Eyes Wide Open

I have been running my own business for over 7 years now, and want to reflect on what I have learned over this time.

Firstly, I'd like to take a moment to thank all the people who inspired me, and gave me their time and knowledge willingly and generously, when I was just starting out doing my reflecting, planning and research.

I frequently deliver "Starting Your Own Business" workshops, both face-to-face and virtually, for LHHPenna, and in these sessions I aim to share my journey with others and hopefully inspire and provide useful guidance.

At LHHPenna we refer to three stages as part of an overview to starting your own business:

  1. Reflecting - what’s it really like to run your own business?
  2. Planning - how do you plan for a successful launch?
  3. Doing - what should you do once you’ve actually launched?

My advice is that these three stages are a useful structure to follow to ensure that you go into running your own business with your "eyes wide open". However, I would also say that in all of these stages and beyond, research plays a key role to ensuring you have a successful business.


Starting out, you need to consider your reasons for wanting to run your own business. For each one of you there could be lots of different reasons. For me, it was about doing what I loved, while still being able to be a mum to my daughter; and to be my own boss and decide when I worked and when I didn’t! Whatever your reasons, you need to have something that is driving you, as it will be a significant change in your life that you need to be prepared for. Reflect and consider what it is that's motivating you, what your strengths are, and what will differentiate you and your business from the competition. As part of your research you may need to ask others that you trust for their opinions.

The well-known saying “Fail to plan; plan to fail” applies in starting your own business. Therefore my advice in regards to some of the planning and research you will need to do, is this:

  1. Consider all the different business skills you will need to know, learn or outsource! The best piece of advice I was given was to get a good accountant. Get recommendations from people - think about the type of support or services you want from your accountant and how you like to work.
  2. Have you tested your business idea? This is where further research comes in. Research and know your market - is it growing or shrinking? Who else is in the market? What are they doing? How likely is it that your market will become saturated? What political, economic, social and technical factors may impact your market? What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
  3. Can you articulate what the purpose of your business is? Can you do this simply enough that even your child could understand?
  4. How will you market your business? What elements of the marketing mix will you use? My tip for you is to consider who your customers will be, and where would they normally go to buy your type of service and/or product; that’s where you need to be.
  5. Make full use of your network! My business has come from my network, contacts and referrals. It is amazing how powerful networking can be.
Once you have launched your business, it is important to be able to turn your prospects into actual sales, to generate an income, and to ensure you continue to generate an income and have a pipeline of clients. Running your own business means you are less likely to have that monthly income coming into your bank account unless you have put the planning and preparation in! You need to keep a close eye on your finances and continue to research and be ahead of your market. Many small businesses fail due to poor cash management. Continue to invest in yourself and your business to maintain and grow that successful business. To sum up:

Realise that running a successful business takes plenty of planning and preparation;

Aspire to have a successful business that delivers solutions to your customers needs; and

Do what you're passionate about, come alive, and take that big, bold step into self-employment!

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