The things they don’t tell you before setting up a business


No one knows what they’re letting themselves in for when they set up a business.

The media tends to shine a rose-tinted glow over entrepreneur success stories and rarely spotlight the other side. The off-putting side; like the yo-yo emotions of self-doubt or the disasters that you have to work out for yourself. It becomes a journey that takes, takes, takes and then will surprise you with little droplets of magic to keep you powering on. After all, the journey is the reality; the bit where people develop and grow. It’s a journey of discovery not only in learning on the job but getting to know yourself better.

If you’ve already decided to set up a business, you’ve already overcome the greatest shift in mind set. You have already left relative comfort for the complete unknown and prospect of not being able to rely on anyone but yourself to make it work.

My fledgling business may only have been born this year but I have already learnt so much more about myself as a person. I’ve learnt things I’d never know if I hadn’t made the leap. But there are a litany of cautionary tales to help cement your decision of flying the nest of way too comfortable permanent employment. Here are a few that became my reality.

It’s going to get lonely

Very lonely. You may love to work alone but if you move from a job where you were surrounded by people, the contrast is stark. There will be no office banter, no one to share the tea round with, but most importantly of all, no one with whom to bounce ideas. Connect yourself with as many freelance and startup friends as you can and you’ll realise that they crave idea sharing too. Find creative ways to collaborate and help each other out. An hour with them could save you hours of thinking (and spinning aimlessly) alone.

You’re going to need that reference after all

All those years of people telling you to build up your contacts is going to fully resonate now. Your network will become your lifeline. Advice, referrals, introductions, collaborations all happen through your contact book. And the dreaded favours; you’re going to need to pull as many favours as you can. So start getting brazen, swallow your pride, smile and be prepared to buy a lot of cuppa’s in return. Having a reference point with someone in your past can speed things up in your present.

IOUs are your new currency

Money is going to be tight, no more so than at the beginning. But what do you have is time – it’s your most abundant commodity. Instead of handing out your precious cash reserves, think about what you can provide in exchange for someone else’s service? This is where you exercise your entrepreneurial spirit and spawn interesting partnerships.

Say goodbye to your favourite coffee shop

Grabbing the daily cup of expensive caffeine from your favourite artisan coffee joint will start to become a weekly treat once you work out how much it amounts to over the year. But that’s okay, because it gives you a chance to sharpen your latte art skills at home.

Exercise for your mind over body 

You may have always relied on exercise in helping to keep you trim but this will flip on its head. Exercise is inextricably linked to your ability to push through the challenges. At times you’ll find it hard to relax and extricate yourself from the business to make time for you. Slot in exercise to keep your mind positively stimulated. There should be no excuses. The business thrives on your energy and brain power. If your mind suffers, your business will suffer too.

Self-motivation is harder than you think 

You’ll go through good weeks and bad weeks. A bad week will call for strength to swallow an upset or problem and get back to being focused on your goals. Remember that each new day brings an opportunity to get it right so if you don’t accomplish all your goals, there is always tomorrow. Tomorrow always brings a new opportunity to do it better.

Incentivise yourself

Incentives are normally left for the kids to do their homework but adults need them as much as they do. Fight the small battles. You’ll get joy in overcoming obstacles, and by celebrating after a win, however small. It’s the small (and sometimes seemingly trivial) rewards that will keep you motivated. Otherwise you can get overwhelmed by focusing too much on the big picture.

Believing in yourself is more powerful than people’s compliments 

We’ve all heard the bandied quotes that fear impedes success. It can’t be truer than when setting up a business. The fear of failure will stop many people from living out their dreams. No matter how many times people tell you that you’re great at what you do, nothing will propel you forward as much as your own confidence. Don’t forget, you’re on that journey and you’re going to gain new skills and a whole new perspective of what is possible and achievable. Be pragmatic: this is a tiny speck in your life to do something that you maybe never thought you could do.

Setting up a business is far from romantic. But setting up your mind for the reality is much of the battle. Preparation and organisation before you jump will help you to hit the ground running. And if you do make the decision to jump, be prepared to learn more than you bargained for – both inside and out.

Claudia Moselhi, Director of CLO PR