Why I started a business: Consultant 

Mary Cummings talks about the transition from working for a corporate to starting her own marketing consultancy.

I was a marketing executive at Citigroup investment bank for a good ten years before I decided to go it alone. I worked my way up in a stressful, high-flying corporate career, but I left in order to have more flexibility in my personal life. I had two kids by then and I needed to work around them.

Working for Citigroup I had gained a lot of marketing experience, so I knew I could be a consultant. I knew straight away that I wanted to scale up very quickly, bu at the time five years ago I didn’t find the information I needed to get started at the rate I wanted to. I was saving up money but I borrowed my start-up costs of £5,000 from friends and family. I did approach the banks but I was turned down because I didn’t have a track record. Its infuriating that we’re in a situation where the banks aren’t willing to lend but they did give me an overdraft eventually.

In the marketing game, it’s totally different running your own business compared to being an employee. When I started I had to operate on a very small budget, which was a shock to the system. Before, working for a company as big as Citigroup, I could just go to my boss and say I need this and that, but when you’re bootstrapping things obviously become a lot tougher.

Trying to find your own clients and get out there and do everything on a shoestring is hard. All the other little things such as how to liaise effectively with staff, when you’re working with your colleagues it’s difficult but when you’re the employer even more so. You worry about how you would stop your consultants and freelancers approaching clients and getting work for themselves behind your back.

I find as you become more experienced you get better at running your business more efficiently. I remember spending a lot of money on my first website but then the second time around I negotiated a deal with a web developer that he work for a smaller sum in exchange for the added exposure I could get his business through my networks.

A piece of advice I would give, particularly to mums running a business, is do what you do best and outsource the rest. If you’re no good at admin, for example, outsource it to a virtual assistant so you can concentrate on moving the business forward. Also when starting out don’t feel like you have to spend money on everything, be creative with how you get help on board, people may work for equity for example, or might benefit from services you can provide in return.

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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