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 would do or how. As a young primary school vice-principal in a regional city, I was no longer enjoying the job.

In 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 my best shot.

Learning

I invested time and money in learning about fitness and adult learning, hoping to build 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.

A major consideration for the self-employed is to realise that when you were working in a large organisation or business, many components made up the whole. Sales, marketing, administration, management, accounts, IT, human resources and many other internal and external providers. When you are self-employed, you will need an overview of these functions and how to go about them or outsource some of them.

Networking

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. Nowadays, you must build and maintain your reputation, often online with sites such as Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook. It depends on the type of business you decide to run. You must learn to be a power user by seeking advice through books, courses or coaching. Then practice; for most self-employed, this has to be a daily focus.

Money

Unfortunately, being unable 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.

Consider your finances

Do you have enough money to tide you over several months while you get set up or commence working, depending on your work? It may pay to run a business on the side while working elsewhere.
starting a business

Mentors

This lack of direction changed when attending an event; I met someone who became my mentor. He took me under his wing and changed how 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 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.

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 thinking about starting a business?

All businesses solve problems.

You have built problem-solving skills throughout your life and career through 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 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. Many online courses may be of help.

Online courses on starting a business
Coursera – you may find some free business courses
Udemy has many reasonable-priced courses

Books

I have read many books on business and prefer to read anything else.
The one book I do recommend is Alberto Savoia’s The Right It: Why So Many Ideas Fail and How to Make Sure Yours Succeed. Find it in your favourite bookshop.

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.

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

>