There is an increasing number of entrepreneurs in the UK. Research carried out earlier this year revealed that more than half of 14- to 19-year-olds would like to be their own boss. According to a survey by Hiscox Insurance, 25 percent of London undergraduates were either running their own businesses or setting up companies while still at university – in Hull, the proportion was 36 percent, followed by Glasgow (32 percent) and Cardiff (22 percent). Here, we offer 10 top tips for young entrepreneurs who want to either start or develop their own businesses.
1. Do what you love
There’s little point in going into business simply to go into business. You have to have a passion for your product or service and to know it inside out. How many people have thought that running a PR agency is glamorous and easy money, only to find that the reality means long hours, chasing clients, getting knocked back, and struggling to establish themselves in a ruthlessly competitive market? Once you have your eye on a niche in the market, you’ll need to come up with a Unique Selling Point that nobody else has. Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of believing that you can apply a ‘scatter-gun’ approach to the market. You need to specialise.
2. Know what you want
Going into business for yourself isn’t for everyone. What are you prepared to sacrifice to make it a success? Some people find that the academic life isn’t for them but would you have the confidence to leave school and to strike out on your own? Perhaps not at the moment but, when the time comes, this is the sort of determination that will give you the advantage. Entrepreneurs are notoriously focussed and single-minded. You have to be prepared to accept defeat as well as enjoy the wins, and to move on undaunted.
3. Think radical...
Speaking of USPs, don’t be afraid to be out on the edge. Clients love innovation but don’t be whacky for the sake of it. Make sure that your quirky pitch is well thought-out. Don’t use gimmicks, use strategy and a clear and precise knowledge of the market.
4. ... but follow the rules
Your business model should be a recognised one, despite having an attractive freshness to it. Ensure that your clothing, presentations, and market should reflect your youth but arriving at a meeting in dirty jeans and tee-shirt, grasping a handful of grubby papers, and smelling of last night's alcohol, is hardly likely to go down well with a corporate client.
5. Manage your time
Time management is essential when starting a business. As a young entrepreneur, you may still be at school, college, or university. Make sure that you’re not stretching yourself too thinly – your studies are as equally important as your business interests. Get into the habit of maintaining a diary and ensure that you arrive for meetings in good time. Established entrepreneurs will advise that planning and preparation is of vital importance.
6. Stay objective
No matter how passionate you are about your business idea, you must remain objective about its viability. When your business becomes your “baby”, it’s time to take a step back and reassess what you’re doing. Get advice from an established entrepreneur or from someone unconnected with your business. Rather than ploughing ahead with ideas, focus on the realities of running your business. Take a hard look at profit and loss forecasts, current market, and resources such as funding. When you’re sure that these items are satisfactory, you can continue to innovate.
7. Find a mentor
Despite challenging trading conditions, there are always experienced people with often decades of experience to impart. If you find such a mentor, particularly one who has been successful in your market, do everything you can to hold on to them. Consider their advice but don’t follow it slavishly. Don’t be afraid to challenge opinion, it’s what makes an entrepreneur stand out from the crowd and your mentor will think more of you for it. Even if you don’t have a full-time mentor, successful business people are usually happy to answer one-off questions if approached in the right way. inspiresme.co.uk has a bank of such experts, across a spectrum of industries, who are happy to answer questions. Go here to ask one.
8. Learn to use the media properly
The media – including social media – is there to promote your business but you have to know how to handle such channels properly. Newspapers have increasingly shrinking space available to promote business who aren’t able to offer advertising revenue. However, if your business has a USP, it might well pique the interest of business editors. Create your press releases with care and be wary of “stunts” – these could well backfire and damage your brand reputation.
Broadcast media – radio and TV – still offer opportunities for promotion but, once again, your company needs to have a USP and a hook upon which to hang a story. Are you starting a company that uses local produce or workers in the face of an economic downturn? Stories such as that are the meat and drink of local radio and TV in particular. Media releases should have a point and not just reflect your desire for promotion.
Social media is phenomenally successful at promotion but has to be used with great care. Twitter, in particular can be a friend or foe of small businesses. Engage with your audience, don’t broadcast constantly. Above all, don’t repeatedly re-post other people’s links. This will lose followers faster than anything.
9. Be good to yourself
You may be full of energy and plans now but the truth is that, even for a young entrepreneur, running a business as well as all the other aspect of your life can be exhausting. Make sure that you allow ‘down-time’ for yourself so that you can plan your social and entrepreneurial activities properly. It is possible to over-focus on the task ahead and to let it swamp you; there are all kinds of ongoing tasks that can’t be ignored when you’re running a business. That doesn’t mean they can’t be deferred.
10. Check your attitude
You’re young and, if you’ve already started your own business, or about to start one, the chances are that you’re pretty self-confident. This is a valuable attribute but make sure that your self-confidence doesn’t come across to clients, suppliers, and contacts as arrogant and cocky. Everyone likes an innovator but nobody likes a smart-alec. As well as thinking about developing the brand for your product or service, consider creating a personal brand, which is the professional personality and image you use in business.