Telling the truth about SME life today

When is the right time to set up a business

I was lucky that I had a fairy godmother in the shape of a friend who asked me to cover her maternity leave part-time working for a big consultancy. This was a great opportunity that meant earning a decent amount of money while taking the plunge into the world of entrepreneurship. I essentially de-risked my decision for six months whilst I found my feet. This is an option Id highly recommend it to cope with the fear.

What is there to consider when becoming an entrepreneur Here are a few things Ive learned along the way:

1. Dont poach

What ex-bosses fear most is that their ex-staff will start to poach staff, clients and strategy. This is a well-grounded fear and I see many new enterprises start out by doing this. But Im a great believer in karma and it’s true that what goes around comes around. In my sector of charities and social enterprises, the network is relatively small, so Ive never approached a philanthropist, sponsor or ex-member of staff trust means everything in a new role.

2. Get started and then work out what you dont know

I see so many would-be entrepreneurs painstakingly scoping out the business plan and website details before theyve even started talking to people about the sell. Until you get started you simply dont know what the potential is, where the gaps are and what you dont know. So get selling as soon as possible and once you know what the gaps are then find the best possible advisors to help you improve and build on the idea.

3. The best entrepreneurs enjoy the ambiguity

Entrepreneurship is not a walk in the park and the responsibility of running a business can feel overwhelming at times. What Ive recognised is that those that flourish dont angst about what the future might bring or the unknowns. They see ambiguity as a freedom that allows for change, scope and development. Its a great place to be, and being comfortable with ambiguity is one of the essential qualities of leadership too.

4. Never go back

There is a clich around the owner-manager that once youve started your own business you are completely unemployable back in the real world and I guess thats also how I feel. Theres no way now that I could go back in-house and any ex-boss of mine would concur, Im sure! Id be the worst-ever in-house employee irascible, impatient and demanding so once youve successfully started something, my feeling is that if it fails then it’s probably time to start up something new.

5. Its got to be fun

If you’re not having fun then something needs to change. Fast-growing new businesses are tough and all consuming. Its important to occasionally take a moment to rewind and remember back to that slightly maverick, now unemployable in-house member of staff that wanted a bit of freedom to start a new venture. If as an entrepreneur youve stopped having fun then something needs to change, and one of the great joys of being an entrepreneur is that the power to change things is all in your hands.

Michelle Wright is CEO and founder of Cause4.

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