"What do you need to start a business? Three simple things: know your product better than anyone. Know your customer, and have a burning desire to succeed.” – Dave Thomas, Founder, Wendy’s
Okay, so maybe some things about running a start-up are universal - especially the starting points. But when you've got your business plan and you're interested in what successful start-ups do that help them truly succeed, then here's what you want to know about running a new business.
Starting-up in Australia is exciting. But surely, if you're reading this blog, you would have known that already. If you want to find out more about the background of Australia for start-ups, read this. But if you just want a round-up of what to expect from the Australian start-up scene, keep reading.
Sydney and Melbourne are consistently ranked as two of the most liveable cities in the world, so Australia can position itself as the best place to do a start-up. While we're a bit further away from the rest of the world and it's hard to physically get to locations across the globe, the digital age has granted us the benefits of working online. Australia's proximity to Asia is a huge appealing factor that attracts investors wanting to expand businesses into that region. It also overlaps with both the US West Coast and most Asian capital cities' working day, so many US companies see Australia as a gateway to Asia and have started capitalising on this. Smart!
Going further local, Sydney has a global outlook and a "get things done" attitude. It's not the cheapest when it comes to standard of living, but vibrant suburbs like Surry Hills and cafes like Single Origin Roasters are the hot spots for entrepreneurs to gather. The local tech scene and start-up community is also incredibly lively and encouraging for new entrepreneurs looking to start up. One of Sydney's biggest start-ups, Fishburners, houses over 176 small businesses, and each is incredibly welcoming. With new faces to meet every day, it's an exciting place to bounce ideas off each other and start innovating.
But before you do, we rounded up a list of tips that we thought would be handy to know before running a start-up. Here's what we found:
1. Find your happy place.
The simplest and seemingly most straight-forward of the list is often the one that goes unsaid. You definitely have to love what you do. You have to love it enough to want to work on it constantly, watch it grow, and stick it out through the tough times! Starting up from scratch is no walk in the park. There will be days where you'll be so close to wanting to give everything up, and it's when the going gets tough that passion will pull you through and guide you towards better days.
2. Start even before you feel ready.
I'm not crazy. Mario Andretti, legendary race car driver, once said that "If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough." Starting a new business is scary, and sometimes you won't even know where you're going to go with it. But that's all part of the process. Remember how Richard Branson started? This was his story on one of the starting points of Virgin Airlines. In his words:
"At the airport, my final flight to the Virgin Islands was cancelled [...] I thought this was ridiculous, so I went and chartered a private airplane to take me to the Virgin Islands, which I did not have the money to do. Then, I picked up a small blackboard, wrote "Virgin Airlines. $29." on it, and went over to the group of people who had been on the flight that was cancelled. I sold tickets for the rest of the seats on the plane, used their money to pay for the chartered plane, and we all went to the Virgin Islands that night." - Richard Branson
If he could turn such an opportunity into a business, so can you!
3. Learn how to pitch.
In this industry, you're going to have to be able to pitch your business idea over and over again, honing your pitching skills and perfecting them until you're able to convince and persuade effectively. Be able to construct an elevator pitch, where you can tell people who you are and what your company does succinctly. I once read about a guy who went on Pitt Street and started pitching to an imaginary audience for hours on end, until he was able to successfully convince people of his pitch. Not everyone is perfect at pitching and we understand that. But we all start somewhere!
4. A lot of work is email.
These days we're so preoccupied with social media, that we occasionally forget that there's still this thing called the email. Emails are the best form of contact to potential and current customers, as well as business partners. Be prepared for emails to take up a bulk of your time. A handy tip is to give it 20 minutes at the start of the day, 20 minutes in the middle, and a final 20 minutes at the end of the day. Prioritise what needs to be answered to and learn to write succinctly. Plan out draft emails that you can use as templates - these will save you so much time in the long run.
5. Risk it - but only if you don't need the biscuit.
You're going to want to quit your main job. You're also going to think that "I'll be so much better at this and get so many more things done if I didn't have to divide my time between two jobs."
There are two ways about this:
1. Do you need your current job for the income? Someone once told me that dreams won't get you food on the table. Money will. If having that steady stream of income will save you some stress and headache, then keep it until you have a steady plan.
2. If you're convinced that you don't need it and you're comfortable where you're at, then let it go and charge full steam ahead!
6. Talk to people.
You won't know everything from the get-go, so it's best to seek advice from others who have run start-ups or larger companies before - whether or not they succeeded! I'm a fervent believer that the best stories come from the people around you and that there are always new things to learn from people. Go out, talk to people. You never know what you'll get!
7. It takes time.
A start-up venture doesn't succeed overnight. Even though you may be convinced that you're the best in the business and that nobody else has done this, it still. takes. time. Be careful about not burning out. It's easy to overwork when it comes to running your own business, but there's gotta be things that you have to keep pace for. Building a company is not a marathon (or a sprint), and you need to be prepared for this to last into the future - only then you can reap the profits! Right?
8. Market and brand your business.
Building your product is half of the battle won. Having it marketed well is the second half - and a great part of the determining factor in whether your business succeeds or fails! Invest in marketing, spend time developing campaigns, hire a good PR company. Investment in good branding will pay in multiples through increased exposure, sales, and invaluable advice from someone who sees the company from a third-person perspective.
9. Read and research, but don't forget to do.
Reading about start-ups and other ventures is always going to be useful. But don't spend all your time doing that. Make sure you take some time to actually try - actually do it. There's only so much that planning can do and after a while you're just gonna have to experiment to see what works!
10. Build your work around honesty.
Martin Halpen, Founder of The Fruit Box, emphasises honesty as the key building block to any business. When you've got honesty, it allows you to build trust within the team and give the people around you a chance to shine.
This means focusing on your own product and on your own business. Yes, competition is good. Being aware of competition is great. But don't let that comparison get to your head and diminish what you've fought so hard to build. When you're constantly comparing with others and thinking that you're not good enough, that's not a good head space you want to be in. Remember to focus, and take a leap of faith!
We all start somewhere.
Hopefully this list has you sorted for the top things you'd want to nail when starting a new business. If you're keen to start-up in Sydney, check out our Startup Network below.
Any other thoughts or comments? Leave a thought below on what you think entrepreneurs should know before running a start-up.
By now, we all know that the best way to learn is to hit the ground running. So go on, get started and get those creative juices running. Who knows? I might see you around the office soon!