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Column: 3 steps to successfully starting your own business

It might seem risky to set up your first business in a recession – but it’s the height of madness to let you ideas and potential go to waste, writes Martin Critten.

Martin Critten

Starting your own business can be daunting – especially in straitened economic times. Here, Sli Nios Fearr (A Better Way) offer insights into the party’s new Business Start-Up Guide aimed at debunking myths for fledgling entrepreneurs.

IT’S TRULY THE height of madness sitting in an arm armchair – day in, day out – with a head full of skills and experience, simply watching it draining away through the soles of your feet. It’s those thoughts that fired-up our grey cells and made us at Sli Nios Fearr realise we should be looking for ways to help those with little resources to start something of their own.

What on earth do you do when there’s no job, no prospects, and negative equity means uprooting is not an option either? Is it really possible to work for yourself? For many, the notion disappears just as fast as it arrives, dispatched by the instant recognition of having no money – as well as wondering what the hell to get involved with in the first place killing off any last wisps of enthusiasm. “At least if you were working for yourself, there would be some control over your destiny,” you think, which is another great example of the kind of ‘drive-by’ wisdom that’s cruising around in that empty space called time.

No college degree gifts intuitive thinking

All is not lost entirely, as we uncovered while researching for our business guide and jobs strategies. While it may appear damn near impossible, as the banks are reluctant to offer finance because it increases the size of their loan books (and of course the collapsing home market begs caution) it’s hoped the pages of our guide will help you discover workable alternatives whereby your skills and knowledge can be put to good use. Indeed, the options we present are little known, and definitely not the kind you will find in the glossy folders given out by the State or from financial institutions. You needn’t feel disadvantaged either, by not having a business degree – remember there is no degree yet that gifts intuitive thinking.

1) Time – your most formidable weapon

The first group of ‘tips’ we offer are related to time, the most formidable weapon in anyone’s arsenal. We all possess the same amount of it, yet each and every one of our outcomes can be so different. Like we are what we eat, what we do with our time defines much of what our futures will hold. Entrepreneurs, while not working on a project, use this valuable space to simply think.

Thinking is never a waste of time if used for rationalising, unearthing ideas, researching, fine tuning and making those necessary calculations – and, most importantly, visualising outcomes. We take you step-by-step though the processes of how to spend this time most effectively especially when you have absolutely no idea what to be doing. If by some divine spark you’ve already discovered something that really ignites your passions – and it has legs – then we enclose all the features to help you run with the ball.

2) Protect your ideas

Our second group of ‘essentials’ helps you put flesh on the bones, bring your ideas to life and to market. Of course, we also need to ensure that your precious ideas don’t get eaten alive by predators. Whether you’re jam-making for the local farmers market or engineering a widget, there’s plenty to discuss. If you’re collaborating with friends on a project, our guide includes a basic development partnership agreement form. Believe when we say that taking action now saves a lot of ambiguity and heartache later on.

Actually, most people really don’t mind signing agreements during the initial euphoria, and you can always form a limited company later on. Likewise, if you branch out and begin to discuss your plans with those who can help you with prototypes – draftsmen, engineers, manufacturers, suppliers and the like – you can use our Non Disclosure Agreement form to help secure your intellectual property rights at the outset, even before patenting. One final tip would be to avoid spending months promenading concepts, as it simply gives the green light to some one else to jump in and run with the idea. We only need remind ourselves of David Fincher’s film The Social Network to think about what happened at Facebook.

Ideas are a completely useless commodity to you unless action is taken. Even jam-makers need to follow though a process of proving a business model. And, in using our business plan template, you can easily work through the process of proving and visualising your ideal outcomes. Like an athlete training for race day, this part is essential in knowing where you’re headed. If you by-pass this, full of enthusiasm for an unproven idea, you can soon flounder after having spent your life savings.

3) Funding

Ok, I hear you say; “well without the money I’m going nowhere – it’s all pie in the sky”. So the third step is to address opportunities and the way we think about the subject of start-up money.

We introduce the simple concepts of crowd funding for very low level requirements, and social regeneration supports, investor networks, and business angels for beefier projects. We discuss payback options, terms, and how becoming ‘investor ready’ is not that much of a big step once you have a business plan – whether you’re looking for a couple of thousand or ten.

We also open up the door to the Government agencies, saving you the time and frustration at been turned away. That is not to say that you couldn’t work with those agencies, but simply that there are expectations to first explode. An Enterprise Board hasn’t got an open chequebook to help you set-up – that is unless you aren’t looking for money to get going. (This all sounds counter intuitive to Government job creation, I know.)

Determination, self-belief and communication

Starting your own business, whilst taking great courage, is after all a very human endeavour. Trading in some shape of form has been going on since time began.

The principles really aren’t rocket science; simple, persistent determination, self-belief and communication are the fundamentals. The rest takes time, imagination and the essential support of partners and family.

Any final tips before you head off? Yes there are. Perhaps the greatest source of inspiration us to be found within the books written by those who have achieved their lifetime’s ambition in business and elsewhere. Simply by becoming a fan of autobiographies, you will unearth a treasure trove of experience and words for the wise. And, of course, a rare chance to put your feet up with a cup of tea.

Martin Critten is the spokesperson for Sli Nios Fearr (A Better Way). The party’s new Business Start-Up Guide, available as a free download from their website.

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Martin Critten

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