So You Want to Start a Business, Eh?

IABC UK is putting on an ideas exchange pilot, focused on running your own business.

 

In advance of that we knocked a few heads together to learn about the practical tools and resources that they drew on as they were setting up shop.

 

Testing an idea

Stephen Welch is an independent consultant who, amongst other things, advises governments on strategic communications. “You might not know it, but tucked away inside the British Library is a gem called the IP & Business Centre” says Stephen. “It is a great, free, resource which helps you with everything you need to know about setting up a business. And there are loads of resources, market intelligence, data, for you to help set yourself up for success.”

 

“Not only that, they offer grants, meetings, coaching and 1:1 sessions. For example, we got a meeting with the ‘inventor-in-residence’ to give advice on protecting IP, licensing a product in other countries. He also did a quick financial evaluation (what is the value of this idea?) which gave a lot of confidence that we were on the right track.”

 

Follow @StephenWelch11 to learn about how the above is coming along.

 

A place to work

Sophia Cheng, a digital nomad, runs With Many Roots and swears by her Impact Hub membership. “It gives me access to 90+ co-working spaces and a warm welcome around the world”. “An essential resource due to the type of strategic comms projects I run, which often require time in far-flung places.” She adds: “Going it alone, can get lonely, so it’s beneficial to connect with like-minded folks. Many hubs host regular ‘clinics’ – where you can get advice from a lawyer or accountant and informal networking events to make connections in-country. From new business opportunities, serendipitous partnerships or a new companion in a new city, home is where my hub is.”

 

Keeping it simple

Michael Ambjorn runs Align Your Org and has helped a number of practitioners set up shop over the years. He comments:

 

“Focus is what people often struggle with the most when setting up a knowledge-based business”.

 

“Even the best can fall into the trap of trying to be all things to all people. One favourite (and timeless) exercise includes a sheet of A3 paper and a pen… try it out.”

 

And if you can’t make it to the Business & IP Centre (recommended by Stephen above) then have a look at Statista which has a wealth of data. Just be wary of the 1% fallacy, as a chap called Andy Brice puts it. For a deeper dive into the what, how, where and why of starting up, check out Michael’s Business Plan Basics Prezi.

 

Cash is king

Benoit Simoneau runs 514 Media which is coming up to its first anniversary, which is significant milestone. He says:  

 

“Finally don’t forget: cash is king. Or to be precise: your cashflow is. As an independent practitioner, it is your responsibility to get your clients to pay you quickly. After all, you can’t spend money while it is in your client’s bank account. Here are five top tips to get paid quickly:

 

  1. Don’t do any work without a Purchase Order or at least a full written/email confirmation.
  2. On any project longer than 2-3 weeks, tell the client it is your normal practice to invoice 50% up front. Or agreed a staged invoicing process so you get paid at regular intervals.
  3. Be open with clients about “this is how I make my money”.
  4. Charge slow payers more on the next project. Or stop working with them.
  5. Don’t be afraid to withhold delivery of part 2 if they have not yet paid part 1. I’ve only ever done this once in my career: often the threat of it is enough.

 

There’s a business phrase called “delivery to cash”. What is the time lag between when you deliver a service to when you get paid. For a full-time monthly paid employee it is typically 15: you get paid at the end of the month for the work you do that month.

 

For independent consultants you should aim for the same.

What is your top tip? Come along and share!

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