Here in Barbados, we are quite familiar with the phrase ‘Yuh too malicious’, which is uttered when there is someone delving a little too deeply into another person’s business. However, this is not the type of business to which I refer, but rather the practice of making one’s living by engaging in commerce.
Typically, I would not describe myself as brave and fearless but, in striking contrast, an onlooker might characterize me as careful or cautious. Recently I took a deep breath, threw my protective cloak of caution to the wind and jumped headlong into the shark-infested waters of self-employment. It was, and continues to be, an experience I will never forget.
I pride myself on being a logophile, eagerly anticipating that new word arriving in my email inbox on a daily basis. Nevertheless, the number of words I know in no way prepared me for the technical jargon plastered across the mountain of forms I was required to complete. Truth be told, I am sure the financial administrators were silently wishing the floor would swallow me whole as I begged for the umpteenth time for another explanation of some clause or the other.
Had I walked the distance I covered going from office to office to register or pre-register or re-register, I would be in the running for an Olympic gold medal. The number of headaches and nauseating dizzy spells experienced as numbers and letters swam across page after page would dampen the spirit of the bravest soul. Yet I rise like that proverbial phoenix from the ashes, to stand battered, bruised and bewildered, but still in the race.
Allow me to do my part for another restless soul contemplating that plunge, that launch into the virtual unknown, in the hopes of achieving some secret goal, and share what I have learned thus far.
Document your dream: Every big success must begin with a small dream in the same way a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In as much detail as possible, put pen to paper or, in today’s world, finger to device and write.
Determine your goals and objectives: You need to have a clear idea of the role your business will play in the economic environment. Choose a few things on which to focus your energy and finances rather than a multitude of ‘pie in the sky’ ideas.
Do your research: It is important to have a wealth of information as it pertains to your business. You need to be aware of its target market, any competing entities, where it should strategically be located, the sources of your materials, which type of advertising is best suited to your products and a long list of other factors which impact the day to day running of your project. In short, the more you know about your business, the better it will be for you.
Draft legal and financial plans: ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ is quite apt for this aspect of running a business. Many a friendship was terminated on sour terms or investments lost due to legal issues or mismanagement of finances. Invest in a legal professional and an appropriate financial team early in the life of the business to avoid disaster in the long run.
Declare your association: Someone said we should work smart and not hard, and I have proven that to be true. Become a member of a group of like-minded individuals who have walked the road before, and learn from their mistakes; tweak strategies used in their companies to suit your needs to add value to your institution.
Don’t be afraid to change: As the business develops, perhaps the initial strategies employed become less effective. A visit to the drawing board may prove beneficial as a new vision could breathe life into a struggling business. Another possibility is that despite Herculean measures, the business has failed. Do not be afraid to stop, and start over. Many of the world’s greatest inventions followed a long line of ‘failed attempts’.
Dedicate yourself to your business: Running a successful business, like anything else in life, takes dedication, fierce commitment and passion. Find your passion, focus, work hard at it and success follows. We were constantly reminded at school that the only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary. Try not to be floored by apparent setbacks but see them as precursors to innovation and develop ways to overcome these challenges.
These are a few pearls I have gleaned during my thus far short stint into the wonderful world of business. However, even more important than legalities or budgeting is having a strong support system. Don’t forget to spend valuable time with friends and loved ones, and never forget the One in whom you place your trust.
Whilst I may have acquired some scars and often ask myself if I took leave of my senses when I made the decision to become self-employed, the growth and the endless possibilities ahead seem to take me by the hand and pull me along. On I go for the ride of a lifetime!