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In business, prepare for a long, tough road ahead

For the past two months, we have been immersed in building a start-up knowledge centre. Based on threads, articles, questions and conversations we have had with the community, we have developed a range of learning modules on the topic of starting and developing your own business.

Surely we’re all nuts!

We will continue to consult with users, but what has our research revealed so far? Well, our first observation would be that people who start their own businesses must surely be nuts. By doing so, they are embarking on a long and sometimes lonely journey with many pitfalls along the way. Just 50 per cent of new companies are still in business 18 months after starting up. Even fewer (20 per cent) are in business after five years.

Owning your own business is the only ‘job’ in which the consequences of bad decisions hit your own pocket – and it hurts. At the outset, it is important to consider whether or not you are truly up to the challenge. Do you have the personality, stamina, focus and fire in your belly to make it work? Can you and your family face the reality that it will be at least a few months before money starts coming in?

Another cheerful statistic, by the way, is that there is a higher divorce rate among entrepreneurs. So, before you rush headlong into business ownership, it is worth carefully considering if it is the right path for you. It is, of course, true that you can’t really know how you will fare until you get started – but, as with so many things in life, knowing where you are heading is more important than the speed at which you get there. So, above all else, take your time.

A strong business idea

The good news is that strong business ideas will always get finance. The bad news, however, is that a lot of ideas are just not strong enough. The only true way to find out which of these brackets your idea falls into is to get out there and sell. This is, without a doubt, the best way to research your market.

If you think that is difficult, try selling all day, every day, for the rest of your life. As a business owner, this is what you will need to do to pay your staff, cover your overheads and – if you are lucky – take a reasonable salary yourself.

Finally, if you want to ‘‘sense check’’ your idea, get some 24-7, 365 advice from entrepreneurs who have already been where you are now. You will find them in the Start-up Knowledge Centre on

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