It’s been about 8 months since I opened my own company and it’s been an incredible journey, from working in my bed (Have a read, it’s a decent article with lots of comments) to finding myself getting up earlier and earlier, and working later and later. I’ve learnt some incredible lessons along the way and I wanted to share these lessons with you.
In no particular order:
1. Accounting is serious stuff
Boy oh boy did I have to learn a lot about business finance and quickly. I did accounting at school and UCT, but that book smart stuff really doesn’t teach you anything at all. Understanding returns, expense management, PAYE, salary vs dividends and so the list goes on, has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever dealt with and I’m still nowhere near being able to vaguely say I know what’s actually going on. One of the best decisions I made was to hire an accounting firm from the get go as I’m a firm believer in letting professionals do what they do best rather than trying to be a professional in denial – Knowing that my books are carefully balanced each month and that all returns are done in time allows me to concentrate on running my business with peace of mind.
2. Free time is rare
I think a lot of people find themselves in a position where they’re unhappy at work, they feel as though they work too much and get paid too little, and I’m sure there are people who really do fit that bill, but the majority of people who think that getting out of that scenario and starting a company will free them and allow them to live a life of waking up late every day, are grossly incorrect. I’m one of those people who, even when hired, treats the company as if it’s my own. Every position I held over the past several years of employment has been treated as all or nothing. I never thought that starting a company would be easy, but I certainly didn’t understand the sheer quantity of additional tasks that sneakily find a place on the plate. Before you jump ship and start a company, look very carefully at your life and the commitments you have, because I can tell you right now, you will be busier than you were when you were employed.
3. Try to choose your relationships
I’m sure you’ve heard someone say, “Make sure you choose your clients and the people you work with carefully”. You have haven’t you? It’s really easy to say to someone, “If you choose your clients, you’ll be far happier”, and you know what, they’re dead right, but putting that into practise.. haha. When you’re employed, you receive that cheque at the end of every month, when you run your own company, you don’t. When you’re employed, who can sometimes push things aside and the likes, avoid certain people and so forth, but when it’s your own company and you’re fighting to bring in enough money to pay salaries, you’re not going to avoid anyone and you’re going to sign almost anybody you can, regardless of how annoying the relationship might be. I do agree though, selecting your clients does make a huge difference and it’s something I’ve been working on, but it’s almost as hard as learning to say, “no”. I can’t really offer too much advice in this area, as I’m only 8 months in, but what I can tell you is that I’ve been trying to find a balance, each time I attend a meeting and am asked to write a proposal, I try my best to think about what the relationship might be like in a few months and if the feeling is not great, then I see how I can possibly change things to work with the client or I try to refer the client to somebody else – the same applies to relationships with other business owners and/or developers, designers and other service providers.
4. Think before you speak
This was an interesting lesson for me, before I started my own company, I was rather fearless about what I put out onto the Internet, but since starting the company I’ve learnt to think before pushing the publish button. Not so much because I was saying things I shouldn’t have been, but because the spotlight falls on you, clients follow you on Twitter, they read your blog and the even engage with you – Some things are best left online and that’s a lesson everyone needs to learn, the sooner the better. Your reputation is your brand, if you don’t have a good reputation, you won’t have a good brand and if you don’t have a good brand, you won’t sell and if you don’t sell (and deliver), you won’t have a company.
5. Friday afternoons rock
On a bit of a lighter note.. if you’re employed or have been employed, especially in Cape Town, you’ll know how long it takes to get from 15h00 on a Friday afternoon to 17h00/18h00 that afternoon – it feels like hours! Running your own company, it doesn’t and although many Fridays I end up working way later than I would have when I was employed, I certainly don’t feel that awful slump and that’s something I’ve come to really enjoy and when possible, I’ll force myself to take an hour lunch break to go to the nursery or get things for the weekend so the admin is out of the way.
So that’s it, these are just 5 things that came to mind this evening whilst I was waiting for a server to sync. Yup, it’s 1h50 in the morning and I know my alarm is set for 07h30, so I’ll be feeling it tomorrow, but I’ve got some good friends coming around for a braai, so that’s something to look forward too!
If you’ve got a lesson to share, please pop it in the comments below :)