Business ownership brings a huge sense of freedom and autonomy, however, this can often be accompanied by feelings of trepidation, especially in the early days. Starting your own business is exciting, but you know that challenges lie ahead. Here, some seasoned entrepreneurs share their tips for strengthening the agency and self-determination needed for mapping out your business route, and most importantly, enjoying it.
Trust your instincts
Business owners are constantly making decisions, often at short notice and with little time to prepare. While much of the decision-making in business is informed by data, it’s also important to trust your instincts. A gut feeling can be key to the success you’ve achieved so far, and as your business grows, trusting your judgement becomes even more important. As Helen Marsden, co-founder of fashion retailer Kit and Kaboodal, explains: “As our business grew, we brought in new people who came with new opinions and new ideas. You need to keep your ideas and objectives firmly in mind to avoid being swayed into going in a new direction.”
Small business owners need to be flexible; able to adapt to sudden changes and respond to new opportunities. When it comes to navigating your business route, flexibility puts you in the driving seat. For Troy Johnson, co-founder and CEO of Caribbean food shop, kitchen and delivery service Juici Jerk, access to flexible transport through the use of car-sharing service Zipcar has been a big factor in its success. He says: “We have a company van, but we often need to attend several events in different locations on the same day. With Zipcar, we can scale our transport capacity up and down in line with our business needs. It allows us to take advantage of more business opportunities than we otherwise would have been able to do.”
Don’t fear making mistakes
One trait shared by many successful entrepreneurs is the ability to overcome the fear of getting something wrong, because of an unwavering belief that they will eventually get it right. Being able to push aside that nagging doubt allows them to take risks and achieve things that others can’t. Enabling risk as part of growing as an entrepreneurial business is something that Paul Foster, founder of event planning platform OnePlan, has lived by. He says: “It takes high levels of resilience and persistence to keep going when those around you are saying: ‘That isn’t a good idea’. However, those qualities must be balanced with a sense of reality – there may be valid reasons why people feel something is a bad idea. What matters most is not the mistakes you make, but what you learn from them and how you respond.”
Seize new opportunities
When a big business opportunity comes along that you’re not sure you are ready to handle, your natural reaction might be to say no. It may take you into uncharted territory, but it could also lead to even more valuable opportunities, such as a long-term contract or a business partnership. A willingness to say yes can help you develop as an entrepreneur and support your business growth.
Benjamin Nash, founder of Bangerz&Nash, a production company based in east London, stresses the importance of being able to seize opportunities at very short notice. His company works with brands and ad agencies across the city, and he uses Zipcar to get around. “The cars enable us to be mobile and ready in a city where owning a car seems counterintuitive,” he says. “From running to a creative brief at a moment’s notice to loading up a van full of production kit for a location shoot, it’s so handy having access to a fleet of cars all around London.”
Focus on your strengths
It’s a popular misconception that when you run your own business you have to be good at everything. You don’t. The autonomy and self-determination that you need as a business owner are more likely to come from focusing on the things you are good at and enjoy doing. Your strengths are the skills and experiences that keep you energised, and that make the tasks you excel at feel effortless. According to Gallup research, people who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job. In business, you’re likely to feel more productive, driven and satisfied.
Take a ‘workcation’
When people encounter a problem, they often go into overdrive trying to tackle it in the belief that working harder at the problem will help. Barnaby Lashbrooke, productivity expert and founder of virtual assistant platform Time Etc, has discovered a more effective way to tackle business challenges and enjoy the process. Inspired by Bill Gates, who took biannual “think weeks” during his time as CEO of Microsoft, Lashbrooke whisks himself away for a “workcation” for three days every quarter. He says: “Routine work is banned, which means no emails and no meetings. Instead, this is an opportunity to enjoy the real freedom of being an entrepreneur, to problem solve, let my creativity run free, and consider the challenges we’re facing without the usual pressures around me.”
Create an informal advisory board
Running a business can be a lonely place at times, especially when situations arise that you’re unsure of how to deal with. At times like these it helps to have a support network or an informal advisory board; a group of friends, colleagues and professional associates in business with whom you can bounce ideas and seek advice from. Many of these people will have been in a similar position to you and can share their experiences, how they dealt with various challenges and found solutions to problems.
With more than 3,000 cars and vans available via its app, using Zipcar for your business gives you convenient, on-demand flexible access to vehicles, whenever you need it