How to start your own business

How to start your own business

Are you an aspiring
entrepreneur desperate to escape corporate life? Maybe you dream of
starting your own business but haven’t yet built up the
courage to take the plunge. I want to know what it’s like
to give up a steady career to go it alone. I’m Meenesh. I was an accountant. So I used to work in
financial services. [MUSIC PLAYING] As a teenager,
Meenesh had ambitions to start his own business. But he fell into accounting
after finishing his degree in management. People often say that
they start off in a job, and then I’ll just
get enough money, and then I’ll leave and
start something else up, or do something that
I really want to do. And then one year turns
into two, five, ten. Yeah. My dad retired. I went to his retirement drinks. He worked in the same job for 35
years, 40 years as an account. He was also an accountant. And it just got me thinking
that I’m 10 years down the line, and I don’t fancy doing this
for another 20 to 30 years. Meenesh considered
various business ideas. And after more than
a decade in his job, he decided to swap number
crunching for something completely different. If you work in
any kind of office in the afternoon, especially
around the 3:00 PM mark when everybody gets a
coffee or tea, it’s always greeted with things
like cakes and donuts, cookies. And I don’t mind
having something sweet as long as it’s some sort
of nutritional value to it. So we started making
our own nut and honey bars which were
higher in protein, but still taste quite
nice with a tea or coffee. We started taking
it into our office. People started liking it. And then from there, we
turned it into a flapjack. And then from there, we
turned it into a cookie. And then it was just a little
bit of a light bulb moment that actually, we’ve
had this issue. We looked in the market. We’ve got this idea, and
people in our offices like it. So Meenesh and his wife
Parul launched Wholey Moly. Starting a healthy
cookie company was a complete departure from
Meenesh’s old corporate life, but some budding
entrepreneurs choose to start a business in a world
they already know better about. I’m Thomas Davis. I’m the founder and
CEO of Temporall. We help companies measure
their organisational health and their
high-performance culture. [MUSIC PLAYING] I spent 10 years at Google, so
I had three separate leadership roles there. I’d call myself a
business technologist. I’ve been doing that for the
majority of my lifetime now. Business psychologist
Lucy Standing reckons entrepreneurs who try
to exploit a market they already know well are more
likely to be successful. It does takes years to
build relationships, knowledge, knowing who
the influencers are. For someone who is already
understanding the issues with the market and is
addressing a problem to solve, that is a better place to
make a success than someone who is coming into
a market that’s entirely brand new to them. It’s not to say that
they can’t do it. It’s just harder. After a successful
career at Google, Thomas hankered for a
break from corporate life. I’ve always wanted
to become a CEO, but I didn’t have
the skills to be one. And I just really remember
becoming quite agitated by that. And actually, my first big
switch to think about this was to get an executive coach. And they made me stop. Two years later,
Thomas’ recruited staff is paying himself a
salary and has just moved into a new
office in South London. He says that his
business proposition was refined by talking to
lots and lots of people. For Meenesh too,
testing the product and learning from
mistakes was key. We got some spaces
at some markets. We opened up the cookies, and
they were all broken to pieces. Because we were using
natural ingredients, it didn’t really hold well. People still bought
them because they were like– they were just kind,
and they like the taste of it. But they just– they were like– They feel sorry for you. Yeah, a little bit. We changed one of
the ingredients, and that was kind
of a game changer, turning it into what
it is today, really. Herminia Ibarra is an
organisational behaviour professor at London
Business School. She says the stress
testing that Meenesh did before he fully committed
to his new venture was crucial. Many people stay stuck
in the wrong career because they don’t know what
they’d like to do instead. [MUSIC PLAYING] And the way you find that
out is by trying things out and by experimenting. These mid-career transitions
take at least three years in developing the idea
and getting yourself to a point where it is
actually feasible for you to go and do that. It’s only by stress testing it,
and trying it, and piloting, and prototyping, and networking
that the idea actually takes shape. And it’s often in a form that
is different from what you imagined in the first place. He’s calming down, isn’t he? That’s him calming down. Meenesh and Parul started
the business together in their spare time while
they were both working. But then Meenesh
was made redundant, which was the catalyst
he needed to go full time on the business. It was not the most obvious
time to plunge into the unknown. After all, he had
a new baby boy. But he invested his redundancy
money into the business, and Parul returned to her
job in management consultancy after maternity leave
to support them. That’s when I went full time. If I had an ongoing job, I
would have probably stayed on for maybe another five
or six months longer. I could have gone
into another role in terms of what I was doing. I was getting offers
for interviews, and they all looked
quite nice and rosy. But I just didn’t see myself
climbing the ladder anymore. You were able to do this
when your partner is staying on a steady job. And so there is usually a kind
of, what’s the family unit, and where’s the stability
going to come from? And it’s really
critically important that you have conversations
with your other half about what you’re doing, and what
it’s going to take, and what the sacrifices
are going to be. Executive coach
Geraldine Gallacher says if you’re going to
make a success of starting your own business,
you need to be honest about what you’re
good at and what you’re not. First of all, you
need a product. So you need someone who
can design the product, who is a developer. Secondly, you have to
be able to sell it. You have to talk to people. And the third thing
is someone needs to be able to do the
processes behind that, which is essentially
the finance and the IT. [MUSIC PLAYING] I’ve never found anyone who’s
actually able to do all three of those things. What you really need to know
is what is it you’re good at. Which of those three can you do? And then you need to
find people around you in your network that can
help support you on the ones that you’re not so good at. Branding is one area in which
we went out to the market to get some help. And you have to be realistic. Is it going to be a
lifestyle business, or do you want it to grow and
scale into a larger business? And what do you
need to get there? There are just certain
things that you just you can’t escape from
needing to know to a reasonably high degree, so
things like finances and tax. As a founder, I need to know
operationally, commercially exactly what’s going on. I don’t get energy from
doing those things. So I think that is definitely
one of the learnings that I’ve had, is I would
describe myself in the last two years as having to play
the role of a decathlete. And I’m– maybe I’m
good at the 100 metres, but I’m lousy at
throwing a javelin. And actually, I’ve been having
to do that again and again and again. I’ve felt out of
depth all the time. But I think only
recently, I started to feel more comfortable
in what I’m doing. Would you like to
try a healthy cookie? They’ve only got 5
grammes of sugar. Are you being serious? No additives, no preservatives. It’s you and your
wife, isn’t it? It is, yeah. Yeah. I’ve seen the newsletter
a little while ago. OK. I think a newsletter or
Instagram or something like that, isn’t it? Probably Instagram, yeah. Breaking into retail
at a time when food and beverages are
increasingly dominated by startups isn’t easy. Competition is fierce,
and you have to stand out. Would you like to
try a healthy cookie? Meenesh eventually got
his cookies in Selfridges. Getting there took persistence
and a personal touch. I was emailing on a weekly
basis, not hearing anything back. So I went and dropped
off some more products. And I left a hand-written note. I know you get 100 guys like
me emailing you every day, so here’s some cookies to
get you through the emails. And give me a shout when
you get to my email. She replied within 24 hours. You need to realise that
you don’t have the power or the leverage to expect
things immediately, so you have to be persistent. It’s a fine balance of
being persistent but not being annoying, because
we’re all human. And if you had somebody
emailing you every week with exactly the
same thing, you’re just going to ignore them. [MUSIC PLAYING] Networking is key. You’ll be surprised at how
many people give you advice if you ask them. A lot of startups, especially
in the food industry, are very helpful
with each other. And there’s a lot of communities
out there which you can join. Make sure you talk to
people that you don’t know. They’ll just tell you the truth. If I ask someone
very close to you, they’ll say that’s a great idea. It may be a lousy idea. Asking people that
don’t know you, don’t know your
background, can give you this different sense
of perspective– and that would be
my key advice, is don’t be afraid to
go and ask people. Because most people
are very generous. Cheers. Meenesh hopes to turn a profit
and start paying himself a salary in the next 12 months. But other than the
financial stability, the only thing he really
misses about his old job is the social side. I’m working on my
own constantly, so– You don’t have
Christmas parties? Christmas party for one man. There will be days where I
don’t interact with anybody. There will be days
where I’m out sampling, and I’ll speak to 1,000
different strangers. But social size and
pay packet [INAUDIBLE].. There is nothing that replaces
just really knuckling down. If you don’t have that
intrinsic, desire, motivation ethic to work through these
moments of, like, oh, my god, what am I doing, you
may not want to do that. Maybe a lot of you think, well,
I haven’t got that one idea. I don’t have the courage to
go and follow this one idea. And I’d encourage people
to keep thinking through. Because if they
are creating ideas, there’s probably one in there. When it’s your own thing, you’re
a lot more passionate about it, and you find a
solution to problems. And it is hard to
switch off, but it doesn’t feel a burden to
be constantly thinking about how to be switched on. So if you’re thinking
about leaving a steady job to start
your own business, consider the following. Take your time. Your first idea
might not be the one you run with, so
don’t give up your day job until you’re sure your
business plan is viable. Test your idea. It may take several
iterations before you have a product or service
you can take to the market. Ask experts for advice. Seek guidance from people
outside your friendship group. They’re likely to be more
honest with you about your idea. And knuckle down and get
your finances in order. It’s hard work, and you have
to be prepared to survive without a salary for a while. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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