4 things I wish I’d known before starting a business

4 things I wish I’d known before starting a business

Valerie Khoo knows all about starting a small business, having founded the Australian Writers’ Centre. Here, she draws on the benefit of hindsight to give some invaluable thoughts on the subject.

If you’re about to start a business, chances are that you’re reading up on the road ahead of you. You might be doing a course and chatting to other business owners so that you’re well armed with what to expect. But nothing can actually prepare you for the reality of running your own show. As a serial entrepreneur, here are four things I wish I’d known before I first took the plunge.

1. You’ll need to acquire way more skills than you expect

So you want to start a business based on your passion. Let’s say you love dog grooming, or fitness training, or selling floral arrangements. You think it makes sense to turn what you love into a money-making venture. Then you’ll get to pursue your passion every day – and get paid for it.

But here’s the thing. If you think you can focus your efforts on being an awesome dog groomer/personal trainer/florist, think again. When you’re starting out, unless you have inherited a small fortune that you can spend on outsourcing, you also need to be the marketer, receptionist, accountant, IT person, chief cook and bottle washer!

Who’s going to get the EFTPOS machine to work? You. Who’s going to clean the toilet if you can’t afford a cleaner yet? Yep, you. Who’s going to figure out where you should advertise if you don’t have a marketer on board? That’s right, you! When you’re starting out, be prepared to broaden your skill set way beyond what you could have possibly imagined.

2. You will never work this hard in your life

Many people are attracted to the idea that being your own
boss means you can work your own hours and adapt your business around your lifestyle and hobbies. Well, that’s partly true. You call the shots, and if you want to arrange your working hours around school pick-up or golf, go right ahead. Business owners will tell you that while they have the flexibility to work whenever they want, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are relaxing by the pool. Many will attest that they work more hours in their business than they ever did as an employee.

The good news is that you’re probably going to love it. You’re creating something new, it’s exciting and you don’t mind working around the clock to make it happen. However, it’s important to ensure you don’t find yourself working five-to-nine. Yes, that means 5am to 9pm!112

3. There will be naysayers

Running a small business can sometimes be lonely, so it’s important to have a support crew around you. I’m talking about a group of like-minded people who understand the ups and downs of owning a business.

Not everyone is going to be as excited about your new venture as you are. In fact, there will be people who are even going to discourage you from it. Surprisingly, this can sometimes come from the people closest to you. When this happens, it’s vital that you remember your ‘why’. That is, why did you decide to start your own business in the first place? Draw on that passion so you can ignore the naysayers and ride through the tough times.

4. You need to become a leader

If you want to run a business then you need to brush up on your leadership skills, because you’re now a leader. Even if you have no staff, your clients and customers will look to you for leadership, wisdom and advice. When you’re ready to build your business by hiring people, your team will look to you for guidance and leadership, you need to get your team to buy into your vision for the business. Embrace the idea and brush up on your leadership skills if you really want your business to fly!

While it’s important to be aware of the pitfalls in business, it’s also safe to say that the satisfaction of building your own piece of the world is unparalleled. There will be challenges and obstacles, but when you overcome them and see your business running as a well-oiled machine, that’s priceless.