They say hindsight is a marvellous thing. If we had known when we were 17 what we know now, would we have started smoking? Would we have dropped out of college, broken up with that boy; or even trained as an Accountant and set up our own business?
Twelve years after setting up "FSA" I have gone through every conceivable emotion and problem; from HR issues, to suing clients, to sacking staff and teetering on the verge of a breakdown. However along with the bad has been the bloody marvellous and best times ever; opening new offices, branching out, winning multiple awards and being accepted by my peers as a game changer in the industry.
So, if I were to go back and start all over again, would I do anything differently? Hell yes I would.
So here are my top 5 tips that I would tell myself in 2006 when I started the business.
Don’t ever underestimate your worth. There is a famous analogy in business; Fast, good and cheap. you can have two but not all three and this is a mistake so many make when they start out. The customer wants a service now and they want it at a cut price. Always know your worth certainly in the service industry! Whilst clients may scoff at your astronomical charge out rate for offering legal advice, tax advice or even styling their hair, they are not just paying for that hour of your time. They are paying for your years of training, study, exams and constant continual development. So, stick to your worth and never undersell your services. You are awesome!
2. Trust your gut
This may sound crazy but I have stood by this mantra in 12 years of business. Whether it was to do with employing staff or engaging a client who seemed a little less than salubrious. Its fine to ask for help and advice from peers and associates but remember this; it is so easy for them to tell you what they would do, but if they haven’t walked in your shoes, or indeed are the ones holding the purse strings, then their opinion really does count for toffee. I have trusted my gut in when to walk away, let go staff members and even give up a well paying client. With time and experience comes wisdom. Every major business decision I have made over the years, regardless of the number crunching and charts, has always come down to a gut feeling that I know is either right or wrong.
3. Get yourself a Mentor
I can’t stress this enough. I never had a mentor until a few years ago. He gave an unbiased view on the business and how it was performing. He saw it with fresh eyes and when I got too emotional about matters, he stepped in “matter of fact” and did help me see the wood from the trees as you would say. Having run mentoring schemes and mentored other women in business, this is so important through every stage of your business journey.
4. Having a board of directors to answer to
I think many don’t see the value in a board of directors. Even if you own 100% of your business, you should be accountable to someone otherwise you become complacent and lose your edge. If you are a business planning to scale up then having a board of diverse and talented individuals (even two) is a great mechanism to ensure that you are seeing the bigger picture and taking everything into consideration. If you spend too much time in the business you lose clarity and focus and sometimes cant see what is staring you straight in the face. Having been on a couple of boards, I have seen first hand how this can help you strategise, prioritise and scale up.
5. Cash is King
An oldie but a goodie. This is a simple mantra and needs to be drummed into so many business people. A good business friend once said to me “Turnover is vanity” and it is! I have seen so many people focus on sales growth without paying attention to the bottom line, ie the profit. This goes back to number one on my list – pricing – there is no point underselling your services or product when the costs are higher and you are running at a loss. I have seen this first hand on so many occasions.
So if I had known all this back in 2006 when I did a flyer drop around Elgin, would I have still set up my company? Absolutely. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
In the words of Enid Blyton and the Famous Five:
The best way to treat obstacles is to use them as stepping-stones. Laugh at them, tread on them, and let them lead you to something better.”