By Alexandra Tselios
I find all facets of business fun, from the most boring and banal aspects to the high energy creative parts and I have been fortunate to have had experience of varying capacities at many different levels. So co-founding The Big Smoke this year required I dip into my knowledge bank of both formal education and personal experience. I am also fortunate to be living in a country that is conducive to entrepreneurial endeavours. I am often asked by friends and colleagues for advice when they are either starting up a new business, or pitching to investors. Aside from knowing industry specifics, market positioning and product or service viability – my top five things to remember are pretty simple.
Fantastic ideas are just fantastic, but turning it into a profitable business that is viable is a totally different type of fantastic. I often get shocked at how many people just register their ABN before doing a business plan. Before I even get to any of that I would ensure all the so-called boring parts are attended to at the foundation level. This means the business plans, market research, your point of difference, knowing how you will execute this – all these things really need to be understood by yourself. I hate to be a gross cliché, but if you fail to plan you plan to fail – I feel dirty even saying that, but it’s true. Before you start talking about it to everyone or making a Facebook page (because, how embarrassing) get the frameworks right and ensure you have the working resources, both in terms of capital, time and ability, to move forward with the idea.
I don’t care if you loved your grandmother who was a fabulous lemon butter maker and made 5 cents on the $2 jar she would produce for the church fete, or that you hated the guy next door who started a successful vitamin franchise. Watch and learn from the people who have had tangible success, and also the people who couldn’t ‘quite get a concept off the ground’. I am also a huge proponent of being mentored. I have been fortunate enough to sit down over cups of tea with some really strong men and women in business. These industry leaders have provided me with solid advice, sharing their mistakes and giving me feedback. You don’t have to take everything on board, but it’s important to be open and to learn – regardless of your personal feelings about the individual. It is a constant invaluable tool for me.
So many people I know in business don’t give themselves enough creative credit. To me, artists and musicians simply do not have the monopoly on creativity – entrepreneurs are literally creating something from nothing all the time. I think that is actually an amazingly courageous and exciting thing to do. You are literally looking at nothing and finding a way to put it people’s hands, and make money for it. So many people cannot, and simply will not, attempt to do this. It takes research, analysis, creative thinking and finally gumption. I may not be able to use a paint brush to create a portrait, but I create concepts and businesses and I think that is equally creative and valuable. I know a guy who writes ridiculous songs while living with his mother at 35 because he refuses to get a proper job because he is creative. Come on mate.
A lot of people get really excited about their start-up in the first 12 months and then run out of steam. There is nothing wrong with changing course, but there is something to be said for watching your energy and managing your emotions so you can continue to drive the business as far as you need to. PR and media personality, Prue Macsween, once told me that all this energy is fantastic, but if you don’t manage yourself it can come at a huge cost both physically and financially. I love hearing that you answered 250 emails and stayed up all night working on your marketing plan, cool! But if that means you have a breakdown in a fortnight and can’t work for 6 weeks and need to go to India to find yourself again, we’ve got a problem. Everyone has different capacities and what works for me won’t necessarily work for you, you have to focus on your own sustainability.
It is really easy to become so attached to your concept, idea or brand that it distorts any feedback and decisions. It then becomes based on how you feel in the moment rather than what is best strategically for the business. Try to detach from that and aim to see the business simply as an entity that needs to succeed, independent of fluctuating feelings or personality conflicts. If you can do that you’ll be able to hopefully make better quality decisions based on actual data. And if you make a mistake – who cares – it’s all part of the scary ride.
Alexandra Tselios is the Co-Founder and Publisher of The Big Smoke, Australia’s newest opinion site. Alexandra has a diverse background in corporate, public and creative fields. She is also an expert business start-up consultant and provides strategic advice to young Australian start-ups or entrepreneurs seeking assistance in taking their business or idea to the next level.
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