Tips for Business Start Ups: step up to the plate and don’t let us down.

It’s a funny old thing, hearing about the emergence of a new business. You don’t necessarily see any change on the landscape, there’s clearly no sound of new born babies squealing, and to all intents and purposes the world before the business existed is very much like the world after it started to trade.

Except it’s not. The presence of a new business – symbolically seen in the fact that it now has a ‘proper’ name with the letters ‘Ltd.’ after that name – demonstrates that rather than nothing at all happening, the start-of-trade moment is a declaration of optimism, hope and ambition.

The declaration sends out signals that good things will happen: people will be employed and paid for their work, other people will buy goods or services which should make their own lives just a little bit easier to cope with and the world at large might benefit – however microscopically – from the new kid on the block. The start up trading moment offers glimpses to a better future for everyone.

So to all you new start ups out there: well done, it’s fantastic that you made it this far. Now, go forth and multiply and don’t let us down. We’re investing our hope for a better future in your endeavours and will live your triumphs and defeats with you.

Tips for Business Start Ups: Who Loves Ya, Baby?

Beatrice and Benedict are egg cooks par excellence. What they don’t know about how to cook an egg – scrambling, poaching, filleting – isn’t worth knowing about and over the last couple of years they have carved out a small but ongoing enterprise in Manchester fulfilling their customers every ab ovo need.

True, it’s quite a niche market and they don’t have a lot of customers – but it’s big enough to help them pay their cooping needs. They’ve reached the point though that the constant scratching around in the dirt for some more regular income has gotten tiring and they’re faced with an unpleasant truth: it’s time to either give up or grow up and turn their eggy activities into an egg-citing new business start up.

They’re approaching this choice with a degree of trepidation. They’ve both been comfortable so far and are still wrestling with why they should go down the business start up route. They’re particularly struggling with what running a business means – things like insurance, budgets and corporation tax. ‘Why do we have to get into all this nonsense?‘ muses Benedict.

It’s a good question. Why would anyone want to shift working on what they love into working on activities which fill them with dread? They’ve spent years avoiding the skill sets needed to run a business and have run miles from the drudgery they see that defines what running a business means.

But the fact is that if they want to grow, if they want to place their work on a wider public stage and share their love for eggs and their innumerable ways of being cooked, they will have to bring another skill set in to their cosy partnership.

This doesn’t mean that they have to involve someone just like them. Quite the contrary: they need to bring in someone who has no idea about how to coddle an egg – and even less desire to want to learn how to coddle one – but who does know how to communicate the benefits of the process, who can generate enthusiasm for eggs a la Beatrice and Benedict and who knows how to present the consequences of their activities to those distant authorities of the tax man and bank woman.

The first step for them is to find someone who loves them and their work as much as they love producing it; someone who can get enthused about the range of eggy product available and who can communicate that enthusiasm to customers who don’t yet know they’re customers.

This isn’t a straightforward process; in business as in life, finding someone who loves ya is never a straight forward process. But to misquote Kojak’s rhetorical question, ‘Who Loves Us, Baby?’ is a question new start ups would be well worth asking themselves in the search for not only new customers but new advocates, sellers and followers.

The trick is that you have to love them and what they bring to the business and not expect them to be just like you with your own preference for sunny side up.

Tips for Business Start Ups: try not to reinvent the wheel.

Tina and Toni came to see me today, bubbling over with effervescent excitement. They could hardly contain themselves with their business proposition which they assured me had been focused grouped, road tested, demolished, rethought, redesigned and reconstructed to death.

They tentatively placed a large black box on the table and swore me to secrecy. This idea – this product – this concept – was going to blow my mind, and along with everyone else who had benefitted from it, I would be converted instantly from curious sceptic to sun worshipping zealot, such was the paradigm destroying nature of what I was about to receive, once they had opened the box.

I held my breath as they gingerly levered open the lid and ceremoniously lifted up on high the contents of the matt black box.

“It’s a wheel.” I said.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Whispered Toni.
“Have you ever seen anything like it?” Tina asked urgently.
“Yes. It’s a bicycle wheel. It goes around and around, around and around…” They interrupted me before I could get into full song.
“But don’t you see it’s potential?” Toni looked shocked. “You could put it on a large container and attach a couple of donkeys and before you know it you’re moving heavy loads unimaginable distances.”
“With a bit of effort, you could transport many people, many thousands of miles at all times of day.” Tina was incredulous that I wasn’t impressed.
“It’s a wheel. You’re trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s already been done – very successfully, over thousands of years.”
“But it’s not just a wheel!” They chimed in unison. “It’s a neo-wheel which goes forward…” And here was the killer line… “And backwards.”
“At the same time?” I asked. They looked at me with something resembling pity which soon turned to contempt.
“You don’t get it, do you?” Toni hissed.
“Call yourself an advisor?” sneered Tina. “You know the story about Decca and the Beatles don’t you?”

I hung my head in shame – this is every business advisor’s worse nightmare – taking the role of Decca and sending their prospective golden geese off to Parlaphone.

I capitulated. “It’s a very interesting proposition” I said weakly. “I can see its potential, now you come to mention it. I guess it’s always difficult to see genius in the room when it looks like a bicycle wheel.”

They warmed to me by now and smiled back. We were going to get on fine, them with their neo-wheel and me with my sense of professional foresightedness still intact.

Watch this space – the invention of the last 3000 years will be in a street near you soon. And I was there to help make it happen.

Tips for Business Start Ups: get your wishes in a numerical duck line

A cheerful start up entrepreneureuse, Jackie, has recently been constructing her business plan with huge energy, a lot of intelligence and industry savvy. She’s stepping into the world of corporate entertainment and has excelled in such matters for years: feeding her family, tending to the sick and wounded, dealing with work based audits are all transferable skills she will no doubt apply seamlessly to her new business when it hurtles down the run way and takes off – loaded no doubt with enough fuel to get her from here to there without falling out of the sky unlike, allegedly, some modern day budget airlines we could name but won’t for the fear of reprisals around the back of the allotment sheds.

Her business plan is loaded with wishes, desires, hunches and what ifs – and its been a valuable process to help her shape those wishes into something manageable and achievable. She’s done that through a quantitative process of categorising her wishes numerically – not just a simple linear scale of 1 to 10 where 1 = least desirable and 10 = most desirable, but a multi-nodal approach with 2 integers defining the state of the wish.

In this multi-nodal system, each wish has 2 integers with each integer ranging from 1 to 5. The first integer indicates the desirability level: here, 1 = a bit desirable and 5 = very desirable. The second integer indicates the plausibility level: here, 1 = not very likely to happen and 5 = very likely to happen.

So, a wish on a business plan which scores 11 is both a bit desirable but not very likely to happen. A score of 55 indicates a wish which is both very desirable and highly likely to happen.

So, if you ever get stuck with a business plan which is loaded with wishes and looks in danger of falling out of the sky with a lack of fuel to carry them all, just apply this simple multi-nodal wish list indicator. It will get all your business ducks in a line and have the added advantage of helping you get to your business destination with your passengers and crew all in one piece and no threat of industrial action and historical ignominy.