Having worked in a number of family businesses, the civil service and multi-nationals, I should be in the ideal position to start my own business, little did I appreciate the commitment required. This is a new digital age and it has been a steep learning curve. Here are some lesson I have learnt and reinforced as an entrepreneur in the first 6 months of this business:
1. Dedicate a specific start-up period for mobilising your business
Due to matters outside of my control, this business started earlier than planned, meaning that I had a 2 week holiday booked and paid for within the first 2 months of trading. A new business is exciting, and should be doing what you love, so I didn’t really need the holiday, and it impacted on my availability and scale of initial marketing.
2. Use LinkedIn
Really use LinkedIn, work on your profile, write posts, and don’t be shy about linking with others. Some of the people who contacted me directly through my LinkedIn account have become new clients, and it has cost nothing but time.
When posting, a good photo grabs attention, if it looks like a sales pitch, your hit rate will be low.
As a sales professional I have been selling products and services since I was 9 years old, but selling yourself as a consultant and trainer is completely different. Every conversation is an interview, it’s hard. Put on your best smile and get out there, go to conferences, events and consultations. Don’t be afraid to be heard, you want people to start paying you for your opinions, so have plenty, based on knowledge, evidence and experience.
4. Make alliances
We all work in crowded markets, don’t see all competition as the enemy. No one knows everything, but it’s useful knowing the man or woman who has the answers. I believe in healthcare integration and that only works through co-operation, I practice what I preach. Working with other professionals only expands your opportunities, and your connections.
5. Join professional networks and organisations which support business development
Join organisations relevant to your business. As an example, we have found Medilink East and West Midlands really helpful and supportive in this initial phase. Their networking events, and those of the West Midlands AHSN have been particularly beneficial.
6. A day without engaged work is a day for business development
As much as you might feel you deserve the day off, the website can always be improved, customers can be contacted, Blogs can be written. Never give up. That day’s work might create 12 months of business, if you have the day off you will never know.
7. Keep on track
VAT, accounts, invoices, receipts. Boring! But make sure you do it, record your costs, at least monthly and document your targets, objectives and progress. Then if a really important customer meeting occurs on April 6th, smile and go without distraction, you know you are in control of your business.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask
Ask for constructive criticism and receive it with good grace. Feedback is a gift, you will find it hard to improve without it, and when you run your own business, it’s lovely to receive compliments, but constructive criticism needs to be solicited.
9. Be realistic
I have counselled many businesses on the time required to see a profitable return on investment, I know that in health and social care things take time, there are group decisions to be made, and funding to be sourced…………but still, when it is your own time and money holding your nerve is essential. The feeling is similar to playing chicken on the M6. Set realistic expectations and try not to be disappointed if you don’t exceed them. At the end of each day, find at least one positive outcome that has moved the business forward, for example new leads, appointments or positive feedback.
This is where I say that in truth, no one can do this without the support of others. From cups of tea (thanks Tom) to help building the website (Rick, you have been fabulous), Marketing feedback (Shaz and Zoe, thank you again), and everything else: the Medilink teams in the Midlands, South London Health Information Network, abdi ltd, West Midlands AHSN, BanksCannell.
Most of all I would like to thank my clients that have taken the leap of faith to work with a start-up company and make my work so varied and enjoyable.