Launching a new business can fell like a daunting undertaking, but every one of the world’s most successful businesses was launched with a leap into the unknown.
So if Day 1 has to come some time, it might as well be today.
Through his life as an entrepreneur and investor, Steve Baxter has seen countless new ventures spring to life, and has observed the factors that are common amongst the successful ones. And he says it is not when a business launches that matters the most, but rather, how it launches.
“It’s always a good time to start a business, provided you do it in a smart way,” Baxter says. “And a smart way is to make sure you have a good network to help you launch that business, and you know enough about what you are doing.”
This idea of having a smart support network is seconded by Margie Warrell, author of the top selling book on building confidence, You’ve Got This.
Warrell says having a mentor is a good starting point, although she stresses that different people may play that role at different times.
“So when we talk about a mentor, it could be someone who has walked the path ahead of the you and is a great sounding board because they are a serial entrepreneur,” she says. “Or it could be someone that knows about a particular market or a particular product, or they know how to get funding.
“So just be mindful that you might have several people serving in the role of mentors in different ways.”
Another critical factor when launching a business is to do so with a plan, although Warrell cautions that any plan needs to be flexible to cater for changing market developments.
“So make a plan, but make it in pencil, and be ready to change your plan and adapt and iterate as you go along,” she says. “When people get too attached to their beautiful plan, that they have spent so much time on, it actually can make them too rigid.”
For Baxter, the value of being flexible has been reinforced many times throughout his career.
“My first job was as a soldier for nine years, and there is a saying that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy,” Baxter says. “Now I think no business plan survives contact with a customer.”
So while the plan may change over time, Baxter says it is vital that a business owner has something they can measure themselves against, to track their progress and ensure the risk they are taking can be assessed.
“You do that with a plan, and you measure yourself against the plan,” Baxter says. “So always start with one and be prepared to get that eraser out and chance the pencil marks.”
Baxter also recommends that whatever an entrepreneur does, they need to be able to do it with confidence. This is critical when pitching ideas to would-be investors, bankers, or customers. And he says it is also vital that entrepreneurs spend time researching who they are pitching their ideas to – something he does with every idea that is pitched to him.
“Have a basic pitch ready to go that you can modulate depending on the audience, so you can tailor it towards who you are actually pitching to,” Baxter says. “So research who you are pitching to, because they will probably be researching you back.”
All of these factors will also go a long way towards building confidence – something that is more critical than ever now.
“I always recommend that people take the leap, and going from zero to one is always a hard choice,” Baxter says. “But you have to start at some point, and tomorrow is always a bad time – so do it today.”