Lessons from becoming my own boss

After two decades of supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups, it is now my privilege and challenge to “walk the talk” and start up my own business.

I have used the first six months of the year to plan, dream and build a runway for the latter half of the year as I launch the business.

I have tried to be transparent, authentic, and relevant in sharing some lessons learnt during the journey in the first six months.

Most of these lessons arose as I was doing the obvious. Things like registering the business; clarifying my value offering and target market and seeking leads. I hope they will help some on the journey.

● My former boss, and a wonderful mentor shared a powerful quote. “If you want to know who you are, what your limits are, what pushes your buttons, where your hidden strengths can be found, then simply start a business and all will be revealed.”

This truth needs the aspiring entrepreneur to understand both the wonderful opportunity offered through entrepreneurship, as well as the inevitable suite of challenges and problems that accompany starting.

It is true that you will grow as much as your business grows, and oh, the growing pains!

● I compiled two lists in November/December last year. The first was establishing my pipeline. That means identifying all leads where an appetite for my services would exist. I have worked consistently on following up and seeking deals, so the list is quite a dynamic one that requires weekly/monthly updates.

The second list was an attempt to identify challenges or obstacles that I might have from a mindset perspective. This includes fear, lack of focus, etc. This list keeps me accountable and helps me confront things for the sake of my own growth.

● Don’t under-estimate how long it takes to generate sales. I began my engagements and enquiries with leads over six months ago. I was initially met with much enthusiasm, yet not everyone who responded at first has translated into sales. It isn’t right or wrong. It just is a fact that you must nurture your sales and constantly revisit the sales activities to get your desired outcome.

● Sweat your networks. Over the past two decades, it has been my privilege to meet up with a host of people within the entrepreneurial development space.

I salute your contribution to helping others (including me).

I have sought to “work” my network to establish leads. It does mean overcoming shyness or lack of confidence. I like to think to myself, what is the worst that could happen?

In most instances, the response to my gentle, yet hopefully relevant queries are encouraging. Some of these have translated into sales.

● Value input and support. I have concluded one chapter of my journey and am now “refiring” as I start the next chapter. As you start your business, you are most vulnerable to doubt, discouragement, disappointment, and distraction (All the d’s).

Support at this stage is not a luxury but an essential. I count it a huge privilege to have the unqualified support of my wife. In addition, I have friends, colleagues and mentors who help me face up to life with humour, grace, and perspective. How about you?

● Work on your business planning. A business plan is a document that seeks to demonstrate to others how you will build your business. It is often a requirement for funding.

Business planning, on the other hand, is a dynamic process that is constantly improving, measuring, evaluation and changing. I favour this and have sought to use a “road map” to keep me on track, as I constantly seek to up my game in business planning.

I also believe this requires an openness to the input of others in fields where one is unschooled.

● Play to your strengths. I was impacted by Marcus Buckingham’s book, Now discover your strengths. I read and studied this material some 16 years ago, yet that reading is still bearing fruit today.

I like to think that when I play to my strengths and live out my why fully, it should translate into strong business partnerships, consistent business growth and ongoing value to my clients.

Why? Simply because when you are operating regularly from the sweet spot of joy and strength, the rest of the package begins to fall into place.

● Up the hustle. It is a fact of life that one’s levels of enthusiasm, energy and engagement will fluctuate over the course of weeks and months.

What is important is to continually ask yourself, “What is the best I can do this week?” and then be relentless in repeating the process.

With the joy of more freedom comes the need for increasing your own responsibility and being accountable to the goals and objectives you are setting. It is up to you.

● Consistency. I have the privilege of adding value to others through writing. It is something I have done consistently over 12 years. I aim to bring that same consistency into the “how” of my work.

That means being prepared and engaging with my clients…. consistently. As the Boss would say…. “Getting an audience is hard. Sustaining an audience is hard. It demands a consistency of thought, of purpose and of action over a long period of time” – Bruce Springsteen.

● Steve Reid is the manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE) at False Bay College. Contact him on Steve.Reid@falsebay.org.za