Ahead of the Geelong Small Business Festival, we look at tips for embracing the transition from employee to small business owner.

You’ve been an employee for some time.  You’ve had enough of making money for someone else. You’ve got some great ideas and are ready to go it alone.

What do you need to successfully transition from employee to small business owner?

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with a dream to work together, many people embark on a grand adventure – to become small business owners!

You’ve got more passion, motivation and self-belief than you could poke a stick at.  You’ve got the skills, experience, humility, an eagerness to learn, emotional intelligence, and fantastic supporters who also believe in you.

You’ve got everything you think you need to make a go of this exciting new chapter in your life after years of “workin’ for the man”, to quote Roy Orbison.

The first few years in any business are challenging with statistics showing more than 60% of businesses close in the first three years. *

It’s tough.

But, it’s also a very exciting time as you learn so much about business, but mostly you learn about yourself.

Your values, what’s important, what motivates you and what doesn’t.  And in the end, often the  clincher – we weren’t really motivated by making money, we were motivated by giving superb customer service, and in our game, that wasn’t enough.

5 Tips for starting out in business.

1. Be Realistic

Do your homework, talk to other people who have done something similar and take as much wise advice as possible.  If you can, find a small business mentor who can give you support and the right information and networks to help you get established.  Don’t expect anyone to believe in your business/idea the way you do.  Prove it by the service you provide.

2. Have a robust Business Plan

A good business plan is critical for your success – as long as you follow it.  Doing your homework, understanding your market, knowing who your ‘customers’ are and where they are, what they read, what they listen to etc is vital.  And follow the plan…

3. Believe in Yourself

Working for yourself requires courage and self-belief.  This will get you through the inevitable low times when things aren’t’ going to plan and you begin to doubt yourself.  Have some inspirational books, posters, mantras, people around you to keep you up when you feel like dropping the ball.  It’s a normal part of the journey and the more often you rise up, the stronger you will get.  Read about how others have succeeded despite a struggle in the beginning, to inspire you.

4. Be Wise about Money

Don’t expect any decent income for about a year – plan for two – as you don’t want to be worrying about money when you need to be creative and focused.  The stress of financial pressure is what breaks down relationships, health and creativity.  That also means it is better sometimes to start small and build up gradually so that you are not carrying too much debt.  Work out what you are prepared to lose and have an exit strategy – it takes the emotion out of the decision if things are not working.  Cashflow is king –  if you don’t have enough money to pay suppliers or buy product, everything can come to an abrupt halt – a wise accountant is worth more than the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

5. Be a Success Detective!

Knowledge is everything.  Master learning from those who have gone before you – their successes and failures.

Get in the habit of ‘sitting at the feet’ of those you admire, particularly in your industry. At the end of the day, self-employment is selling your products, services or ideas to make a living and the school of self-employment is experience.

Lastly, when you can, work with business coaches or mentors, attend business and networking groups such as Localised Meet-Ups, register for events such as the Geelong Small Business Festival and make an effort to spend time with other business owners. Even the smallest tidbits you pick up can lead to a light bulb moment when making your next business decision.

Working for yourself is not for everyone.  So, if you want to or need to, to prove something to yourself, go for it!  However, if it doesn’t work out, please don’t feel you have failed.  It’s all part of your life journey.  And after all, sometimes you need to try it on to find out if it fits.

2019 Geelong Small Business Festival

Director Maree Herath will be presenting at the Geelong Small Business Festival, 14th August, 2019. The topic is:  Addressing Flexibility. How small can attract “BIG” talent through flexible working arrangements. You can book your ticket here. 


*Australian Bureau of Statistics

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