3 Reflections on Building a Business

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I spent the last winter building a small online business and as my trading window came to a close I had a chance to reflect on some of the main broader things that I have learnt from my experience.
During the summer holidays I decided that I was going to sell Christmas trees
online. I spent my spare time in the summer break learning to build a website,
making supplier contacts and the such. Christmas Tree Shop UK is an online
Christmas tree retailer, we take orders online and dropship fresh Christmas trees straight to the customer – as you will see this wasn’t the best most revolutionary idea ever but I have managed to take some nuggets of knowledge away from it.
So here goes, these are my 3 small and humble bits of advice that I can give:
1) Take action
Action is the only way you will ever learn and progress as an entrepreneur – this sounds obvious but I don’t see enough people doing it. There are so many
budding young entrepreneurs out there, according to StartUp Britain, 63% of
students are ‘now looking to start a business’. I assure you that the majority of
those students are not taking any action, why not? Without action a budding
young entrepreneur is, well, just young and budding.
People only remember those who took action and you can be almost certain that nobody will remember the person who had an idea but never took any action. Stop finding reasons not to do your idea and make it happen.
What are you waiting for? Get stuck in!
2) You don’t have to be the next Facebook
Shock! “You mean my idea doesn’t have to completely revolutionise the world?!”
Yep, that’s right. A lot of people seem to be caught up waiting for the right idea,
the idea that will rival the Googles and the Facebooks. However Zuckerberg and his room-mates didn’t initially set out with the intention of creating one of the most significant phenomena in the history of human communication and social life when they were messing about on computers in their dorm. Facebook type companies are obscurities, the majority of businesses do not achieve the same experience.

If you get too hung up on your idea surely you will never be able to complete
point number one and take action. Take my Christmas tree business as an
example, it is hardly the best idea. I only have about 3 weeks of trading per year meaning that if I mess up there is no time to correct it and anything I learn I have to wait a whole year before I can implement it. I can’t build the business very strong and the cash-flow is dreadful. Don’t even get me started on trying convince courier companies to deliver ‘live’ product and undelivered Christmas trees on Christmas eve.
The worst (or best) thing is that I soon realised it was a bad idea, but I carried on anyway almost soley for one reason, one of my mates advised something that stuck in my head when I was telling him my doubts, he said “You will learn a lot more by doing it than not.” Damn right.
So whilst I didn’t change the world a huge amount, make my billions or create
the next big thing, I did have a lot of fun, met a bunch of cool people and learnt a lot that I can take forward into my next business. As famous entrepreneur Brad Sugars says, ‘Your first business is usually just an apprenticeship for your second’.

3) Bootstrap, bootstrap, bootstrap!
I probably don’t need to tell students this but you can get a lot for very little
money these days. Especially if you’re willing to put a bit of time in. At the start I didn’t want to lay down several hundred pounds on a website for a business that might not even work. So instead I put in the time acquiring the skills to put one together myself, turns out it’s not that hard. Anything you need to know is out there, you have just got to go get it. I would recommend that you don’t spend any money before you really need to and before you know that it is going to pay off, there are always around spending.

So stop worrying about whether your idea is the ‘right one’ and take the action to implement it and learn. One thing a mentor said to me once was, “Just go out
there and get your hands as dirty as you can”.

Rich Edwards

Richard Edwards is a recent graduate of the University of Manchester, he now is building his start-up business.