After 24 interviews I decided to sum up some of great advice that had been given. Below I've picked out 15 of the female founders who gave some great advice to those starting businesses right now. Take a read and let me know in the comments what you think or if you have any advice you'd like to add.
Choose co-founders that you trust and that will make the journey a lot more pleasurable and a lot less likely to fail. Build a business around an area that you have a lot of passion about because you are going to be making a lot of sacrifices. You will have to work harder than you have ever imagined in your life so it’s really important that you are working towards something that you really enjoy doing. Enjoy the ride. There will be many ups and downs but take a moment to take in the view when you’re at the top because you might not be there for long.
"You will have to work harder than you have ever imagined in your life so it’s really important that you are working towards something that you really enjoy doing."
You have to do something that you are passionate about and that you actually genuinely have an interest in. There are so many highs and lows that we’ve been through and the highs are one of the most incredible feelings in the world, and the lows can be just some of the worst times in the world. If you’re not genuinely passionate about the product you’re building, or the brand that you’re building, you can’t sell it. People will see straight through it.
One of the lessons is that you should listen to people, listen to data, and then always listen to your intuition. There were times when I did not follow my gut feeling and I think those were the times that I made some of the biggest mistakes. This might be the less expected advice you’ll hear from an investor but you should take a lot of time to rest, sleep, meditate, and eat healthy. Don’t over-work yourself.
Starting to hire people is not always the answer [to your problems], usually the answer is just doing it yourself for a while. And have ways of measuring your success - you ask any general manager of any Ballou PR office and they can tell you right now, this month’s break-even number and the forecasted revenue.
Listen, talk and listen. You need to talk about your business, you need to go and ask people questions. A lot of people starting up businesses ask questions but never really listen to what the answer is; they will hear what they want to hear. The person might completely disagree with it which is totally fine but you have got to understand why the person has said it. At least see their point of view on it because it’s an opinion. If you just listen to what you want to hear, you are never going to improve and develop. You can get it wrong if you don’t speak to people.
Jump. Until you jump, you’ve still got stabilizers on and everything seems fine. All the time I think - what’s the worst that’s going to happen? It is very powerful to keep remembering that. The best that could happen is Cruxy is worth £10million and then we’ve got an amazing list of clients, we’ve transformed the clients we’ve worked with, inspired people along the way, created an awesome culture and lived the dream. The worst that would happen is that we tried, we did okay but it didn’t gain as much traction as it should have. I will have learned more than I ever have anywhere else and it will be the spring-board for the next thing. Surround yourself with good people and go and do it.
Always listen to your instincts, building a business on someone else’s experience and gut feeling is not a good idea. Be brave and trust yourself, it’s only you that know your limits. After all it is not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you are. Just think I am capable, intelligent and pioneering.
"Just think, I am capable, intelligent and pioneering!"
My biggest piece of advice is ‘nurture your network’ because people buy people. Simples! People who trust you will invest in you. If you’ve already got 50 people in your network with whom you have worked, who like and trust you, then nurture this network. Word of mouth and personal recommendation is everything. Every year at Reform, we have sat down to write a sales & marketing plan and every year it doesn’t matter what activities we deploy, 95% of the work that we win comes from our network because once people know and trust you, they will recommend you. But you have to keep reminding people of your value. That’s where events, email marketing, thought leadership, etc. come in.
Get a good accountant, I know people that have screwed up their taxes, and have to pay a big bill so go into liquidation as they can’t afford it. A good accountant doesn’t have to cost much, but you will have to pay. Getting a decent lawyer too; they are useful and you will need one.
Stop waiting for “the right time”, it’s never exactly the right time. Write down somewhere your objectives - professional and personal - and come back to that list regularly because once you’re in the heat it’s not always easy to remember the big picture. Find the right mentors/advisers, amongst your friends and family or from your past work experience. It is very important to have people to whom you can talk to and who will be able to help you analyse a situation.
I think to start your own business you need to be confident but be self-aware. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance so don’t think you can do everything. If there are things that you don’t know, work out what those things are and ask for help, or delegate. Think about what your strengths are and how you can utilize them.
You have to allow things not to be 100% perfect. Getting 80% there and then knowing you have to move on because we need to improve and it is going to change anyway.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Some people get so protective of their ideas they resist sharing them, when actually, every person you tell can offer a fresh perspective, even if you don’t act upon their opinion - which is fine, not all should be acted upon - you should always listen. Even if it is criticism at least you know they are being honest. Fourthly, I would just encourage people not to be afraid of breaking away. Not just in terms of starting a company, but like I said, these days there is such a natural social norm of going to uni. I am an opportunist, and firmly believe that, if you are not happy somewhere, you shouldn’t sit around forever waiting for opportunities to find you, sometimes you have to create them yourself.
"Don’t make any excuses."
Don’t make any excuses, your brain will come up with an awful lot of reasons not to do stuff so you’ve got to trick your brain. Don’t think about the bigger picture just focus on what you need to get started. Have a vision but don’t focus too much on all the shit, just focus on what you have to do this week and get that done.
It’s really important not to beat yourself up. You can spend so much time worrying, thinking you should do this or that. Then you forget to focus on the vision and the journey, which should be enjoyed. It shouldn’t be a chore – it should be something you care and you’re passionate about. Worry about things you can change and focus on making an impact.
Hope you've enjoyed the great advice given here and look forward to bringing you the next 24.