Lesley Allman is an internal communication and employee engagement expert. She has run her own consultancy for many years, here she shares her tips on how to get it right.
If you’re facing restructuring, redundancy or simply having a career rethink and are considering setting up on your own, here is some of the great advice I got from friends and colleagues when I was starting out.
- Decide at the outset what type of business you want
Is it a lifestyle business i.e. one that provides you with a decent income and relies solely on your skills, personality and efforts?
Or is it a one that can function and grow without you in it and that ultimately you can sell on?
This will inform what sort of legal entity you set up and what funds and infrastructure you will need.
- Don’t over complicate the naming and branding process
If you’ve established a good reputation in your field, use your name. Otherwise, think of something straightforward that is easy to spell and no one else is using and get a logo designed Then just get yourself on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc and start communicating. Having a great story is more important than having a great name or brand, so get it written and get it out there.
- However much marketing you think you’ll need to do – you’ll need to do more
To misquote Field of Dreams, just because you build it, doesn’t mean they’ll come. As a start up, you really need to get yourself and your story out there. Tap into all your networks, post stories and comments on all your social media platforms, join industry bodies, offer to judge awards, speak at (virtual) events, etc. Think about where your target customers are, and make sure you’re there too.
- When it comes to clients, you are what you eat
Think about the types of businesses you want to work with and target them. If your first client is a metal basher in the Black Country, then your subsequent clients are likely to be similar. Great if that’s the market you’re after, but don’t be scared to turn down the wrong sort of work.
- When it comes to prices, you can’t ski uphill
Don’t undervalue yourself. See what competitors are charging, consider what the client can afford, think about what value you’re adding and be bold. It’s better to go in high and be able to come down, than to try to do the opposite. Focus on the outcomes the client is getting for their investment (value based, solution selling), rather than the inputs you’re providing (day rates).
- Spend time working on the business as well as in it
When you win your first client, and there’s only you in the busines, it’s tempting to spend all your time and energy on them. But don’t forget that your primary focus is building your business, not theirs. Making them happy is a means to that end.
- Your first employee is a 100% increase in your headcount
Another key decision point is when you’re too busy to look after your business and your clients on your own and you have to decide how to grow your team. If you’re building a sellable business, you’ll need to recruit an in-house team, people who will eventually be able to run the busines without you in it. However, for a lifestyle business you may decide it’s better to create a virtual team of freelancers, so you avoid on-going overheads and can match skills exactly to client requirements.
- Do your housekeeping
It’s dull but vital to keep receipts, send out your invoices, pay your suppliers, pay your taxes, pay your employees and get an expert advisor to make sure you’re doing those things right. And don’t forget, your clients are unlikely to pay you for at least 60 days, some as long as 120 days, so you’ll need to keep a careful eye on your cashflow.
- Ask for help
People you know, and many you don’t know, will want you to succeed. They’ll be keen to help you and willing to share their expertise and advice. Don’t expect them to come to you though. They may think your doing fine and don’t need their help. So make sure you ask for it.
- And finally…
Whatever your venture is, make sure it is something you love and are passionate about. Not forgetting that it is something that enough people actually want and are willing to pay for.
Now, the most important piece of advice. Just get on and do it!
Lesley Allman is an internal communication and employee engagement expert. As an independent consultant, she has provided expertise to leadership teams at companies including Carlsberg UK, Kuehne + Nagel, Evergreen Garden Care, Pukka Pies, Domestic & General, Hovis and PepsiCo. She previously held senior communication roles at Premier Foods and Coors Brewers. She is an IoIC Fellow.
James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist. Please get in contact with him directly to discuss any of these topics further.