Yesterday I spent some time talking to a woman who is on a mission to get kids to eat well and founded a healthy ketchup brand which is doing well. I love talking about this kind of stuff and this conversation was especially fun for me as both the business and founder were so compelling. She wanted to get my advice about the viability of growing her business and how to go about it. After asking her some questions it was clear to me that the business was ‘a go-er’ and that even with the stagnating effect of Brexit hanging over retail she was likely to be able to get investment and have her products in supermarkets in Britain in a couple of years if she decided to press the button.
Surely that’s great news, right? Well yes and no…like me the founder I was speaking to is a devoted single parent of a small child and what she needed more than my belief in her plan was a clear reminder that the reality of delivering a project of this scale is not the avocados-on-toast dream we are sold on Instagram. This particular woman is not a novice so she kind of already knew but spelling out the reality of a scale-up product-lead business as being a relentless grind until (maybe) exit with moments of glory along the way was where the conversation eventually got to. Bearing in mind that every founder I know who has a product-lead business basically works all the time they are awake the question became not COULD she do it, but SHOULD she do it?
I’m left on as much of a cliff hanger as you as to whether she will go ahead as she is mulling it over as I write. It does though raise some really interesting issues about which, as you would expect, I have some opinions to offer…
Is your business right for you?
First of all it’s good to understand that every business carries with it a different level of risk, a different chance of success and a different work commitment. Buying out a ‘going concern’ like a café that is already in profit and has loyal customers is a world away from founding a tech company for example. Make sure you understand the lifestyle that goes with the business you are imagining for yourself and know that it’s a match for where you are in your life so that when it flies you can really enjoy the ride.
Build a support network
Secondly, it’s good to make sure that your close friends and your family or partner are on board with whatever you are planning, that they really know and understand what it’s going to be like. That way, when the going gets tough you don’t have any ‘you made your bed…’ finger wagging. No matter what your personal circumstances, getting your squad understanding what this business means to you and backing you in whatever way they can makes all the difference.
My final piece of advice is to really let yourself be happy and enjoy the journey. One of the reasons that I have thrived through the ups and downs of my 15 years as founder is because I really know how to put tomorrow aside for a moment and celebrate the moments of success that happened today. Even if there is something stressful outstanding, I can take a moment and be glad that I have closed another sale or received a lovely piece of feedback.
If this doesn’t come naturally to you then practice, it’s a habit you can learn and it is, in my opinion the real marker of success. The reality is that businesses only have a certain life-span and you never know how long that will be, so even if you never get that Sainsbury’s listing or meet the big targets that you set for yourself you should still enjoy everything that you are learning and doing. Having a business idea and getting your product or service to market is a uniquely creative and challenging experience, yes set big goals but don’t forget to celebrate the day to day wins.
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Is this workshop for me?
Do you have a business idea but don’t know if it can really work? Maybe you have a plan that you believe is viable but don’t know how to make a business model or set it up. Perhaps your business is already running but you are worried that you don’t have everything in place, that there might be something important that you have forgotten.
Looking forward to seeing some of you there!
About the author
Fleur is a startup expert with 14 years’ experience both launching her own product ranges into major retailers and using her success to help to help other founders achieve. Her client roster includes Pip & Nut, Miso Tasty and Rosa Bloom. Fleur has lectured at UCL on Business & Branding, co-hosts the Courier podcast and has a regular column in the magazine. She regularly contributes as a speaker, podcaster, presenter and writer on all things modern business.
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