I might be in the recruitment business but, as anyone involved with a start-up will understand, it currently feels like I’m an apprentice in 101 other professions. 90% of start-ups fail within 24 months, and that’s hardly surprising as most individuals who go it alone have no experience of setting up or running a business. After such a short time, I’m certainly no expert but I’d like to think I’m a fast learner. So here are some of the things I’ve learnt already:
Set clear objectives and stick to them – Working for yourself makes it easy to be fluffy with objectives, as no one’s going to hold you to them. Big mistake. Set realistic targets, work to them, analyse why you’ve missed them and also why you’ve achieved them.
Pay your VAT quarterly – This was one piece of advice I was given by many prior to setting up. If you’re charging VAT it’s so easy to view the extra revenue as pocket money, but it’s not yours so don’t spend it. Pay quarterly to keep things manageable – a big annual tax bill from HMRC is the number one killer of the cash strapped start-up.
Expect to be paid late – The last thing I thought I’d be doing was spending all day chasing invoices, but that’s what it feels like. Late payment seems to be a fact of business life. You simply can’t rely on what’s owed to you to pay your suppliers.
Outsource – Stick to what you know. Don’t waste your time doing the things you’re no good at even at the start when you’re trying to establish your business. As recruitment specialists, we don’t do our own marketing. Likewise, it makes sense that marketing specialists don’t do their own recruitment.
Wait too long to launch – I hold my hands up, I wished I’d moved faster. I’d recommend not trying to get every detail perfect from the off. After all, this isn’t the launch of a new iPhone – get your name out into the market as soon as you can and start building relationships and your reputation.
Work too hard for too little – If you devalue your services, so will those you work for.
Drain the business account – Sorry, but put that dream yacht on the back burner. Concentrate on building your company, rather than emptying the company account whenever you fancy something you don’t really need.
Forget why you went it alone in the first place – Don’t lose sight of what drove you to set up on your own, and make sure you’re building the business you initially set out to create. And while you’re at it, don’t let the reasons why you left your last employer become the reasons why your employee’s leave you.
Those are my thoughts. If you’re part of a start-up, I’d really love to hear yours. We’re still on a very steep learning curve and your pearls of wisdom could really help us through the next 12 months.