I’m often asked how difficult it was setting up my own business. While it takes a lot of hard work, determination and probably a few sleepless nights over the obvious stresses of ‘Will it make money?’ ‘Will I miss the stability of being employed?’ I can honestly say that I have found it easier than I expected, but that was only because I had a brilliant support network around me from the outset.
My advice to anyone setting up their own business is to find business support organisations in your local area and go and speak to them. This could be a Chamber of Commerce, business hub or even your high street bank.
Even if you’ve run a business before, there might be different sources of support available to you this time around that can help you get off the ground and provide ongoing advice to help you grow and be successful.
We’re based in Liverpool and there are numerous agencies here that can help with all sorts things including getting funding and securing premises.
I met with one business support agency at the outset – The Women’s Organisation – which offers advice, support and premises to women setting up in business. They gave me some fantastic advice and crucially were able to put me in touch with an array of useful contacts. I’ve never looked back.
They also run a variety of networking events and seminars on useful topics such as implementing successful social media strategies and raising finance.
Alternative finance organisations
I didn’t actually need any finance to set up my business but there are alternative finance organisations around that can help if your bank is unable to. MSIF is a funding provider in this area that offers finance to businesses in the North West.
They offer finance packages up to around £2 million through loans and equity funding and offer funding through the government-backed Start up Loan Fund, the Regional Development Fund and other sources. If you’re based in the North, the Northern Power House Investment Fund is due to launch imminently. If you need finance speak to your bank or business adviser on where you can source alternative finance if the bank can’t help you.
Perhaps the best piece of advice I can give is to find a specialist business adviser. Again, depending on the area you live in, you may be able to get some funding towards their time.
I’ve had two business advisers and they were amazing. They helped me review my entire business strategy and pinpoint the areas I needed to develop and pay more attention to. In my case marketing was the area I was neglecting so I signed up for workshops to brush up on my social media and SEO skills.
I have also now appointed a part time marketing consultant for a couple of days each month. She has helped to raise my profile in the media and put in place marketing initiatives to target new and existing clients.
A lot of businesses see marketing as a ‘nice to have’ rather than a necessity but in my experience, marketing has been crucial to the success of our company.
Put together a plan
Another piece of advice from my business coach was to put together a three-year plan including turnover, profit, people, products and services, markets, customers, geographic spread and operational, marketing and funding issues.
Immediately this gave me focus and allowed me to clearly see which direction I wanted to take the business and how I was going to get there.
I began to put processes and procedures in place, clearly outlining how things should be done. Once I had created this process map my next step was to find a CRM database suitable for the recruitment industry and one that was effective, straight away.
This made an immediate impact on productivity and meant that when new people joined the business they had a system to use from the outset. The accounts system was also upgraded so that we could improve our financial processes.
Reading is also a great way to learn and get inspiration. There are some excellent books which offer great advice, tips and success stories for people starting their own business. This really helped me put me in the mind frame of being an entrepreneur, business owner/manager Business Owner and a recruitment consultant. I make sure I am always aware of these three crucial parts I need to play on a daily basis.
Having a great infrastructure in place and a clear focus on how the business runs allowed us to recruit and expand quite quickly without any hassle or interruptions.
I have just reviewed out first year plans and feel a great sense of achievement as we have exceeded some of our objectives and met all our others. I’ve now put in new targets for next year and the whole team will be involved in helping reach these goals.
Claire Welch is the owner of Dobson Welch Recruitment Agency.