The last twelve months have been a bit of a blur. I now sleep less, do more work, have less money and I am less fit than I was a year ago. However, I have learned a lot, consulted for several start ups who are on the brink of great things, helped out companies I used to work for, became a partner in a couple of businesses and even more positive that my decision to do my own thing was the right one.
However, it is hard work and most of the things you think you know are usually wrong. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:
1. Know your pricing model and discuss it early on with prospects.
Being unsure about anything is never good but being unsure and unconvincing about your pricing is worse for budding businesses. Making money is a necessary side effect of business and it is essential your prospects know how much you charge, what you charge for and what they can expect from you. When prospects don’t fully understand pricing it’s very difficult for them to feel confident in dealing with you.
2. Be firm but flexible.
Don’t drop your prices just because a client’s jaw drops when you tell them how much you charge. Offer different payment terms or performance based rewards but stick to your guns as much as you can. The same goes for the services you offer. Knowing what you are about and how much you are worth is an essential part of your business and making sure you don’t have to worry too much about the cash flow side of things.
3. Don’t forget your health.
In a startup the founders have so many things to do it is easy to forget the essentials things in life. You can’t run an amazing business if you aren’t feeling amazing. You don’t have to be an elite athlete but make enough time to look after yourself.
4. Use a CRM system.
Sales is hard. It’s one of those things you take for granted but the sales cycle is quite involved and keeping track of prospects and customers becomes increasingly difficult when you don’t have dedicated staff to handle these things. Using a CRM allows you to automate things like follow ups and allows you to remember where you are in any part of the sales process.
5. Don’t get distracted.
Nice guys finish last or do they? Early on its easy to be eager to please and that translates into trying to go over and beyond your call of duty for clients. This, in and of itself, isn’t a problem but clients are people and people always try to get as much as they can from any situation and you need to know when you are being taken advantage of and rectify the situation. This also applies to friends and acquaintances who try to monopolise your time. Learn the power of the word no and use it generously.
6. Under Promise, Over Deliver!
I know it sounds like a no brainer but it is massively important to ensure that if you can do something, do it when you say you’re going to do it otherwise, just say you can’t do it! It is hard to say no but it’s better to turn something down than to make yourself look like an idiot.
What are some of your tips/learnings?