Anabel Fielding, Co-Founder of Quintessentially Events, shares her insight on starting up and managing a business during hard economic times; her experience, and tips to get you through today’s uncertain economic environment.
The UK has long been regarded as one of the best countries for start-up businesses, attracting some of the world’s greatest talents across a range of sectors, and benefiting from favourable regulatory environment and labour market. Not to mention one of the lowest corporation tax rates in the developed world. Regardless, starting your own business is incredibly exciting, scary and all-encompassing, and knowing when to take the plunge can be a hard decision, even in a favourable economic climate.
Following the referendum on 23rd June 2016, and subsequent decision for the UK to leave the European Union, the full impact of what this means for the business community is still unknown. Whilst Start Up Britain notes that 364,645* businesses have already been created this year, the Federation for Small Business (FSB) indicates confidence in the small business sector is declining as market fragility begins to take hold with falling consumer output, an ever-weakening currency, and regulations and trade deals still a long way off from being decided on.
Indeed, there is no doubt that these are extraordinary times we are living in, and it’s more than a threat of recession that’s leaving many business leaders, SMEs and entrepreneurs, scrambling for security. The nature of business today means that we are in constant communication with the wider markets and more aware than ever of how the merging of a these large global forces may impact us.
So, if you’re a budding entrepreneur, is now a bad time to start a business? Not necessarily. Despite many entrepreneurs holding the view that business growth in the UK’s current economic climate is diminishing, there are still great opportunities to be had if you are prepared to re-asses your approach.
When I co-founded Quintessentially Events in late 2005, we had no idea that we were about to enter a global recession; if we had we might have been too cautious to give it a go. However, starting the business when we did meant that we had to create a strong, defined proposition in the market and develop a loyal customer base quickly in order to make it through those first valuable years; this allowed us to survive the recession and become the global market-leader we are today. We prepared ourselves by making and sticking to the following key decisions.
- Staying lean. Over time, as a business grows it cannot help but gather weight, whether that’s with regards to people, outgoings, process or diversifying too quickly. However, in times of economic decline, the crucial trick is to remain lean. By constantly reminding yourself of the proposition of the business and what you need (as opposed to ‘would like to haves’) in order to service your target market becomes incredibly important, as you never know when you are going to need to cut back. In this vein, also think about what assets you have that can be outsourced or used to bring in additional revenue, for instance a corner of office space that isn’t being fully occupied which you could rent out.
- Focus on getting your primary mission right. There is something to be said for just getting the job done without the fireworks or the grand launch. During times of difficulty, it’s remembering to knuckle down and focus on the core premise of getting the job done and done really well that will keep you going into the next day. It is very easy to get distracted by the day-to-day and things outside of your core objectives, particularly when you are the boss with no one to answer to and there are plenty of opportunities around. Get around this by tracking your daily activities against your business goals; even if you are not showing it to someone else, this will help you both track your progress and identify when and where you are going off course.
- Don’t go it alone. Finding a strategic partner is an important way of getting through a tough time for a business. Whether it involves aligning with another person, merging with another business, or franchising to reach new regions – as we did with Quintessentially Events – growth can come from expanding to a new location and/or partnering with another business. At the start, entrepreneurs want to do it all on their own and on their own terms, then part way through the journey they are exhausted and realise that there is a greater strength, scale and security in partnership. By not doing it alone and sharing the journey, you are cushioning yourself too – just make sure you do your due diligence, keep focused on your goals and follow your gut when it comes to choosing the right partners.
There is an inevitable caution that comes with starting a business, but don’t let caution be confused with common sense, be confident with what it is you’re trying to achieve. In times of economic unease, average has a difficult time – so avoid being average, be brave, determined and bold.
*As of 27 July 2017