Ellie Doyle is a well known and well respected recruiter on the Irish jobs scene.
Having built her profile working with leading recruitment agencies in London and Dublin, she decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship in 2015, launching specialist digital and technology agency TalentHub.
Here are Ellie’s 7 tips for budding entrepreneurs.
1. Don’t just do it for the money!
If the only reason you are setting up a new business is for the payday at the end, don’t!
There is nothing wrong with having the commercial acumen to identify a great opportunity that will earn you a serious amount of money at the end, but if this is the sole reason, it will be an uninspiring journey along the way.
If you have ever watched TV shows The Apprentice, or Dragon’s Den, you will notice that if the investors just can’t get passionate or excited about the product or service, they don’t invest. And they don’t have to work in the business on a daily basis.
You will spend a very large amount of your waking life in your business, so you have to enjoy it.
2. Go into business with people you trust.
Whether you are a sole trader, partnership, limited company or whatever structure you adopt, align yourself with people you have absolute faith and trust in.
Lorraine Fretwell (MD of TalentHub) and I had previously worked together for a very long time, and so we knew that one would always pick up the baton for the other. By extension, we have a fantastic team that we trust and go the extra mile to deliver on company goals.
Whilst you are busy building your empire, you will be hit with personal curveballs you did not anticipate, whether these are serious (such as health problems or a bereavement) or simply short term inconveniences (childcare issues, office gets flooded), you need to surround yourself with people who will step up when required and give your customers a seamless experience if you can’t be available for any reason or if there is a crisis in either your personal or business life.
3. Whatever money you think you will need….Double it! And then double it again. (And again)
I’m smiling as I write this particular point – thinking back to the first ever P&L forecast we created for our investors. The word naïve is probably an understatement.
Armed with a ton of energy and ambition, potential entrepreneurs often base their forecasting and cash flows on keeping the costs as low as possible and being overly optimistic on the returns. And then reality hits.
We were so lucky to have highly experienced investors on board, who gently advised us that the figures we predicted would only ever lead to a lifestyle business – we would still have done well operating as a two-person team, but it wouldn’t be a business that could scale.
If you are serious about growing a business, you will have to invest in systems, people, infrastructure and marketing that has a medium to long-term ROI.
We learned that ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ is a very true mantra, whether that be your CRM system, your staff salaries or your offices.
4. Find Advocates, Mentors and Allies
In the same way you build an internal team you trust, you should also find a collection of advocates what will help. We have forged and maintained great relationships with C-Suite-Level mentors who come to our board meetings and offer their perspective.
We have also built a network of ‘friendly rivals’ in the recruitment community where we meet regularly and share insights and best practices.
Identify your advocates and look at how you can help each other out, they will be an important asset as you grow your business from ground zero.
5. Build the culture you want
As a business owner, you need to set this from day one. Allow people to bring their whole selves to work, but you set the culture. Make sure you communicate it when hiring – we created a deck that showed what a TalentHub person looks like and we openly shared it every time we met a potential hire.
Many of our clients share their Culture and Values model with us, and we screen not only for functional skills, but for these competencies and personality types. No matter how great a potential hire may be from a skills and experience perspective, if you don’t factor in culture it will inevitably lead to a costly, short-term hire.
Set your values statement and culture, and make sure you hire around it.
6. Let people be autonomous.
It’s tempting in startup land to insist on doing everything yourself but you will just frustrate your staff.
We have met a huge number of fantastic candidates over the years who approached us because, whilst they loved the product, the micro-management by the business owner was de-skilling them. You need to empower your employees, and as the phrase goes – ‘Leaders Hire Leaders, Not Followers’.
Respect your employees and understand that they have ambitions and career goals, and you should facilitate these if you want them to stay with you as you build your business.
7. And a few final quick points:
Adapt quickly to any changes in the business or in your customer markets – don’t be afraid to alter your strategies or pivot when you need to. Read the Spencer Johnson book ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ – It’s an easy but brilliant read showing why it’s so important to adapt to change (quickly!)
Listen to your staff and respect them, embrace all feedback and encourage them to be honest with you – as a business owner you will view things from your own point of view so it’s essential to get an external perspective.
Remember that whilst your business may be your number one passion, your staff have a life outside of work (and so should you!). They will be much more productive if they feel refreshed due to a good work-life balance.