I sent out a business start-up survey about a month ago with the view to use the feedback to guide my own start-up and also share with the wider business community. Well, it has been a very busy month for me and interestingly when I read the results of the survey it sounds as though I am right on-track with how everyone else feels when setting up their own business. Hectic!
I was pleased with the level of response, with replies coming from a variety of sectors including design agencies, IT support, coaching, management consultants, writers and talent developers. All of whom roughly started their companies within the last 8 years, the majority being more recent between 2016-2018.
Why start up?
I started my company recently to gain more work satisfaction and because I felt I had something to give and it looks as though this is the reason most people surveyed also started. 83% of companies stated satisfaction/reward and sharing expertise as their main drivers. Work life balance featured as the second most popular response (50%), followed by fulfilling a societal need (33%), the need for more variety and change of career both came in at 17%. Interestingly there were no votes for money as a driver. When I told people, I was leaving a salaried job to go it alone, the common response was that I was “very brave.” I guess this mindset is tied to fact that it is a financially risky move.
“Don’t put the keys to your happiness in somebody else’s pocket.”
The difficulties with start-up
Almost 70% said money was the main difficulty, closely followed by demand for business and complexity to set it up. I have to fully agree with this. I would consider myself a very adept multi-tasker, but I have found the last month very challenging. From business bank accounts to mileage trackers, companies house to invoicing, website design, networking meetings, accounting, time-management and more. It is frankly a mind-bender.
A number of comments in the survey supported this too. The combination of business set-up and the creative or technical skills required to sell yourself seems problematic. But as one participant stated; a key skill is “learning not to worry.” I personally have taken this fully onboard. I also happened upon some excellent advice from The Entrepreneurs Godmother, Alison Edgar, who said new businesses should outsource as much as they can during business start-up. For me, it is about having the funds to back this up.
Business start-up success
So why does anyone start-up if it is just worry and financial instability? Let’s consider the successes. Participants listed the following successes to their business journey.
- Satisfaction 100%
- Networks/Connections 83%
- Freedom 34%
With reputation, financial reward and confidence coming in around about joint fourth. This highlights the importance and value of networking and connections, something about which I have always felt strongly. A great result though with 100% satisfaction – the main driver for people to go it alone in the first place!
Looking at what the participants felt really “sold” their business I was surprised by the results. In order they were the below;
- Your reputation
- Your brand
- Your price
- Your unique services
- Your agility
I would have thought experience would have topped the other responses but then this goes to support the importance of networking/connection as detailed above. People buy people after all! It would have been interesting to drill down here to what areas people needed support with from the above list. Does their brand need a boost, or do they need a review of the services they offer? How did they cost their services?
“People buy people”
The tools you need
A broad stroke question around business start-up need and unsurprisingly the top responses were Marketing and Graphic Design, confirming the original challenge of trying to juggle both the technical and creative aspect of business set-up. Although more so than this and most likely for the participants, they may not have the tools to carry out graphic design.
I guess I feel blessed and cursed by my own ability to do web design, graphic design, videography etc, although it makes for an exceptionally hectic lifestyle! For the participants of this survey, this may well be something they need to outsource.
83.3% of the businesses said the most difficult thing to obtain was the ability to use technologies to future-proof their businesses. I know from my experience that there are a vast amount of helpful digital tools to keep me on track but it is challenging learning to use these. Most people can be a bit technophobic and I can definitely relate, but the below have made my life a bit easier.
Tools I have picked up in my business start-up.
- Hootsuite – a social media scheduler
- Buffer – a social media scheduler
- QUU – a site that sources shareable content
- Everlance – a mileage tracker
- FreeAgent – an accounting package (got this free with my new business account NatWest)
- CamCard – scans business cards and shares into your CRM and phone contacts
- HubSpot – a CRM system
- WorkLog – to record time spent undertaking work or specific tasks. Offers shifts and calculates breaks
- Good Time – a timer for work activities to make sure you don’t procrastinate
- WunderList – a great task list
- Google Analytics – a great way to see who is using your website and for how long
- MailChimp – a great free eShot tool
“There are no boundaries or borders in the digital age.”
Social media must play a major part in the 83% too. The need to update social media accounts and activities frequently as well as respond to enquiries through the website. Scheduling time for these activities is key to ensure engagement and good customer service while still actually running the business. I think it needs a fine balance, but social media is also key to driving business engagement.
We need more…
I left this field open to capture some candid feedback and I was pleasantly surprised with the responses. The participants felt modern business needs more;
- Relationship etiquette – more sportsmanlike behaviour is needed between competitors.
- Co-ompetition – competitors collaborating to enable one another and equally grow.
- USP – a strong selling position and understanding of what you offer.
- Work life flexibility – it is found that clients can struggle with understanding the more flexible approach of start-up workers.
- Personal touch – making it a real, authentic relationship.
Advice to newbies
The final and most valuable question is asking for advice to help the newbies. The top answers were as follows:
- Take up a hobby so you can switch off.
- Eat and sleep well.
- Ensure you have savings as it always costs more and takes longer than you think.
- Talk to people – it gets lonely.
- Create a routine in order to manage time.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s always ok in the end.
I have to agree with these, but stress how difficult I have found it to go from 9-5 to never really switching off. From my various conversations over the last month I have learnt it takes a lot of discipline to create good routines and work ethic when transitioning from being accountable to someone to being accountable to no-one.
I will end this with my favourite comment from the survey. A very upbeat and positive note to spur on start-ups, entrepreneurs and the brave!
“A good day follows a bad, but a bad day doesn’t necessarily follow a good.”
Below are some useful links for you to find more about the support available to start-ups. Not exhaustive, so if you would like to add any then please do so in the comments. Also, if I can be of help at all then please shout. Good Luck!!!
Employment Support Services under DWP Job Centres