This advice comes from real lessons I’ve learned from living and breathing innovation for twenty-five years and from establishing my own company. During this time I have talked with many startups and small businesses. Here is what I have learned (Part 1!):
What? Did he really say that!?
Business ideas come to me late in the evening or the middle of the night. Also, I love to wake up with a fresh and sharp mind. Alcohol blocks this from happening, for me. It is the reason why I don’t drink alcohol during busy periods. Not a drop.
The sharper you are, the more effective you are. It becomes easier to tune into your gut feeling, follow a hunch and connect bits of information to form new ideas. These skills are vital for entrepreneurs. So, put the booze on hold! It will also save you money – you will need every penny for your venture.
If you don’t believe me – give it a go!
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
I will never forget when a client cancelled a major order at short notice. My business nearly collapsed. By betting on one major client, I had put all my eggs in one basket. I hadn’t assessed the risks. It's a mistake I will never make again!
Keep a close eye on risks. And, don’t celebrate a sale until the money is in your bank account!
Compensate for your weaknesses
100% of startups I talk to say they are good at selling, but I reckon that less than 10% can do a good job at it.
To be honest, I used to think of sales as a dirty word, but I now realise it is a vital part of the business equation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come naturally to me, and I’ve had to work hard to get reasonably good at sales. Had I acknowledged it as a weakness and sought help from sales professionals early on, 3inno would be more successful.
My advice to startups: be realistic about your weakness and compensate for it.
Minimise Unnecessary Costs
I do whatever it takes to keep costs down. You should too! Every penny wasted is money that could be used to build and promote your business.
For example, we use Weebly for the 3inno website (costs £7.00 a month). We do all our marketing materials and company videos. We shop around for the best deals on business services and use low-cost stationary supplies. My laptop is not state of the art – it’s eight years old but it does the job. The list goes on.
Keep building your credentials
When I founded 3inno in 2013, I promised myself I would write 1 to 2 innovation blogs a month. At first, it was a bit embarrassing having only a few articles on the site. But, after a few years, there are 100 articles. So be disciplined, consistent and patient.
Why 'no' is an opportunity
I have lost track of the number of times a company has said ‘no’. At first, I took it personally. Now, I look for some wisdom whenever I hear ‘no’, even though it’s frustrating at times.
A ‘no’ informs me that our proposition isn’t right for the company, or I contacted the wrong person, or they’ve misunderstood our offer, or they like it, but the timing isn’t quite right. For example, one company had mistaken 3inno’s offer and thought we were an ideas agency. The 'no' gave me the opportunity to clarify our offer.
So, don’t take it personally when you hear ‘no’ - use it to fine tune your offer and to hone in on the right target group (3inno’s website has been tweaked hundreds of times!). Anyway, I’d rather hear a ‘no’ early on than hear it after investing days of effort in preparing a proposal.
Don’t get distracted by social media
Social media is one of the biggest distractions you will face. I wasted so much time on social media before realising that none of my customers are active on Twitter or Facebook.
If you are operating in a B2B market, my advice is: Contact people directly. There is no substitute for real conversations. It is through real conversations that a sale is made, and a brand starts to take shape. A real conversation with a prospective customer is worth more than a million impressions on social media. In fact, I believe impressions is a fake metric invented by social media companies – I’ll explain why in an upcoming article.
Let me know if this was useful, and I’ll post a few more similar articles.
If you enjoyed reading it, I’d be grateful if you took a moment to share your comments on social media.
Head of Innovation