We’ve done five Ulster bank start up live events to date and shared panels with 20 businesspeople. Talk about butcher baker and candlestick maker! We had business people involved in international software, hair dressing academy, home help, house cleaning, restaurant, hotel, internet business, engineering, accountancy, outsourcing, elearning, transport….
Here are some of the key learnings that have come out for anyone starting or in the early stage of running a business:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Panellists were pretty well agreeing on the point that there is tons of help out there. But you have to go looking for it and you have to ask for help. Indeed the events have shown that people are more than willing to help and share insights and experiences; that nobody is going to face into a problem that someone else hasn’t overcome. Attendees talked about internets sites like smallbusinesscan.com, other networks, state agencies, banks – all are sources of help that can and should be exploited.
2. Be persistent
An example of one businessperson getting the run around by the State agencies highlighted this. The help is out there but it’s fragmented and much of the time wrapped in bureaucracy and unfortunately disinterest by some officials. But you have to keep the head down and wade through…it’s the businesses that are sticking to the task – and not making excuses – that are getting help.
3. Break the job into small manageable tasks
We all knew this as a mantra but it’s worth repeating because there were discussions about some people getting overwhelmed with the apparent size of the job of getting a business off the ground.
4. Have a bit of integrity in what you’re doing
Having Pride in what you’re doing is the most inspirational theme running through the sessions to date. The lack of integrity in many leadership organisations today seems to have put the need for businesses to provide a bit of leadership and inspiration back onto the agenda in a big way. A number of panellists also talked about stakeholders that the business needed to look after – staff, customers, partners, financiers – as now including the community in which the business exists. This resonated as many compared the drive and mission of the businesses we were talking to with the unseemly rush by vested interests to get their interests looked after in the budgetary bloodbath processes currently playing out in RI and NI.
5. Have a go…you can only fail
All the panellists had this ‘have a go’ trait. They talked about being motivated by getting things done, by starting projects and completing them! The comparison with the USA was made where businesspeople seem to see failure as a badge of honour once the businessman gets back up and dusts himself off to start again.
6. Understanding sales processes
One of the key functional insights that has come from the discussions is the need for founders to understand the sales process in the industry they’re entering. While customer service, quality products, good pricing are paramount, it’s all about sales was an underlying theme. This was applied to not only knowing how customers ticked, how they wanted to interact with the seller, what they were willing to pay, gaining their long term trust and loyalty – it was also applied to being aware of how other stakeholders operated. How getting to know the bank manager or enterprise board official was vital, knowing what made them tick, knowing the pressures they were under, knowing the criteria for getting proposals approved…
7. The need to be positive
This is getting a bit long but one last one worth mentioning was the need to stay positive. This came down to having self belief, surrounding yourself with positive people and finding places (SBC was mentioned here…. yippee!) where you can interact with like minded people!!