed in 2018.

With so many new businesses starting up, many of them are female led. Statistics are hard to find for Irish businesses but in the US, four out of every 10 businesses are owned by women. Assuming the same ratio here, there are enormous opportunities for women today that never existed before.

With this in mind, here are five nuggets of advice that I wish I knew when I first started.

1. Mistakes are Okay

One of the first pieces of advice that I’d like to share with all new start ups is that it’s okay to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. There are memes all over the Internet that tell you there is no such thing as a mistake, it’s only feedback. It’s true.

If you make a mistake, then learn from it and move on.

As a business owner, you have to learn to accept failure. It’s part of running a business. However, I would advise caution in terms of making costly mistakes. Do not take unnecessary risk. Weigh up the pros and cons of taking the risk. If it includes a massive financial loss, then avoid it. While mistakes are good to learn from, losing a lot of money when it can’t be replaced is not a mistake. It’s a disaster. I always advise clients to make informed decisions.

2. Put your Financial House in Order

Just as you have your home in order, it’s so important to have your financial house in order. So many business owners when they start wear a lot of hats. The finance hat is often the least worn yet this is one of the most important ones. Do not focus on operations and on marketing without giving the proper time to sorting your accounts and know how the business is performing.

Cashflow is the lifeblood of the business and you need to know your breakeven point. It’s important to be compliant and know when all the relevant financial and tax deadlines are.

You do not want to be a busy fool – working all the time but not knowing how your business is really performing.

3. Opportunities are Everywhere

There is no shortage of opportunities when you’re in business. The key is to focus on the opportunity that will give you the best return.

Look at Ray Croc, he is the man who bought McDonalds from Dick and Mac McDonald. They focused on their introduced the Speedee Service System which they introduced in 1948. They franchised their restaurant and one of the first franchisers was Ray Croc. He was the exclusive distributor of the Multimixer, a milkshake mixing machine. What goes with milkshakes? Burgers. He saw opportunity in McDonalds and bought it from the brothers.

Now you don’t have to revolutionise an industry to seize opportunity and get return.

4. Use Strategic Tools to your Advantage

There are a number of strategic tools that you can use when you set up. They include gap analysis, SWOT, PESTLE analysis, balanced scorecard and Blue Ocean Strategy.

A SWOT is the perfect tool you can prepare in advance to take advantage of any opportunities. A SWOT – strength, weakness, opportunity and threats – allows you to look strategically at the business as well as the opportunity. It gives you clarity.

It gives a clear view of the business in terms of its strengths over competitors etc, where its weaknesses lie so a company can either improve them or be fully aware of them. It offers a moment in time to analyse the opportunities it has and also recognise the threats that it faces.

When undertaking a SWOT analysis, it’s important to have as much information as possible including market knowledge as well knowledge on a range of relevant internal and external factors that may impact the business etc.

Strengths and weaknesses look at internal factors which a company can control. Opportunities and threats are externally focused and not within the control of the company.

5. Get a mentor

Robert Frost wrote a poem ‘The Road Not Taken’. The very end of the poem goes like this “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I – I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”

We all have to travel our own road but what I have learned in my 12 year journey is that you don’t have to choose the one less travelled by. Pick the road that someone has travelled so that they can share their mistakes and success with you.

It will quicken your journey. Whether it’s a marketing mentor, a business consultant or a financial mentor, choose someone from whom you can learn from. As a financial mentor, I would stress the importance of forecasting figures for your business in the future. You must have a clear direction as to how you plan the business to go. Set budgets for every month.

You can learn a lot from what others have done. You can also learn from what they didn’t do and what they would have done if they had their time all over again.

There are many female led organisations who offer support – Inspiring, Network Ireland, Going for Growth and many of the LEO offices have mentoring supports.

Learn from others. Then walk your own road.

Starting a business is exciting and daunting all at the same time. Starting your own business takes a motivation that you may never have thought you possessed. It drives you, it makes you resilient. Enjoy it.

If you’d like to talk more about your new start up, talk to our MD Angela O’Leary from AG Associates – I’ve walked your path so can resonate with your challenges and successes.