Last Wednesday evening I was invited to deliver a presentation at the Hammersmith and Fulham Enterprise Club about my experiences in setting up Computer Angels. My audience was made up of some 90 or so entrepreneurs who are either running or thinking of starting their own businesses. Rather than bore my audience by talking solely about my own journey, I tried instead to pass on the principles the differentiate businesses that last from those that fail.
It helped that just by being there, my audience were showing that they were prepared not just to work late into the evening, but also to learn before leaping. In the UK small business failure rates are highest in the first year of trading, sometimes because people underestimate the capital required, but also because they have failed to get their product or marketing strategy right, or else have underestimated the sheer hard work involved, or come to that any one of a dozen other reasons.
In short, they've failed to do their homework. And here am I in front of 90 motivated individuals, and it occurs to me that I AM their homework.
The truth is that it’s a real slog running your own business. You’re the one the buck stops with. You’re the one who is never really on holiday. You’re the one who doesn't get paid when you have a bad month. And yet here’s a room full of people who want to be where I am.
One of the reasons I was invited to give this presentation was because of our recent Brilliant Business Awards award. This fitted in quite well with my theme because if there was one message I wanted to get across it was that a small business depends upon its customers, and that social media now means that communication with your customers is a two way street. Not only does it mean that poor business will suffer because of poor review, but also that once in a while a satisfied customer will take the time and trouble to do something wonderful, like nominate you for an award. So whoever you were, thank you.
I hope my audience got something useful out of my talk. I certainly did – looking out across my audience I got to realise just how far we have come. That actually what we've achieved is something substantial. We employ seven people full time and two part time. We contribute to the economic well-being of the country not just by paying tax, but by enabling our own employees to go out and spend their earnings on products and services that in turn allow other to keep their jobs. In short we play our part along with thousands of other small business in providing the life-blood that keeps this country’s economic heart beating. And we do all this only because our customers allow us to do so by coming back.
You can download the presentation here.