Yesterday I was chatting to someone at the pool and they asked me what I did for a living.
I said “I have my own business”, to which they replied “That’s great, I would love to be my own boss”.
But is that all it’s about?
Definitely not – jumping into the start-up world is a big decision and you need to be completely convinced that you have a great idea you are passionate about.
Even with this belief, you risk a great deal getting started and there’s no guarantee you’ll succeed.
There’s loads of advice online and in start-up workshops, but basically you need to ask yourself seven simple questions before you take the leap:
1. Why do I want to start my own business?
If you simply hate your job, or you’re following a trend, it probably won’t survive. You need to solve a problem in an industry you love and this passion will help you succeed.
2. What problem(s) am I solving?
You need to provide something unique that will solve a problem for someone else. If they can do it themselves then there is no need to buy from you!
3. What lifestyle sacrifices am I willing to make?
It’s a big decision to give up a high-paying job to follow your entrepreneurial idea. You need to be brutally honest with yourself and ask what kind of lifestyle you would be comfortable with.
4. Will my family and friends be supportive?
The small business rollercoaster takes you up and down, and as you veer from ‘busy excitement’ to ‘tumble weed depression’, you need to have supportive people around you.
5. How much money will I need?
It’s good to have some savings to use in the early days, but don’t stretch yourself too thin. Cash flow can be a killer so make sure that you have loans or access to more cash if necessary.
6. Should I grow quickly or take my time?
If you have a great business idea, you should seize the moment and grow as fast as you can. This is best with funding so that your investors can realise quick and profitable returns. However, if you’re going it alone with your own money, you can take a little more time.
7. Am I in the right place to launch my business?
You need to either know, or get to know, your industry and make contacts by going to lots of networking and start-up events. Hearing about the experiences of other people is the best way to learn. This can help you work out whether you’re in the right place geographically to launch your product.
Remember it’s great to be your own boss, but it’s your passion and belief in your business idea, plus a strong and stable support structure that will give you the best possible chance of succeeding.
Don’t you just love street food? I do. The smell of the cooking wafting towards you and like the Bisto kids, you naturally follow the smell to the source – usually a fixed pitch, gazebo or truck selling delicious, freshly cooked street food from a simple menu.
I’m obviously not the only person who appreciates good street food – today food trucks are the fastest-growing channels in the food service industry with revenues reaching a whopping £1.8 million.
Summer is finally here, so more and more people will be out and about, and this is great for those in the street food business.
It’s all about location, location, location. Getting a static pitch can often be tricky and limiting so why not expand your business and get a truck? This is a relatively inexpensive option to widen your reach and can be done for less than £50,000.
So why are food trucks so popular? They give you the flexibility, diversity and ability to quickly and easily test new concepts, menu items and recipes. They can also cater to various tastes in different locations.
My client Mac to the Future has a terrific business running from a static location in Brixton Beach and now also a vintage truck. He’s now out on the road selling his very successful Macaroni and Cheese in various different locations, including London Zoo.
We have just returned from two weeks in France and I saw some great street food trailers in the local village markets, ranging from proper barista made coffee to a cake stall where the owner actually made fresh cakes from scratch at the market and the smell of the cakes baking was just heavenly. Rotisserie chickens are also very popular – but you have to order yours early on otherwise they are sold out!
These are good small businesses selling a quality product and they take pride in what they produce. This is why the street food business is booming at the moment – we now live in a society that is less tolerant of poor quality – if we pay for something fresh it needs to be delicious, otherwise we might as well just make it ourselves!
(1) The flexibility and diversity of the food truck makes it an attractive entrepreneurial venture as start-up costs are relatively low
(2) Make sure that what you make and sell is delicious so that customers come back for more
(3) Embrace and enjoy the foodie culture
I first wrote a white paper with this title 20 years ago. It was all about how organisations could improve relationships with their customers by offering the right level and quality of service early on in the relationship.
The paper was based on my own experience of having a small newspaper distribution business where I had a team who delivered early morning newspapers and magazines to over 8000 subscribers on a weekly basis. I ran a customer service desk from home and invited subscribers to call me if they didn’t receive their morning delivery. I would then get in my car and re-deliver the paper to them, no questions asked – I trusted them. Then I would call them to make sure that they had received the paper and were happy. It was at this stage that our “relationship” began.
It soon became the phone call they wanted and the actual re-delivery of the paper was of secondary importance – because they were interacting with me and not just receiving the product. They knew they were important to me. They were loyal to me and the service I offered and this loyalty would stretch to other areas of my business.
In those days (we are going back 25 years) there was not a lot of up-selling and cross-selling to be done, but I always got the commission for collecting and processing their annual renewal, and they always called me as the first point of contact.
Simple. Then why is it so hard to get and retain loyal customers nowadays? Is it the customer service they receive? My philosophy was that I would much rather sort out any issue at the outset and make sure I had a contented customer. This way I also got to know my customers and I would recognise their phone numbers and greet them by name. I’d be happy to hear from them and sort out their queries straight away.
Whether it’s a real person, an automated system or indeed a chatbot, loyalty seems to have morphed into not wanting the hassle of change. But as business owners, are we content with that?
I would say “no” and many of our customers aren’t content with that either. They want to be treated like your business relies on them, which of course it does. In a nutshell, they just want to be loved.