If you’ve been thinking of starting a business, maybe you just need a little motivation. Alexandra Tselios, co-founder and publisher of TheBigSmoke.com.au, a new opinion site (similar to The Huffington Post), knows what it’s like to go out on your own.
Aged just 31, Alexandra has a diverse background in corporate, public and creative fields, and is also a business start-up consultant and provides strategic advice to young Australians start-ups and entrepreneurs. Her mantra is simple: Don’t hate Mondays. Life is better when coloured and varied.
A true entrepreneur, Alexandra loves all facets of business, from the most boring and banal aspects, to the high energy creative parts. She shares her top five tips to turn your dream into a reality.
1. Prepare your frameworks
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 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, 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.
2. Learn from people even if you don’t like them
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 sold at 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 the 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.
3. You are the creative one
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 the ones creating something from nothing all the time. I think that is actually an amazingly courageous and exciting thing to do. You are looking at nothing and finding a way to put it people’s hands, and make money for it. It takes research, analysis, creative thinking and finally gumption.
I may not be able to use a paint brush to paint 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.
4. Focus on sustainability
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.
Sure, I love hearing that you answered 250 emails and stayed up all night working on your marketing plan. But if that means you have a breakdown in a fortnight and can’t work for six 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.
5. Let it go
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.
What are your best tips for starting a business?