By David Shiell, partner and CEO of House of Kaizen

If my twelve years as an entrepreneur and at the helm of fast-growing marketing agencies have taught me anything, it’s that entrepreneurs need to hold up a mirror to themselves and never stop scrutinising their efforts.

Have you questioned why you’ve chosen this path? Ever asked, would you even want to be your own boss? Your time is valuable, why spend it doing something that statistically will probably fail! Then have you ever wondered how risk averse you are, really? What are you willing to sacrifice? Income, security, relationships? How do you respond to stress and cope in an emergency? How do you cope outside your (discipline) comfort zone?

It may sound gruelling and it will dissolve any ego you once had but these are all vital questions which every business owner needs to address before even embarking on starting up a company.

Here’s my top seven lessons learned with the benefit of hindsight:

  1. When it comes to expenditure early on, you’ve got to be a scrooge when it comes to general business expenses. Just focus on the essential services, the rest can wait.

Equally, ensure you don’t scrimp on professional advisors, by investing in the best accountants, lawyers that you can afford. It will be worth it in the long run.

  1. Overestimate the importance of tight cash flow and debtor/creditor management.
  2. Stay fit. Starting up can be gruelling. Long hours. Too much coffee. It feels like a constant sprint. It’s not, it’s a marathon. Ensure endurance by allowing some time for exercise each day. Your mood will be more level and your decisions will improve.
  3. Don’t be a hoarder (of ideas), be an educator and delegate work as the company grows, to ensure the company scales.
  4. Which comes first; Growth or Profit? Profit is still King! In Clayton Christensen’s book The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth, he talks about being “patient for growth but impatient for profit”. Many start-ups focus on acquiring as many new users/clients as possible but in reality, you are better to have a razor focus and do one thing really well and profitably. Growth will follow.
  5. There is no such thing as good or bad luck, just taken or missed opportunities. Network a lot! You will be surprised how powerful a solid network can be at opening opportunities to you. That means ‘real’ contacts and not the 1000+ you have on LinkedIn!
  6. If you feel things are moving along comfortably, you’re not pushing hard enough. I have a mantra: “Never sit still!” Always innovate and push yourself. There is a tendency to become risk adverse the more successful the business becomes. You fear losing all you have achieved. But doing nothing is a sure fire way to fail!