Ninety-six per cent of all businesses in the UK are micro. These 5.6 million businesses have 0-9 employees. Most of them, happily, have no employees and, sensibly, are home based.
2021 will be a record year for start-ups and it could reach the one million mark. Are you thinking of being more enterprising this year? You might be considering starting up or growing an existing business or may want to try something part time.
Here are five enterprise truths which my co-author of The Happipreneur, Taryn, and I have distilled from decades of starting and running our own micro businesses, and, more importantly, from interviewing thousands of enterprising people.
- If it looks too good to be true then it probably is
Everyone wanting to run their own business is vulnerable to sophisticated and persuasive marketing. It is a multi £billion market with millions thinking of starting a business, out of aspiration or desperation, each year.
‘Millionaire Mindset’ coaching, videos, podcasts, seminars, webinars, guru led virtual and arena events will assail wannabe and newbie self-employed people daily. The business opportunity industry, particularly multi-level marketing companies, have expectant and young Mums as their prime target audience. Software as a service companies will claim you need their app to be professional, productive and win customers. The Financial services sector will be all over you, from loans and credit terms to insurance and pensions.
Just say ‘No’ until you have got enough paying customers and can make informed decisions about what you need to grow. Always keep your household and business overheads to the minimum, especially in your first three years of trading. The odds are minimal that any of these offers or opportunities will repay your investment of money and time.
Take the approach to start up of a Silicon Valley type business and at best 1 in 5 will survive the first three years of trading. Take our start up approach and 4 out of 5 will survive the first 3 years. I tweet these 5 points most days 1. Bootstrap don’t borrow (until you’ve got paying customers) 2. Test trade first (preferably while you’ve got a job) 3. Ask for help from a business owner who understands your customers. 4. Build multiple income streams. 5. Enjoy what you do.
- Always remember why you wanted your own business.
Entrepreneurs are portrayed in the media as mainly male, risk takers, disruptors, and super wealth creators. The pursuit of riches and the lifestyle to go with it are why they dream big, have strategic goals, a pitch deck and seek funding from angels and investors. They fake it until they make it and only associate with ‘winners’. They even have an exit strategy.
In contrast, most of us are ‘Happipreneurs’. The pursuit of happiness is more important than the pursuit of material possessions.
Controlling our own destiny is the main reason we’re starting up. We want to earn a living doing something we love and are good at. We put family and friends first even when they are sulky. Avoiding debt is a good thing. We integrate our business and home life hours for maximum fulfilment. Stick to your values.
- No-one can succeed alone
In order, to make ends meet you need to create something beautiful, market and sell it beautifully and look after the money side of the business beautifully too. We have never found any successful business owner that can do all of these. So we all need to collaborate. A great bookkeeper is a friend to many of us.
Another example is one of the new award-winning home-based businesses I saw in 2020. Her business makes beautiful baby wraps and has turned some of her happy customers into ambassadors – marketers and sellers – in eight countries.
- Customers and cashflow are your priorities.
As micro business owners we are all time poor and the biggest trap we can fall into is not spending at least two thirds of our time focused on our customers including ensuring positive cashflow. It’s easy to be distracted into spending most of our time on ‘operations’ such as creating, making, admin, social media, networking, productivity apps and self-development.
A self-employed person has a massive advantage over big companies when it comes to gaining maximum value from customer relationships but it’s easy to get distracted. Winning and keeping customers leads to referrals, new product and service ideas, new income streams, business opportunities and positive cash flow. Customer relationships are a business owner’s top priority.
My famous multi-millionaire entrepreneur friends remain successful because they never forget that it is their relationship with customers that makes their business unique and profitable. In single person businesses you are your brand. For example, a Virtual Assistant I know specialised in book formatting.
She has done such a good job for her customers by being outstandingly good at this specialism over the years that her customers trust her to do much more than this now. This has led to new product and service offers and multiple income streams. She gets a regular stream of referrals from these customers and now has a team of freelancers fulfilling her customers’ needs. It has meant she has been able to increase her fees and still have a waiting list of customers. The more time spent focussed on your customer always pays off.
- Happipreneurs can still have it all!
While I still love running my micro businesses, at 68 and after thirty-four years, I know that many people want to grow bigger when the time is right. Our book profiles many wealthy entrepreneurs, millionaires and billionaires, that are also happipreneurs. None of them fit the image of the American identikit entrepreneur. It’s always a case of hard work over many years doing what they enjoy and are outstandingly good at.
All of them started as single person or partnership businesses and most started working from home or in student digs. Some like, my inspiration over the last twenty years, Kanya King CBE, Founder of the MOBO Awards have made the world of difference to UK culture, lives and UK music of black origin.
The Happipreneur by Taryn Lee Johnston and Tony Robinson OBE is a memoir and a guide for enterprising people. It is available in all good bookstores and online. Tony’s website has free resources for all start ups and new business owners. No pop ups and no registration required. Videos, guides, podcasts, blogs, articles, and top tips. https://TonyRobinsonOBE.com