Hard to believe, but it’s 12 months since I decided to give up my safe, comfortable job and scratch that itch that I’ve had for the last 15 years to start my own business.
Well, I’ve survived my first year, so I thought it might be a good time to take stock and maybe share some of my experiences to anyone else brave or stupid enough to do the same. So, here are 12 random things I’ve learned along the way…
1. You can’t put a price on happiness.
I am possibly earning about half of what I used to earn, but I am definitely twice as happy.
2. It’s amazing how much you can save on your household bills with just a few phone calls.
Companies work on the basis that people can’t be bothered to shop around – so make sure you do. Change your supplier, or threaten to cancel and you’ll be amazed how much money you’ll save, and still get exactly the same service.
3. However hard you try, you can’t get new customers straight away…
I was short of work about 5 months into the year and despite hundreds of emails & phone calls and plenty of visits in person, I still didn’t manage get any work in for that month – it’s rare to get an immediate response on new business.
4. …but if you don’t try hard, they won’t come at all.
About 3 months later, I started getting a few calls from all of the efforts to gain new business. If I hadn’t put the work in at the beginning, this wouldn’t have happened.
5. You always want what you haven’t got.
When I was working long hours away from home, I never got to enjoy the house I was paying for. Now I’m in it all the time I can’t wait to get out of the house for a meeting!
6. It’s much easier to keep a customer than get a new one.
Make sure you look after your customers, especially in difficult times. The effort required just to get a meeting with a potential new customer, let alone win a job, is far greater.
7. An old car does exactly the same job as a new car.
Much as I love cars, truth is going from a nice company car to sharing a 12 year old banger hasn’t really been a problem. When you weigh up the depreciation or company car tax, a new car is very hard to justify. If it’s an important meeting, I just park it around the corner!
8. Be honest and be yourself.
I am certainly not the best salesman in the world, but in actual fact most customers don’t want this. Far better to just be honest with them and just do what you say you’re going to do – for when you say you’re going to do it. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
9. The unknown is what makes it exciting.
I used to know what I was going to earn, however much effort I put in. Working for yourself you never know what’s around the corner. As Del Boy Trotter once said “This time next year we’ll be millionaires, Rodney!” Well maybe not, but it’s this that makes it exciting.
10. Be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever done.
I’ve worked some stupid hours in my career, but still not as many this last year. A few people asked me if it’s hard to get motivated if you’re working from home. Well, if I don’t earn enough money, we lose the house – how much more motivation do you need?
11. The things you don’t worry about will always go wrong.
I am a self-confessed worrier but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One thing I’ve learned is that the moment you stop worrying about a job and just assume will be okay, it won’t be!
12. You need the support of your family.
No holidays, less time and not much money – you certainly need the support of your family when you start up a business. I’m very lucky to have this, so I want to take this opportunity to thank my wife, Jayne, for putting up with it all.
So, I look forward to another year in business. How are we doing? Well, we still have the money we started up with, we’re still in the same house and we’re still paying the mortgage – I guess that given the current economic climate that’s about as good as we could hope for.