The starting point is creating a suitable product or service. This involves bringing something new to what you know – innovating in a market you’re familiar with and creating something you can be good at providing, using your skills and experience.
Make sure you avoid picking a market that’s full of powerful competitors or a product that’s only in demand in the good times by choosing a product or service that solves a problem that is common but not severe or uncommon but severe.
Make sure that it fits – that it can be used today and doesn’t depend on something else before it can be bought.
Make sure it’s priced properly. Use activity based costing to work out what it costs and compare the result to similar products.
You’ll feel vulnerable, of course, but it’s not necessary to be unthinkingly brave and ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. Instead, look calmly at the downside, “stare into the abyss”, which is how we often view such uncertainty, and recognise one very reassuring truth – even if this venture fails, you’ll still be better off.
Discover the art of resourcing yourself, so you can learn as you go, and dealing with your dark side, which is out to sabotage your plans and needs to be put firmly in its place.
Learn not to rely on parents, friends and life partners to make the big decisions for you. They care about you, but they have their own perspective on life. They will give you some support, but in essence you are on your own. And that’s exciting.
Then it’s time to launch it. You may need to cut back your expenditure a bit. This isn’t as hard as it sounds and the short-term sacrifice of a year or two without the luxuries you were used to will make the success you achieve feel even better.
You’ll probably need about £50,000 to start, significant but accessible.
Use friends and forums to identify customers, and make sure they like and trust you. Trust is built up from Credibility, Reliability and Intimacy. Acknowledge some self-interest but show a win-win.
Demonstrate benefits, rather than features and explain why your product is faster, better or cheaper than the alternatives. If you don’t get a buying signal, move on to another target, even if this was supposedly ‘the big one’.
If you’re confident that you can make your new product or service, sell it and manage people – or you nearly can – the best plan is to get a mentor alongside you to top up your skills.
If, as is most likely, you are comfortable in only one or two of these roles, the answer is to find a partner, work with this person for a while without making a total commitment and then, if everything looks good, join forces properly.
If your product or service hasn’t worked as well as you’d hoped, you must re-engineer it and see if there is a better product to be made or a different problem you can solve.
And if that doesn’t work, you must congratulate yourself on having tried it and see if you’d like to start something different. Many of the world’s most successful people failed at least once before finding success.
Make sure that what you’re offering is good quality, not ‘quite good’, but not ‘perfect’, either. If you make mistakes, say sorry to your customers.
Spread the word about your product or service with case studies and stories.
If you need distributors, make sure you’re working with people who are capable, have the opportunity to deal with customers, not other intermediaries, and are willing to do so.
Manage your resources on the basis that it will take much longer than you thought to achieve a comfortable level of revenue.
When you get the opportunity to negotiate sales and purchase contracts, you will sell more and build more profitable relationships if you think win-win.
As your business grows, you will need to develop a culture and an infrastructure. The culture will shape the infrastructure and should ensure that your people feel useful and free to do whatever’s best for each customer. The infrastructure should be flexible enough to let this happen.
To make sure that everyone gets this, and that it works, you and your people should make a commitment tothe Three As – Agree, Accept, Amend – when arriving at decisions. That is either:
Agree with what’s suggested, explicitly; or
Accept what’s been put forward, despite any personal reservations; or
Amend the original proposal and seek Agreement or Acceptance.
It’s important to recognise when you have momentum and move quickly to make the most of it.
Expand your sales by being visible, having conversations and building on what has already worked.
Create channels to market that will give you greater visibility, but make sure that you don’t lose the ability to negotiate a win-win.
Acquire resources flexibly, paying a higher price per unit, if necessary, but spending less in total.
Keep an eye on the balance sheet so that you don’t run out of cash.
Though working in the business can make you happy, you need to work on the business if you’re going to be able to sell it. Becoming a leader in this way can enable you to satisfy several of your essential human needs – for esteem, self- actualisation and transcendence. If that isn’t going to be the right role for you, recruit an MD to lead the business and find the right part for you to play within it.
You’ll need to recruit and manage a team. Hire for attitude and to enhance existing skills, ensuring that the team has all the different talents and expertise it will need, and manage by reference to a vision and values to which everyone has contributed.
After growing or maintaining sales and margins, most of the problems in any young business will be to do with people’s performance. Have ‘fierce conversations’ to resolve them. If this fails, don’t be afraid to let people go.
Look for win-win solutions to even the most upsetting issues. Avoid a fight, because you won’t win, even if you win!
If you’re stuck, ask yourself 10 questions and change everything.
If you get 70% right, you’re succeeding. If you’re up to 80%, you’re doing well. If you think you’re getting 90% right, it just means you’re not taking enough risks.
Building & selling it
As soon as your business has some substance, you can start planning for its sale. It won’t last forever – and without a sale you won’t have the financial independence that’s an essential part of WealthBeing.
Set out a strategy that explains its unique or nearly unique place in the world, and demonstrate how it achieves its results, numerically, with independent management and robust processes.
Expand into new markets or new products, but never both at once. Don’t rush to fund these externally – and, if you do, make sure that you really will be better off.
Calculate how much you need, by looking at comfortable living costs and listing those things that only happen for a certain period of time (such as education fees). This is not blind guesswork, and most people’s needs are remarkably similar. As a result, your sums will almost certainly lead you to a figure in the £2 million to £5 million range. This is your target.
The value of the business will be between three and eight times its annual profits (in most cases, 4–6 times profits). So you will need to generate profits in the £300,000 to £850,000 range.
Learn to look at the business as an asset, something to be bought and sold, rather than as the creator of your income.
Negotiating the sale can be intimidating but don’t be overawed. The purchasers are just human beings like you, even if they have access to larger sums of money. And use an agent.
You must know when and how to say no, and how to make sure you leave something for the purchaser.
Making predictions about the rest of your life is a bit scary, but using the calculation tool will ensure that you have enough for your future needs.
Deepening and caring for your WealthBeing
While it’s usually impossible to spot the right time to buy or sell stocks and bonds, you may feel better if you are able to identify a particular opportunity.
After the business is sold, things will come to a stop and you may feel low for a while. If that feeling stays with you for more than a few weeks, seek counselling or other help.
If it doesn’t, you can start to enjoy your new state and consider the next journey. What is it that makes you happy? What is meaningful to you? It may be a new business,
Or it may involve serving others. Just being able to act without the limitation of needing a financial reward is an exciting and liberating sensation.
When you have the money in your hand, invest it in things you know about or in shares and loans of publicly quoted companies (stocks and bonds).
Returns from stocks and bonds should be 2–7%, after costs and inflation and before tax, (with 3–5% being the commonest range).