They say nothing in life worth having is free – or easy for that matter – and my gosh did that prove painstakingly true when I discovered how long-winding, laborious and sometimes lonely the road to becoming self-employed can be – call it the price you pay for wanting to become your own boss.
From your nearest and dearest telling you to ‘get a real job’ to industry insiders acting as though you’ve demanded their first-born child when asking for some much-needed advice. Oh, and did I mention the umpteen instances of wanting to tear out your hair, have the ground swallow you up and curl up into a ball to wither away into nothingness all at the same time (oh the joys of being an entrepreneur!) And to think my journey has only just begun.
Hats off to those who have so boldly ventured the path before me and succeeded. Without the fear of the unknown, endless challenges and a fair share of criticism, the eventual triumph will be unsatisfying is what I constantly drill in my head in order to save myself from an impending nervous breakdown.
Yes, it’s a painfully tasking process, to say the least. One day (hopefully in the not too distant future) I’ll be able to look back at it all and laugh from behind my executive desk (with my shiny name-plate) in my lavish design studio whilst my assistant tends to my busy schedule, but for now, one can only hope and hustle.
It hasn’t all been bad, though; I’m picking up some valuable life lessons along the way – albeit, at the expense of my self-respect and sanity – which I intend to share with you lovely lot today. There’s a lot of attributes you need, regrettably as I am now beginning to discover, to make it in the cutthroat world of business. The ones I mention in this post all coincidentally seem to start with the letter P (it wasn’t intentional, promise) so if what you’ve read so far hasn’t put you off, please do continue…
If ever the process of starting a business has taught me anything, it’s that it requires a tremendous amount of PERSEVERANCE. You won’t always get it right the first time (in fact, you rarely will) and you will come across more than a few disappointments along the way but be cool; if plan A fails, there’s still another 25 letters of the alphabet – after all, to be tenacious in the face of adversity is what sets the champions apart from the, well, not-so-much-champions (because ‘losers’ seemed a tad harsh).
Which seamlessly brings me to my next point: to remain POSITIVE when nothing is going right and everything is going left is a skill in itself.
A wise man once said:
‘the problem is not the problem, the problem is your attitude about the problem’
– Captain Jack Sparrow
So far, I’ve had to deal with the seemingly cumbersome task of sourcing a reputable dressmaker to produce my first collection. After what seems like endless hours (and years shed off my life) of surfing the internet as well as visiting tailoring shops in my city I am finding that they’re either too expensive, not up to the calibre I’m searching for or are unwilling for whatever reason, to produce my designs.
To make an already-bad situation worse, I’ve had people approach me to design something for them and it turns out that they’re not really that serious after all. Mere lip service is the last thing I need as a start-up business but it has taught me to display PATIENCE; with time and hard work I will eventually reap the rewards.
All good things take careful consideration and a heck of a lot of PLANNING. Rome wasn’t built in a day and don’t expect your empire to be either. All buildings need a strong, solid foundation to stand the test of time so if your business is a skyscraper then your business plan is the base upon which it stands.
If like myself, you’re a creative being then you will be bogged down by the monotonously-mammoth task of completing a 30-page plan (surprisingly, market research and number-crunching just don’t seem to stimulate the soul) and you will put it off for as long as you possibly can. My advice would be; DON’T. The sooner you get it out of the way, the more motivated you will feel and truthfully, is there anything more satisfying than checking something off your relentless to-do list?
If that wasn’t enough to convince you, without a well-constructed plan nobody will take you seriously, least of all prospective investors. If you’re serious about starting a business then you will need funding from somewhere because let’s face it: 1. money doesn’t grow on trees (oh, how I wish it did); 2. we weren’t all born with a silver spoon in our mouth, many of us have to be grateful and make do with our rusty, stainless steel one.
For me, it was a long time coming but I finally got there in the end and in all honesty, I can say that I am a better business person because of it – my business plan has helped me to become more organised and given my vision some much-needed structural clarity.
PICTURE everything you’ve ever wanted – this is how you manifest your vision into reality. I was recently on an enterprise course set up by the Prince’s Trust and on the first day there was a motivational speech given by a gentleman whose name escapes me but his message is very much vivid in my mind.
This man, now approaching 60, didn’t have the best start in life; he came from an abusive, broken home and by the time he was 16 he had no qualifications to his name, became homeless and remained this way for the next 5 years of his life. To cut a long story short, he decided that he wasn’t going to let his current circumstances dictate his future. Fast-forward 40 odd years and he is now a Harvard business school alumnus; a highly successful CEO, Chairman and Coach; and Board Director of the MSC programmes at Aston University.
He said that to have a dream just wasn’t enough; you have to visualise with intent for it to transpire. He told us to close our eyes and imagine ourselves exactly where we would like to be in 5 years time: Who is there with you; what are you doing; what sounds do you hear; what can you taste; what can you smell; are your surroundings bright or dull; loud or quiet? (Feel free to do this yourself, alone might I add, to save yourself from appearing weird or on drugs).
This, he said was the first step in transforming an idea into tangible existence; for if it can be conceived then it most definitely can be achieved.
I like to think of myself as a captain embarking on a lengthy voyage through some turbulent seas. The ship being my business and the unpredictable ocean being the opportunities and obstacles I face along the way. As the saying goes, ‘smooth seas seldom make good sailors’ so grasp the wheel with both hands; brave the storm; appreciate the occasional periods of calmness; and wherever you wish to sail… sail.