Pre-requisites to starting your own business

A few of you will remember the government’s latest initiative to get the people of the UK starting their own businesses. The so called “Startup Britain Bus” has been touring the UK offering advice to potential new business owners. At least that’s what it says on the tin.

Last week I drove into my hometown, Cardiff, where the bus was stationed for an afternoon. There will be people who have put a lot of work in behind the scenes so I don’t want to be too harsh in my critique, but it was, at least in my own opinion, an unmitigated disaster.

I could rant here about how huge-corporation graduates from Microsoft, Intuit and Paypal were trying to sell their own products, but I think I’m going to leave things be. Instead I’m going to say what advice I would have liked to see, having already started up myself.

I have an innate dislike of business speak. Ironic really considering I studied business at university, am an Economist reader and run a small business myself. I want to give you my three pre-requisites to starting a business, cutting out all the crap and confusion that normally accompanies these kind of things. Take from it what you like, but I believe they will set you on your path to achieving what you deep down have always wanted to do: start your own company.

My three pre-requisites to starting your own business:

1. Passion. You have to be passionate about your business idea. You are going to spend every waking moment for at least the next 12 months thinking about it. Don’t choose an idea because you think it’ll make you lots of money, choose an idea because you want to change the norm and do something new. Your main idea can be something old-hat, but make sure you are going into it with a little bit of you attached.

2. Find out who you’re up against. When I wrote my original business plan I (stupidly) thought that Applingua was a never-done-before business. A day into my plan, I discovered I was so very wrong. Don’t ever assume anything. Spend at least a little time googling who you’re up against. Phone a few potential customers and ask whether they’d be interested in your product or service. Fortunately for me, my potential market is big enough for several competitors.

3. Get a support network. Don’t attempt to start your own business without a support network. This can be friends, family, a bank or an investor. Starting your own company will take a lot out of you and you will need people to vent to sometimes (friends, family), but also share in the good times too (friends, family, investors). You will want people to talk things through with, to give you an outsider’s view of what you are doing. Never ever be arrogant, always ask for people’s advice.

Your support network will unfortunately also have to include some saved money. I would recommend at least 3 months rent plus spending cash. I had to move back home to my parents house in order to start Applingua. Living here is rent-free and I’m now thinking of moving out. I am very grateful for my parents’ support.

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