We are excited to introduce Julie Stanford from Essential Business, which is the place to go for expert opinions, quick tips and practical and no-nonsense advice from enterprise experts and other business owners, on everything you need to know to start and run a thriving, successful business.
Julie also created our workbooks for our lucky participants on our remote self-employment course and has provided us with radio interviews from experts running their own business, to provide extra support to those starting out in their self-employment journey. In this interview we ask her some questions to find out more about the benefits.
What inspired you to support people into self-employment?
My own experience of starting and running businesses! When I launched Essential Business back in 2002, I had already been running my own design agency for 15 years. I had started that business from scratch, on my own, and as I looked for clients and wrestled with becoming an employer, marketing our services and juggling the finances, I became very (sometimes painfully!) aware of the challenges you face when you start out on your own.
I’ve always felt that self-employment is far easier to talk or write about than to do. I also suspected that I wasn’t the only person who sometimes struggled to find the right answers to my many questions.
Although there are lots of business books available and hundreds of pages of free content on the internet, sorting the good from the bad (and sometimes downright wrong!) was difficult and a waste of precious time. So, because my background was in planning and designing books and workbooks that people can read and understand, I decided to stop wondering and start doing.
How will the workbooks and the information you share help others setting up their own business?
Our goal has always been simple: clarify what’s involved in starting and running a business, ditch (or explain) the jargon, and create inviting and easy-to-follow content that helps build vital skills and understanding. We do that using plain English and a step-by-step approach so that people learn what they need to know when it comes to law, finance and marketing.
No-one is born knowing how to run a business! You have to learn how to do it and it’s easier to do that with guidance and support, rather than through painful trial and error. I feel very proud that our Planning and Starting Your Business workbook has helped thousands of people start businesses.
Why is it crucial to receive support when starting a business?
Failure hurts and business failure can cause damage to your finances, your family and your future. Very often, that failure can be completely avoided if you’re properly supported and prepared.
I think it’s immoral to say ‘business is easy’ when it isn’t. Just because a celebrity has made millions from a business venture, doesn’t mean you will. I’m more likely to say, “This can be tough, but you can learn how to do it” than, “Anyone can run a business, just go for it!”
I’ve worked with Phil and Benna at Enterprise Exchange for many years. They are fantastic in the way they support their clients.
Could you share with us your five top tips to help run a successful business?
There are so many to choose from! Hopefully, these five will help:
1. Business is about money: too many businesses fail because they simply run out of money. Business owners need to learn about sales planning, cashflow forecasting and the crucial difference between cash and profit. Never buy unless you’re sure you can afford it and aim to price higher and prove the value to your customers, rather than dropping your price. Money is hard to earn, so treat it with respect.
2. Business is about customers: work hard to understand what your customers need and want from you. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking you know what they want, but if you don’t learn what your customers are really thinking, they’ll simply shop elsewhere and you may never know why. Find ways to make your customers feel special and valued. Make sure to thank them for their custom and remember, it’s much easier to hold onto an existing customer than to find a new one.
3. Business is about responsibilities: once you start out on your own, you’re expected to know your legal responsibilities. This was one of my main reasons for launching Essential Business. It seemed unfair to me that people are expected to know such a huge amount. That’s why it’s so much better to do it with the support of organisations like Enterprise Exchange. So, you can get on with your business, knowing that you’ve been taught all the important things you need to know.
4. Business is about you: starting and running your own business is challenging, scary, hard work, massively exciting and rewarding. Often all at once! That’s why we included the ‘Why do this?’ tips in our workbook, to remind you that what you’re doing is something to be really proud of. Not everyone can do what you’re doing!
5. Business is not just about you: you’re not alone in your business. Your loved ones, family and friends will all be affected by your business at some point or another. You need to focus on keeping them on your side, and on board. Remember that when you’re working late on an exciting new project, they may not share your excitement and may simply want to spend time with you. Try to balance your time between them and your business. Not easy, once you get caught up in the excitement of your new business adventure but do-able if you make the decision and the commitment to remember how much they matter, too.
One last point, you’re in good hands with Enterprise Exchange. I wish you all the luck in the world with your business.