Belfast Telegraph

Listen and learn

Starting your own business is a demanding process but it doesn’t have to be a painful one. Help is available, so be sure to make good use of it

By Ron Immink

For the last two months we have been immersed in building a start-up knowledge centre.

Based on threads, articles, questions and conversations we have had with the Smallbusinesscan community, we put all of that into a melting |pot which has resulted in a range of social learning modules in the area of starting and developing your business.

Over the next few months, we will have more entrepreneurs sharing their ‘war stories’, lessons and insights.

What did we find from our conversations, research and our own experiences? Well, the first question you should ask yourself is, are you nuts? You’re embarking on a long and sometimes lonely journey. There’s going to be a lot of pitfalls on the way.

Just as an example, only 50% of start-ups are still in business after 18 months and only 20% are in business after five years. It is the only job where you will feel the consequences of making wrong business decisions directly in your own pocket. And it hurts.

Second, are you up for it? Do you have the personality, stamina, focus and fire in your belly? Can you and your family face the uncertainty of no money coming in some months? Another cheerful statistic — entrepreneurs have a higher divorce rate. So take a little time out from the headlong rush to get started to check whether in fact your business is likely to work. Sure, you can't know for definite until you actually get started. But, in starting a business, as in many other things in life, it's more important to know where you're heading than to be getting there fast.

Take your time as once you decide to embark on the journey, the good news is that a really good idea will always find ways of getting finance.

The bad news is that a lot of ideas are just not good enough. The only true way to find out (and this is a hobby horse) is to sell. Selling is the best way of doing your market research, your fund raising and checking your feasibility.

And if you think that is difficult, try selling all day, every day, for the rest of your life in order to pay your staff, your overheads and, if you are lucky, yourself.

If you want to ‘sense-check’ your idea, get 24/7, 365 advice from entrepreneurs who have been where you are now.

Go have a look at the Smallbusinesscan start up knowledge centre. It is a bit of mouthful, but you will not be disappointed. And if you are willing to share your start-up ‘war stories’, insights, mistakes — much obliged. No need to all make the same mistakes again and again!

You can also hear from people who have ‘been there and done it’, and network with other start-up businesses at a series of events being planned by Ulster Bank in association with Smallbusinesscan.

There are some useful insights.

Ron Immink is founder of

Smallbusinesscan is a portal site for discussions, articles and advice on all kinds of financial, legal, HR and tech issues that face start-ups and other small companies.

Belfast Telegraph