Top Ten Business Tips for a start-up business: Mark Paddenburg, CEO

Firstly, before you even start planning your business, spending valuable time you could otherwise use to catch up with friends, surf or earn a salary, make sure you have the motivation and passion. The tips below refer to creating a business, not creating a job for yourself. A business continues to earn money even when you are not active in it, while clearly a job does not. The following tips are general points, which will apply in most cases – treat the tips as a check list before you really commit, but there are exceptions to every rule:
1. Be professional from the get-go. You now represent a business – everything about you and the way you do business needs to let people know that you are a professional running a serious business. That means getting all the tools you need and then network early and often. Have a strong 2 minute business elevator pitch ready to help tell your story.
2. Begin with the end in mind. Write a winning business plan, even if it’s just 2 pages. The business plan will help clarify objectives and viability. A tip from Steven Covey’s Seven Habits: when you know where you want to be with a business in 5 years you can plan how to get there from day one and you have a real chance to get where you want to be. With no defined and documented goals, how will you track your performance, drive your business and know when you are on target to reach your goals or not? Do some research (check out competition, ABS figures, Dragon’s Den, Google widely, etc) and to help avoid sinking your time and money into starting a business that may not succeed. Don’t keep your plan top secret – ideas are cheap it is auctioning them that makes the difference. Plus if you never talk to anyone about the idea or business plan you may miss a serious flaw or opportunity that
someone else would be able to see.
3. Get customers and sales early. Do a lean, minimal viable product and test it out on potential customers and friends. Get customers, early adopters, cash in – your business just can’t survive without them. Cash is king because until you collect the cash, you have not made a sale. Without sales = no cash, without cash = no cash-flow = soon no business. Really define who you are targeting: age, education level, income group, understand purchase patterns and motives. Then define how they will benefit from using your product. Can the benefit be quantified in terms of a monetary value. Then look at positioning your product to maximize those benefits and price your product accordingly. In sales you sell to two key emotions FEAR and GREED.
4. Get the legal and tax issues right the first time. It’s much more difficult and expensive to
unsnarl a mess afterwards. Learn what your legal and tax responsibilities are before you
start your business and operate accordingly.
5. Get a business mentor or advisor – identify and contact people who have the skills that can help you through the different phases of your start up. You need expert advice from people you can trust (or see the Entrepreneur in Residence @ the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast).
6. Time is a precious so get action oriented – you’re your own boss now, but you will need to be disciplined. Success will depend on your own merits. You’ll have to think for yourself. Take advice, but make your own decisions and quickly figure out the most efficient way to get your product or service to market. Be ready to pivot if you need to, have Plan B ready in case the worst scenario happens and expect the unexpected.
7. Hire the right people and don’t be a loan wolf. Know your strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with the team you need to make the business a viable success. Great companies are built on great management teams so get a loyal partner or 2IC in each venture to share the load and ensure you can get some down time.
8. Get the money lined up early and dilute if you need to. Save up if you have to. Approach potential investors and lenders with your business plan. Figure out your financial fall-back plan too. If you need external money to grow your business, be prepared to share the risks and rewards that come with your business. Selling shares or equity in your business involves dilution and it is a fact of life that it will happen in business if you need access to capital. So if your capital provider wants more than you want to sell for his stake, but you have no realistic current alternative take the money – accept the dilution. A smaller percentage of something funded is worth a lot more than 100% of something that’s not.
9. Be prepared to aim high, defy logic and lose your social life (at least temporarily). Start-up businesses are often fun, but do not do them for a lifestyle change, at least not immediately. You will need to put in long hours and lots of them to make the business work. It is not 9 to 5 and related to this an probably the most important tip:
10. Be passionate, enjoy the journey – it obviously helps if you do what you love. You’re going to devote a lot of time and energy to starting a business and building it into a successful enterprise, so it’s really important that you truly enjoy what you do… for the medium term anyway.
Mark Paddenburg is the CEO of the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast.

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One thought on “Top Ten Business Tips for a start-up business: Mark Paddenburg, CEO

  1. Hello! I found your post, and I just wanted to compliment you on your solid direction you offer. My clients are almost exclusively independent start-ups, and many of them could really have benefitted from reading this before they had began…Well done!

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