Nine top tips for starting a new business – caseflowhr

Nine top tips for starting a new business – caseflowhr

Starting a new business is exhilarating. You have an opportunity to stretch your wings and test your ability. This is especially the case if you have already spent years in an established career or job. I read one study which suggested that 6 out of 10 working people think about starting a new business but fewer that 2 out of every 10 actually take that first step. Why? There are numerous reasons ranging from inexperience, lack of funds and procrastination (“It’s the wrong time to do this…maybe next year”).

In 2020, we started a new business and worked 10 hours a day, 7 days per week minimum, for over 12 months. We still do not know if we are going to succeed but here are our 9 top tips for anyone who wants to follow in our footsteps:

1) Understand your USP

Knowing your “unique selling point” helps you understand what is different about your new product or service. It also helps you know why your customers will buy from you. After all, you need to stand out in the market. Your problem is knowing your product or service TOO well – you can lose sight of why someone else will want to buy it.

Our breakthrough came a couple of months before we launched. We had the opportunity to present to a potential customer who responded positively. In other words, she “got it”. This was the very first time that an independent third party with no financial or emotional investment in our product gave feedback to us. It was quite emotional. So understand your USP and keep “testing” the market by inviting feedback and using it (even when it hurts).

2) Understand your commercials

You MUST know your pricing structure and how your customer will pay (e.g. online). Pricing can be tricky – it is tempting to go too high because your are excited. Equally it is tempting to go too low (for example, to undercut your competition). On balance going too high is probably best – you can always do deals with new customers (everyone likes to feel they have got a bargain). Start too low though, and it is difficult to increase prices (especially if your customer is a long-term one).

3) Understand your finances

Let’s face it, without cash you will fail. A lot of start-ups “splash the cash” at the beginning, especially if the cash is someone else’s. But cash can quickly run out and if you are not bringing in revenue then you will be in trouble. Rely on professional support and spend wisely. Learn to differentiate between the “nice to have” and the “must have”. In that way your expenditure will bring a return.

4) Go digital or go home

The world has changed, even more so since COVID. Most personal customer demographics have now become tech savvy. The advent of smart technology means a seamless, cashless transaction from the comfort of one’s home. And of course if your new business is B2B then most business is done online anyway. A strong, solid online presence and across the social media platforms is essential. If you can, seek help from a good digital marketing specialist. One word of caution, these specialists are growing in number by the day so check their credentials and seek references from other businesses they have helped before you engage them.

5) Keep your professional support network close

You do not operate in a vacuum. The success or failure of your business will depend on your ability to maintain good working relationships. NEVER burn your bridges no matter how upset you feel or how badly you have been let down. And believe me, you will feel let down by someone at some time. Your personal integrity and resilience are vital at these times. Besides negative emotion clouds judgement and sours relationships quicker than anything else. Remember that old saying “What you sow, you reap”. If you sow discord, you will reap discord. The opposite is true too. So be professional and courteous at all times – most business opportunities come from personal recommendations because people do business with people. So don’t get a reputation for being uptight or unreasonable. Instead cultivate a reputation for being someone people want to do business with.

6) Maintain your work-life balance

If there is any advice we wished we had taken on board it is the need for work-life balance. We worked too long and neglected sleep, physical exercise and healthy eating habits. We cannot emphasise how important it is to structure your days and weeks and months to include personal time. You are on a marathon not a sprint. It is no good being burnt out when you actually launch your business. You need as much energy running it as you do for preparing for it.

7) Have a network of personal support 

If you are lucky enough to have a family who support you, then lean close into it. Same applies to your friends. Your family and friends will tell you the truth and keep you grounded. It is too easy to lose perspective in a start-up and believe that the whole world begins and ends with your new business. It doesn’t! So keep investing in your family and friends, because one day you are going to need them. Good and bad days are ahead. That’s life but there is nothing quite like having people around you who love you whatever. We would just add: get rid of negativity and loosen bonds with people who have no emotional investment in your success. There is a difference between being kept grounded and being put down. Learn the difference and it will save you a lot of heart ache.

8) Expect the unexpected

You will have heard of that old proverb “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. People repeat it because it is so so true. Why? There will be days when you go to bed and think “I have done nothing today” because your plans for the day went awry. Actually, what you did was to respond to events beyond your control. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Expect the unexpected but always have a plan in the first place. If things go wrong, simply re-plan. Having an overall plan means you can get up the next day, dust yourself off and carry on.

9) Be extraordinary

We will end these top tips where we started: We do not know if we are going to succeed or not. Failure is an ever-present threat but we comfort ourselves with the following thought: it is better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all. Remember: it is in getting out of the boat that we learn to walk on water. And a new business is just like that: a mixture of hard work and luck, of fear and faith, of glory and grit. But if you keep doing the ordinary, then the extraordinary will take care of itself…


Riding the wave of a new business landscape

Riding the wave of a new business landscape

The recent COVID-19 outbreak has caused immense disruption to businesses across the globe – and in some cases, irreparable damage. But for The Martin James Group, the clever use of data and digital platforms, alongside unwavering persistence, has meant we have been able to navigate the crisis and ride the bumpy wave.

From charities to leading technology brands, The Martin James Network consists of three groups of companies all with a shared vision of changing futures. Founded by Martin James Cockburn – or Jim, as he’s commonly known – the network ranges from start-ups to well-established brands that have been in business for over 15 years.

jim cockburn
Chair of the network – Jim Cockburn

Like all businesses, the Martin James Network hasn’t been able to completely avoid the impact and interruption felt by this unprecedented global pandemic. Yet, thanks to its existing innovations and the need for continued support from the markets it operates within, the network has been able to adapt and make the most of a potentially catastrophic situation.

Jim shares the network’s learnings and successes from the last four weeks of this new business landscape:

Accelerating innovation

Over the last 12 months, the Martin James Network has developed and implemented a digital communication and engagement app called JiffyJab, which allows organisations to share information within their own private network. Having already been successfully adopted by a number of businesses, we are now offering the app to the care, charity and health sectors free of charge during the coronavirus crisis.

One of our brands, FosterTalk – a not-for-profit support service for foster carers – has also been working with internal partners to implement a new communication tool. Due to launch soon, the app will allow FosterTalk members to access advice and support, as well as chat in real-time to other foster carers at what is an extremely stressful and challenging time for them.

Responding to market needs

Our brand leaders across the network have been using this crisis to shape new ways of working, whilst responding to market needs. Life sciences company, Okra, is working to offer COVID-19 insights using transformative predictive AI technology. Our workplace mental health organisation, TalkOut, is offering more webinars and online training at a time when managing employee mental health remotely is crucial. Business support and IT brand, Anster, has been busy developing a family support package to help Local Authorities across the UK support more vulnerable families. And Intellect – our foster carer tax advice service – is supporting carers to unpick and understand the massive volume of information regarding self-employment.

Offering a helping hand

Our charity, the Martin James Foundation, supports vulnerable young people around the world and has stepped up during this crisis to launch an emergency appeal. It is also working closely with partners in Birmingham to support more vulnerable families within communities that need it.

Internally, the network’s People team have launched a range of initiatives to boost morale and wellbeing, including wellbeing Wednesday, Sing-a-long Thursday, quiz nights on Friday, daily HIIT workouts on Facebook Live, and a Facebook group for employees needing to keep their kids entertained which has grown to nearly 4,000 members.

We are also hugely proud that we haven’t had to furlough too many staff and any that have been, have had 100% of their salaries covered.

Crisis builds collaboration

In what is an unsettling and stressful time, our people have really stepped up to get employees and themselves through the upheaval. Whilst information and updates were always previously shared between brands, our network leaders are now having weekly virtual meetings so we can share ideas and concerns, as well as identify new ways to collaborate and support each other.

Our staff continue to support each other through candid and authentic communications via our internal communications app, JiffyJab, as well as through Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Slack.

Jim comments: “It could be very easy to be knocked back by a crisis like this but through collaborative effort and the commitment of each brand within the network, we’ve managed to explore new ways of working and meet market demands.

“Our focus has become sharper during these testing times and our network’s mantra of ‘connecting minds and shaping futures to transform lives’ resonates now more than ever.

“We’ve learned that times of crisis and uncertainty can actually give us more courage and we believe that we will come out the end stronger and more resilient as a network.”

Find out more about the Martin James Network here.