What I wish I knew before I started my business; We asked a successful illustrator, two entrepreneur mates and a young franchising go-getter what they’d do differently if they had their time again

What I wish I knew before I started my business

April 19, 2013, Larissa Ham

We asked a successful illustrator, two entrepreneur mates and a young franchising go-getter what they’d do differently if they had their time again.

Elise_Hurst_studio2010--1--copy---article-lead-620x349Elise Hurst

Hindsight is a wonderful thing – both in life and in business. If only you knew the mistakes you were likely to make before you wasted time and money making them. We asked a successful illustrator, two entrepreneur mates and a young franchising go-getter what they’d do differently if they had their time again.

1. Learn to plan for the next job

Illustrator, artist and children’s author Elise Hurst has illustrated more than 50 books, but when she started in 1996, work wasn’t exactly flooding in. “My first few jobs were accompanied by a constant mixture of elation and terror,” says Hurst. “I was so busy finding out if I could actually do what I’d promised, that I wasn’t even thinking of the next job. When the job finally finished, I was in a panic to suddenly find the next source of income. “I had no networks yet, no connections. I learned far too slowly that looking for work is a big part of the job.”

2. Be yourself

Many of us follow a certain career path because we love it and believe we can do something special, says Hurst. But while learning from others can be valuable, she warns against simply replicating your competitors. “There’s a good chance they’re doing it better,” Hurst says. “While you’re earning your crust, set aside time to develop your own ideas and your own style of doing things. That’s where your best chances lie and where the biggest satisfaction will come from.”3. Enjoy the journey

“It sounds kind of twee, but when you run your own business, especially if you are converting a passion into a job, you’re not usually charging towards some end goal,” says Hurst.

She warns that it’s easy to forget that just doing the job, “in all its alternating glory and mediocrity”, is the goal.

“I have finally learned to allow myself time to explore aspects of my work for fun, without always having a dollar value,” she says.

4. Get professional help

Scott Bradley was 23 when he started frozen yoghurt business Yo-get-it with mate Sean Towner, aided by $70,000 Bradley won on TV show Deal or No Deal.

They started with an outlet in Hawthorn in December 2009, and have since expanded to four company-owned stores and two other kiosk-shops in Melbourne (Towner still has a stake in the business, but is no longer involved day-to-day).

By the middle of this year, Yo-get-it will have franchises in Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra and Brisbane.

With such rapid growth, Bradley says getting professional help – from architects to consultants – has been essential. “It is worth spending the money getting advice from people who have done it before.”

5. Prepare for peaks and troughs

“Just because one day you make 200 per cent of your budget doesn’t mean you will do the same the next day,” says Bradley. “Plan for this and make sure you can sustain falls in sales.”

Similarly, he suggests always over-estimating costs and underestimating sales.

6. Don’t cut corners

When Yo-get-it changed to a cheaper yoghurt supplier in their early days, believing the quality was the same, it backfired.

In just a few days, sales were dropping off and Bradley and his team were puzzled – until customers started complaining about the flavour.

They immediately set about creating their own recipe to guarantee quality, and vowed never again to compromise on quality.

7. Spend money to make money

Don’t be afraid to give away some of your products, or offer generous discounts, says Bradley.

“Get people hearing about you and trying your product…they will enjoy it and be back as a paying customer.”

8. Have more confidence in your instinctive decision-making

“When you’re starting with a new idea, you generally have stacks of enthusiasm and ideas and energy,” say Dave Roper and Will Miller, the mates behind bag business Crumpler.

“Everything’s ‘Yeah yeah yeah – let’s do this, let’s make that, let’s open here – we’re gonna be huge.’

“However, not everything always works as planned and a few setbacks can dent your confidence.”

Once reality hits and money’s harder to find, it becomes more important to stick to the foundation of your idea.

“Most of the time you just instinctively know what needs to be done. Stick to it,” say Roper and Miller.

9. Be a little less stubborn

“This may sound contradictory to what we just said before, but once the foundation and clear direction is solid, it’s important to share ideas and be open to doing things differently,” say the Crumpler pair.

“A bit of success can go to your head, and whilst there is nothing wrong with backing your gut feeling, there is also a lot to be said for learning from others and being open to change for the better.”

Giving good staff the confidence to back their decisions does wonders for morale – and ultimately, the bottom line.

10. Enjoy a nice glass of wine more often

Roper lives his life by the motto “streuth” – “taking everything seriously is a pain and stressful in itself.”

“Sure, work hard and respectfully, but my god you have to draw the line on all the frowning and figures somewhere,” he says.

“Relax – you only live once.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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