What I’ve learned from my experience to help you take the plunge.
It only needs doing once
There are a gazillion things to do, but most of them only need doing once. It’s really important to hold this thought, as you stare anxiously at a To Do list which probably stretches out of the door. Big decisions – renting an office, buying equipment, getting a ‘brand identity’ together, getting the website designed, employing a team – are all hugely time-consuming. However, once you’ve ticked them off the list, that’s it (at least until you grow, and with the small proviso that you have indeed chosen the right staff).
It’s good to obsess
Then there are the smaller tasks, about which it’s entirely possible to obsess to the enth degree because it almost comes as light relief: the quality of paper for the business cards and stationery, the colour of the office walls, oh, heck, even which kettle to buy. And the mundane stuff, which also needs to be done: registering for VAT, PAYE and so on.
It can seem completely endless, particularly because you’re probably doing this on a shoestring budget with a skeleton staff (or possibly just yourself). So it’s extremely important to remember that most of this stuff will never, ever need doing again; the business will start rolling – and you’ll be dealing with the day-to-day challenges, but never again will you have the 8,437 things that need to be done before you can even open for business.
Roll your sleeves up … now
But then again, remember that things only get done if you do them. I actually have this very basic statement Blu-tacked up on my office wall. I sometimes think the quintessential difference between successful people and wannabes is that the successful people roll up their sleeves and get on with stuff, while a lot of people actually prefer to sit around talking about what they’re going to be doing. Businesses are born by putting one foot in front of the other and keeping going till you’ve opened the door of that shop, or launched that website, or whatever your venture is. There literally is no alternative to rolling up the sleeves.
You need to take optimum care of yourself. It’s very easy to work day and night to get stuff done during start-up mode, but sooner or later you’ll find yourself running on empty. Don’t let the gym, vitamins, eating well (or whatever your usual wellness regime happens to be) go out of the window, because you need every atom of energy and strength you can muster. And it’s a particular responsibility to give yourself enough TLC when you’ve other people working for you, because they rely on you being on form to lead them. I sometimes think I don’t have time for a yoga class, but I force myself to go – and magically, the clarity I get eases me through my tasks so much more effortlessly that it’s not like I’ve spent an hour going to yoga; I’ve been given two back.
Likewise, I keep stocked up with supplements (including Daily Energy and Sibergin), which keep me going like the Duracell bunny. I drink lots of green juices, and eat good food. The brain and the body both need good fuel, not sugar, carbs and soft drinks. (Sorry to sound like your mother.)
Don’t cram; all-nighters are a no-no
Don’t skimp on sleep. Having been to see Arianna Huffington talk last week to a rapt audience of 2,000 (mostly women) about her new book Thrive, it reminded me yet again that you shouldn’t mess with your sleep patterns, just because you’re giving 110 per cent to this new project. It can be hugely counterproductive, skimping on sleep to get things done; I pulled a couple of 1.30am-ers just before launching my latest business, and was basically rendered entirely useless the next day. I’d have been way, way better off getting an early night, and feeling alert – instead of which, I felt like I’d had 20 points knocked off my IQ. (During a previous start-up, I was once so tired I woke myself up snoring at my own dinner party. I really, really don’t ever want to do that again.)
Listen to yourself
Listen to your inner voice. It can be terribly tempting to ‘workshop’ your idea a lot while you’re embarked on a start-up – and everyone has an opinion. Which isn’t always helpful, actually. To maintain sight of the vision, I think it’s helpful to allow yourself some quiet time for mindfulness or meditation (or yoga, or walking, or gardening, or however you make space for reflection). By all means listen to what people have to say, but they often have their own agenda (and I’ll be blunt: there are some people who like to throw cold water on an idea for their own psychological reasons/ frustrations).
Question your idea
It’s OK to have a wobble. Sometimes that inner voice can tell you, ‘Maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all.’ And that’s not only fine, I think it’s to be encouraged; it allows you to really question why you thought it was a good idea in the first place (see above; without listening to that inner voice, it’s easy to start feeling like you can’t see the wood for the trees). Mostly, you come through the wobble (which is again often born out of sheer knackeredness) feeling galvanised, determined – and ready for the challenge ahead.
And on that note, it only remains to wish you every success with your start-up. You’ll truly have earned it.
By Josephine Fairley (original article)