‘I have no interest in running my own business’.
Natalie Moores - every year since birth until 2016
Not something usually heard in this game. It’s far more common to find people who have schemed and planned their enterprise for many moons before finally taking the plunge. For Jess and I setting up Mac&Moore it was very different.
It’s not that I had anything against people going it alone, I just genuinely thought I’d be so useless at it that there’d be no use in bothering! I didn’t have an idea, any clue about business plans or pricing models and Excel and I had a rather dramatic fallout in 2007 that I’d really rather not go into… it’s still too painful.
Sometimes however fate steps in with its stomping steel-capped boot and tosses an opportunity your way … which is exactly what happened to us. We were both working together already and had soon realised that whilst as separate beings we were both experienced, capable and proficient in our respective marketing skillsets, combined we were a serious force to be reckoned with. Next, we both found ourselves unemployed on an otherwise unremarkable Monday when the aforementioned company went into administration. Brilliant.
So rather than sulk or sit around eating cereal straight from the box in our PJ’s we realised that this would be the perfect chance for us to go for it. Why not? We had relatively little to lose and we could surely figure everything else out along the way.
We are now over four months in with a rapidly building brand, enough clients to fill the fingers on both hands and I have decided to offer Excel the opportunity to meet me for coffee and apologise.
We have learned a new lesson roughly every six minutes, rather than list them all in some sort of endless unfolding scroll … here’s our top five:
1. Get good quality business cards
Setting up your own business can be a costly affair. You may have to buy equipment, set up a website and buy a whole load of lattes as you get going. You obviously want to economise in any way that you can to keep costs down. But remember, everything you produce that’s connected to your brand is a direct reflection of your business. We splashed out on some premium cards (still by no means extortionate) from MOO and it’s made a massive difference to people taking us seriously. We dish them out with confidence and know that if we want people to trust that we’re offering a quality service, we have to have quality business cards.
2. Celebrate the wins (but not too hard!)
It is so easy to get carried away as you frantically tick things off your to-do list to let major milestones and achievements pass you by. Particularly if this is your first business so you don’t have a frame of reference for success. We managed (through sheer caffeine and being ridiculously competitive) to get everything we needed to start Mac&Moore set up in just over two weeks. So the day we launched the website, despite having another one hundred things to do we treated ourselves to a couple of hours off to sit with a glass of bubbly and toast to what we’d done. Because you absolutely should be proud of your wins. Setting up a business from scratch is something not everyone will do or even try and do. But just remember not to spend too much time patting yourself on the back … no one likes a Billy Bragger!
3. Be on the same team
I initially wrote this point thinking about my own business – there are two of us running this ship and you have to be so careful to manage your relationship with each other when there are big deadlines and big decisions to make. But I actually think it works for people going totally solo too. Being on the same team isn’t about always agreeing with one another, it’s not about being selfish OR selfless. It’s about doing the right thing to reach your end goal and for the success of your business. Sometimes Jess and I fight like cat and dog but in the end, we always do what’s right for Mac&Moore. If you’re on your own (which by the way I hugely congratulate you for) you can spend your day having multiple changes of attitude, moments where you doubt yourself, criticise yourself or even just feel completely unmotivated. Decide what ‘team’ or mindset is the best for your business, and always try and figure out a way to get back there… GO TEAM.
4. Suddenly a salesperson
When you start up by yourself, you suddenly realise that you have to wear a whole load of hats. Creative, strategist, accountant, HR, cleaner, you name it, you’re doing it. Probably the most terrifying of these hats (not one of those giant ones made of fruit) is salesperson. In our business our product is ourselves. We had to learn very rapidly how to talk confidently about who we are and what we have to offer in a way I usually can’t manage with my own family members. That’s how you get your business, and without it you could have the most amazing idea in the world, but no one is going to want to buy it from a reclusive wallflower who can’t spit out a sentence. We were told once that if you truly believe in what you do and you’re authentically passionate about it, it’s not selling. That’s what we try and do. If you’ve believed in something so vehemently to devote your working life to making it a reality then for goodness sakes hold your head up high and talk about it with confidence!
5. Use people
Woah. Slow down. Before you get carried away and think I’m talking about being completely and utterly devious, allow me to explain myself. Whether you realise it or not you are surrounded by people who actually want to help you. Friends, family, old colleagues, that barista who always wishes you a great day even when you’d rather be screaming into a pillow. This is an incredibly valuable network of people who have skills (sometimes even ones they’ll share with you FOR FREE if you’re a good person), advice or lovely comfy shoulders for you to have a cry on if you need to. It wasn’t until Jess and I got going that we realised how many supporters we had, and how many people we knew that were either in the same boat or knew someone who might be able to help us.
Below is a small showcase of just a few of the amazing people who have helped us out and supported us along the way in one way or another aka #SWEETLEGENDS. Disclaimer - there are MANY more ... You know who you are ;)
And finally … Even though I’ve already fulfilled my five I wanted to leave you with a cheeky quote we once heard which really sums up how we aim to operate, in basically all aspects of life…
‘Work hard and be nice to people’.
That’s it. Go forth and prosper fellow entrepreneurial characters … You’re DOING A REALLY GOOD JOB!