If you are looking to read a practical book about starting a business then this is the book for you. First-Time Entrepreneur by Kirsty Knight outlines what is involved in starting a business and being an entrepreneur from Kirsty’s point of view. In the book’s introduction, Kirsty writes about how her mindset prevented her from seeing herself as a true entrepreneur despite being self-employed and now that she runs a small profitable business she wants to help us start a business and avoid some of the mistakes she made.
This book has just 120 pages, six chapters, an introduction, conclusion and next steps session. Following is a brief review of each chapter.
QUICK CHAPTER OVERVIEW
Chapter 1 introduces how Kirsty started her business, discussing the type of business she launched with her partner, how she got of the ground and some of the initial challenges she faced. She also explores the advantages and disadvantages of having your own business.
In Chapter 2 Kirsty deals with marketing. She makes it clear that good marketing is absolutely essential for any business. In talking about marketing she emphasizes the necessity of knowing what solutions your business provides, the niche it serves and who your idea client is. After all, you can’t meet the needs of everyone. She then moves on to the messaging you will use to promote your business, the mediums you will use, such as social media and the kind of content you will create to help people be aware of what you offer and how it can benefit them. She also takes some time to explore the process of measuring and tracking your marketing efforts. She emphasizes that, you don’t want to waste time and money on things that don’t work.
Chapter 3 titled titled, The Early Days of Your Business, is focused on how you can continue to build your business in its early days. She writes about the importance of understanding every aspect of your business in the early days. Not only can this save costs but when you decide to outsource tasks, you have a better knowledge of the standards you expect. Key questions to think about from this chapter are, how will you get feedback that can help you to improve your business? How will you respond to market changes? How do you decide when to do something yourself or outsource it?
Chapter 4 – Investing in yourself. The journey of starting and building a business is a learning one. Kirsty made the mistake of trying to figure out everything herself when she started. That can be painful. Since you are the most valuable asset in your business, then you must invest in yourself and keep learning. Areas to learn about according to Kirsty include, product/service creation, marketing, sales, finance, organisation, legal issues, customer service and leadership. Even after understanding those you must keep on learning. Working with a business and life coach can help and don’t forget to track your development.
Chapter 5 – Creating a business not a job: Very good advice from Kirsty here. Make sure you are not creating a job instead of a business. Kirsty was excited to start her business and she put so much energy into growing it but she now had so much to do, she reached the point of burn out. Her business had become a job. Kirsty has some advice about how to deal with this issue. Have a clear vision about what you want your business to be like and reassess it often, place value on yourself and not just making money, set boundaries, prioritise self care and plan your work so you are more productive.
Chapter 6 – Your mindset is everything: Our mindset will impact how we run our business, especially when you face tough business challenges, so managing our emotions and thoughts are crucial. Kirsty outlines five mindset areas that are important for business owners to manage, which are, overwhelm and lack of time, fear of failure, money beliefs, procrastination and doubt and fear of failure.
The book ends with a short conclusion with Kirsty reminding us that she wrote this book to help us learn from her lessons and mistakes and she believes that if she can run a successful business, so can you.
10 PERSONAL LESSONS
Following are 10 personal lessons I curated from the book.
- Use existing skills and resources: Find a business idea that utilizes the skills and resources you already have. Kirsty and her partner had skills related to building. Also, her dad was experienced in building too, so they were able to launch quick when the opportunity came. I doubt if they could have got the business of the ground with the speed in which they did it if they didn’t already have the skills and resources.
- Try it now and not tomorrow: Don’t wait to launch until you have everything in place. Kirsty advertised her idea and got interest from a potential customer. At that point she didn’t even have the product she advertised set up. The good thing was they had the right skills and resources to put up the product quick. Don’t wait till you have it all made, try it out now with what you have in place.
- Don’t close your eyes to marketing: Invest in a marketing strategy from the onset of your business. Questions that will help you build a good marketing strategy if you answer them clearly are:
- What results are you selling? Ultimately customers buy results, solutions and experiences and not products or services.
- Who are you selling it to? What is your niche and who is your idea client?
- How are you speaking to your customers? What is your messaging?
- What will you be telling your customers? What content will you be putting out there?
- How will you get customers to buy from you? What conversations will you be having with them that will influence them?
- How will you get your message to your customers? What mediums and platforms will you use?
- How will you track, measure and evaluate your marketing efforts?
- Value and seek feedback: Find ways to get feedback about your product and be flexible to apply feedback to improve your product when necessary. Some ways to get good feedback are to, use your own product and seek for feedback by asking good open questions. You can do market research also to see what is happening in your market. Be sure to respond to customers if they give a poor review about what you offer. Don’t ignore such reviews, respond to them.
- Don’t do everything: Strike a balance between doing everything in your business and hiring in help. In the beginning when resources are limited, you may find yourself doing everything. There are advantages to this. It will save you money and also give you an overall understanding of all the operations that run your business. But don’t overdo it. If there are operations necessary to your business that you don’t understand and are unwilling to learn about then you may need to pay for such services. These may be services related to legal areas, financial management, technology and registration of patents and copyrights.
- Learn, learn and learn some more: Starting a business is like going back to school. It is a learning journey and you must continually invest in yourself. The growth and success of your business will be affected by your level of development.
- Value yourself: Think about how you want to work in your business. Do you want to work every given hours of the day day or do you want to reach a situation where as the value of your business goes up you are not working unreasonable hours. Working hard is not the same as working smart. Preferably you should be working smart. Have a clear vision that details what you want your business to be and look like. Find ways to automate tasks where you can, and manage time wisely. Have daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual plans so you are clear about what outputs you want to achieve. Set work boundaries and take care of yourself. You are your business’s most valuable asset, if you burn yourself out doing it all yourself, you may end up having no business at all.
- Review: Take the time to review what you have achieved based on your plans at the end of every week and then plan for the next week.
- Check your mindset: Your mindset in business will affect the success of your business because it will affect how you behave. If you overwhelm yourself by with what you need to do in your business you may end up dreading the work everyday and developing a negative mindset. You will face things in business that discourage but you must develop a mindset that says ‘i’m in control and though it will take time, I will overcome this’. Don’t let a negative mindset get in the way of your success.
- See failure as an opportunity: In your business you will inevitably face failure and challenges but how you define failure matters. If you see failure as a dreadful experience and something tobe ashamed of, that will affect the way you deal with failure. But if you see it as an opportunity to learn, grow and become better, that mindset will serve you and your business well.