I've always been a strong advocate of story telling as a great means to help share ideas and learning, and also of local networking - local businesses supporting each other. So the recent meeting of the Todmorden Business Network was doubly exciting for me, as a range of businesses based in and around Todmorden came together to share their stories of what they've learned in running their businesses that they wish they could go back and tell their younger selves about.
|The Futuro House in Todmorden, 1971|
I thought it would be useful to capture these as a snapshot of the wisdom of the local business community I'm part of. Sharing it here hopefully means that others will be encouraged and supported, but it's also something that the Network can revisit in future years to see if the lessons we're learning are changing, or if despite the new management theories that always seem to be coming out form some university or other, the way we do business together, and the issues we face remains consistent.
So - our advice to our younger selves:
- listen to your gut more - be bold!
- you don't need a business plan (I've always argued this one too) - it's OK to make it up as you go along
- it's a roller coaster (and will make you feel sick at times...) - dare to be brave!
- don't be afraid to ask for advice - don't let your pride get in the way of letting other people help you
- you'll have more bosses that you did before in the form of all your customers
- don't be too cheap - don't undervalue yourself, and recognise the full extent of the time you're spending on making your products and running your business
- don't waste your money on consultants - pick and choose who to spend your money on, and what's important to you (rather than them)
- understanding basic bookkeeping and accounting is far more important that you realise
- just because you have a passion for it doesn't automatically mean other people will pay for it
- your friends won't tell you the truth - they're there to encourage you, not to be your customers
- always be kind - compromising isn't a sign of weakness
- success doesn't come overnight
- don't believe what letting agents and landlords tell you - if you're taking on retail premises, check the local footfall for yourself
And what we'd tell our younger selves to avoid doing at all costs:
- Don't pay for (online) advertising; use networking, social media, and PR instead
- Don't try and work from home: there are far too many distractions
- Don't waste time trying to get government funded support: the best advice you'll get is from other businesses
- Don't be afraid to stand your ground with larger customers who want to start to change agreed terms
- Don't try and do it all yourself
- Don't go anywhere without a spare pair of trousers/skirt (that one's mine...)
- Don't work with family or friends
- Don't put off having tough conversations with people
The Network currently meets the first Tuesday of every month from 6pm at the Fielden Centre in Todmorden, and thanks to sponsorship from others has no charge for membership or attending its events -