‘#StartUp Snakes & Ladders’ by The Micro Business Champion

‘#StartUp Snakes & Ladders’ by The Micro Business Champion


So we’ve just walked across from the station
and we’re now at the bottom of the Enterprise Rockers HQ and fortunately at the bottom of
HQ, this historic building, it’s got a cafe called ‘Chambers Cafe’. And Alan and Nicola
run this and next door to it is ‘Hair by Helene’ and that’s run by Alan’s wife as she’s got
a hairdressing and beauty business. It’s always been my ambition to be a bit like
the people I see in Greece and Spain, of a certain age, and what they tend to do is just
play games outside and drink coffee and there may be the odd glass of wine as well. They
while away the day playing backgammon and chess and all those kind of things and the
day just meanders away in the sunshine. Now because Scarborough is always sunny then that’s
something I could do but my preferred game is ‘Snakes and Ladders’ What I’m going to do is explain one of my
Tony’s top tweets which is ‘Ask for advice from a business owner. Test trade first (preferably
whilst you’re in a job) and Bootstrap don’t borrow “. I’ll explain it by playing a game
of snakes and ladders. The object of starting and running your own
business is to climb up more ladders than you end up finding snakes that take you down
and away from business success. The first mistake people make in business
is they start the game of snakes and ladders at number 1. in other words they write a business
plan; they get some money and there’s this fantastic feeling of relief that they’ve got
some kind of loan or something behind them and then they start trading at 1. That’s not
a good idea – it’s not a good thing to do – basically ‘Ditch the business plan – find
a customer’ This means that you actually learn how to start and run your own business from
finding customers and asking them questions which allows you to create the kind of products
and services that they want. In the old days when I started my business
bank managers actually had relationships with the businesses and they really understood
businesses. They understood businesses really well and accountants still do. One of things
that I was told when we started our business in 1986 – one of things at the accountants
and bank managers in our area always did was that they doubled the amount of time the new
business person thought it to realise their income expectations and they halved the amount
the amount of income they expected to get from the first 18 months to 2 years of their
business. So what you’ve really got to do is get time
on your side. So hopefully whilst you’re still in a job you can do some test trading. That
test trading can take you right up to number 50 on this board. In other words you can use
online platforms, go to markets -it doesn’t matter what you use but you’ve got to find
customers before you know that you can actually start a viable business. Bootstrap don’t borrow means don’t start with
a millstone around your neck of – investors; banks – anybody who money. Build gradually.
Every top entrepreneur I know, that I’ve met actually didn’t have the major investment. One of the problems we have is reality television
which suggests that the whole world is pitching for funding. But the business owners on screen
aren’t any better at picking winning businesses than anybody else. You will know more about
your own business by finding your own customers for your unique offer. For example, Dragon’s Den has made something
like 140+ deals in the first 11 series but only something like 70+ went through and a
fifth of aren’t actually trading anywhere now. So pitching for funding or getting a
loan can be a millstone around your neck and that can be a snake that can actually take
you down in your business. Now what I brought with me because I love
Jungle book is Zen the zebra (it’s a giraffe!) and Zen is a bit wimpy. I suppose in order
to get him or her through, I can’t really tell which, through this jungle is that we
needed some help. So, what I brought is Leo the lion. Definitely male this time. The male
lions tend to do all the serious roaring and get all the sex. This lion is the business
owner that will help get our giraffe through the jungle . So I’ve basically thrown a seven and that
will take us to there. For the purpose of this I’ll actually go to one of the ladders
here. Now what could be a ladder that could actually make sure that we can keep moving
up? I think it’s about constantly developing multiple
income streams. Never putting all your eggs in one basket. Looking for other things. When
myself and my best friend Clare started off we both did all sorts of other things. I did
some lecturing at colleges and Clare did some work with the family property businesses.
who’s helping has done all sorts of different things – even today I sell books and I do
speaking engagements and consultancy and I’m never ever relying on just one income stream. So, build multiple income streams – don’t
put all your eggs in one basket. Now ask a business owner to also help you. I’ve rolled the dice and see that I’ve fallen
on this this snake which is a big ‘un. By the way did you know in the Lion King, which
one my favourite stories – I would never have really expected that Sir Elton John knew so
much about jungles. I’d always thought he was more into football and an inside party
type. Anyway, we could go all the way down on this snake now. When you start your business
you’re very vulnerable and you’re very vulnerable to lots of people that could take you all
the way down. We’ve talked already about investors but there
are insurance people or things to make you look good – like people selling cars or different
things – these are all things that you don’t need at the beginning. There is something called ‘lean start-up’
– in fact I call it stripping for freedom. During the start-up stage don’t spend money
on things that you just don’t need. Advertising is one of the worst things. People often spend
far too much money on advertising before they found out from test trading what customers
will actually look at and will influence them. What will actually work? So, in the early
days there are many things that can actually take you down in the early days of your business
– all that way. That’s because you’ve got more money going out than you’ve actually
got coming in and need. You’ve got less of your time and money to
actually spend on getting testing with customers=which is the most important thing. The most
important things to climb these ladders are to get a business owner to help you – get
a friend. If somebody is running a hairdressing business
or a cafe they might talk to a cafe owner in Devon or hairdresser in some other area
where they’re not competing. Ask their advice. You’ll find micro business owners are willing
to help each other as long as they’re not competing directly with each other. Because
the real competition is the real large companies and Government. So that’s why test trading is so important
and getting business owners to help. Then bootstrap don’t borrow and after all of that
… you’ll also get as good as me at snakes and ladders.

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