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What everybody ought to know about starting a business

Starting a business
Twenty years ago I did something foolish. I quit my job to start my own business. At the time I had a young family to support, but worse—no clue what I was going to do or how. As a young primary school vice-principal in a regional city, I was no longer enjoying the job.

With hindsight, I must have seemed crazy!

Quitting my job
Before quitting I saw a career counsellor. We identified my interest in fitness and wellbeing. The explosion of the fitness and wellness movement came much later. When I started it was only just emerging, so it was the best shot I had.

I invested some time and money in learning about fitness and adult learning, hoping to build up more expertise. I also blew a bit of money on logos, business cards, stationery, equipment, phones and memberships. None of it was sufficient to start and sustain a business.

Networking was big in those days. Events were opportunities to meet people that might lead to work, and I travelled just about everywhere in the hope of making a sale.

Unfortunately, in not being able to sell, and not even sure what I was selling, led to me chasing any new idea or trend, hoping to cash in. The more desperate I got, the more I kept changing direction—desperately seeking the holy grail.

It’s not how you start and grow a business.

starting a business

photo: jens-johnsson unsplash.com

This lack of direction changed when attending an event, I met someone who became my mentor. He took me under his wing and changed the way I thought about business.

It was not a smooth transition.

My mentor identified quite early on that I had neither direction nor focus. Nor any real understanding of how a business worked.

I was all puff and no substance—unconsciously incompetent if I want to be polite to my earlier self.

He helped me identify a business need where I could gain some business experience and build on my expertise. Then he worked with me to find clients and advise me on how to work on their projects.

He provided marketing consulting to my clients, and my job was to provide marketing implementation for the client. Fitness and health went out the window—I just couldn’t make a living from it.

His mentoring was a mixture of advice, getting me to read and write about business and marketing, asking me difficult questions (that made my mouth go dry) to reflect on and modelling through working together on over 50 projects. Over that time, it has increased my depth of marketing and business know-how. 

Without his direction and help, I would of continued floundering like a fish out of water. And I can only thank my lucky stars that I met him and that he patiently helped me.

Now I’m in a position to help others.

What do you need to know when you are thinking about starting a business?

All businesses solve problems.

Throughout your life and career, you have built up problem-solving skills through your learning, know-how, observations and accumulated wisdom. Working in various roles and jobs helps build up that know-how—career capital.

Shifting to self-employment is an opportunity to exploit your know-how to do something that you care about.

If you want to start a business you’ll need to do three things:

  • Create a product ( that solves a problem ),
  • Get customers who will buy the solution, and
  • Solve their problem for them ( and get paid )

Learning how to market and sell your product comes next.
Help to develop your business idea, along with a range of practical advice, can be found from state and local government departments, often online. There are also many online courses that may be of help.

Seeking help and advice will save you time, heartache and money. I learned this the hard way. If you can find a knowledgeable mentor, even better.

My finding a mentor was serendipitous. I was lucky finding one who was patient, caring and was, and still is, prepared to put in the time to help me. I am very thankful to him and hope that my writing will do him justice, and help others to survive, grow and thrive in their businesses.