Starting a business is much like working an allotment. You have a seed of an idea; you nurture it in a little clay pot until it struggles into the daylight; you stress about providing it with enough manure in the form of funding so that you can eventually transplant it into the wicked, wider world of the adult vegetable patch with all its attendant predators, parasites and pitfalls. With any luck your seed of an idea makes the journey from an innocuous looking seed into a strapping begonia which flowers annually with the minimum attention from you, allowing you to tend to other seeds or sit back and bask in the glory of your potato crop.
Often though, that process of business incubation is all too fraught and too many seeds of business ideas fall on the rough ground of customer disinterest or are devoured by the foxes of enterprises which are faster and more cunning than you when it comes to protecting the febrile business that is struggling into the daylight.
This book introduces various tips and tricks which are designed to help you start and protect that business of yours. It’s an allotment because your business – anyone’s business – cannot survive alone but needs other businesses of different shapes, types and flavours to flourish. An allotment allows for cross trading, cross fertilisation, mutual collaboration and the sharing of ideas in ways which might sound misplaced in the context of a cut and thrust, capitalist market place: but one thing all entrepreneurs know deep down is that they can’t do what they do alone.
They need the input of others, whether this be in the form of shovelling up the shite, digging protective trenches against the voracious slug or simply holding an umbrella over you as the sun burns down on your life long desires. They need manure – obviously – but also need a collection of sharp and blunt tools, good quality soil, an
absence of wasps nests and a good supply of that magical ingredient, water. So simple, so obvious and yet so mysterious – water is to the allotment what vision is to the business.
There’s no guarantee these tips and tricks will work; but if at the very least you can see your business start up as your very own allotment – and not your own private back garden – there is every chance your business will make it through the winter and be around next summer for you to sit in and admire your burgeoning brassicas.
Of course, starting up your business is also very much like trying to steer your life, irrespective of whether you’re in business or not. So, I hope this book helps you navigate your life as much as they are intended to help you tend your beautiful business idea.
Carla slumped into the chair at the end of a miserable day and looked despondently into her mirror. Her unique make up offer (Stickless Lipstick) was looking distinctly unimpressive: sales had slumped, her website designer had started to resemble the Jurassic Park Fat Controller and her overseas supplier had clearly decided to up sticks and move to the Himalayas for all the communication skills he was demonstrating. She wondered, not for the first time this week, this month or indeed this year, whether this new business start up business was all it was cracked up to be.
But this is all in a day’s work for the aspiring entrepreneur. There will be many days when sales suck, profits revert to losses and your products look pathetic. There’ll be days when the cliches fly thick and fast as you attempt to hold onto any motivational cliché you can summon up at two in the morning when the kids aren’t sleeping, your partner’s out boozing and the cash flow is freezing before your very eyes. ‘Dream It Large‘; ‘No Sleep Till Christmas; ‘Pull Out Your Hair Until Your Head Bleeds‘: will all come flooding into your consciousness and add to your general feelings of inadequacy and defeat.
But this is all fine and should be welcomed by the aspiring entrepreneur because after all, you’re allowed to have bad days: very bad days in fact. You’re allowed to feel a failure and not step up to other people’s plates and you’re allowed to disappoint as many people as you can before breakfast. Building your business is not about pleasing others but looking at yourself in that mirror and accepting yourself, warts, beauty spots and peculiar skin blemishes and all.
After a long days night of trawling around the internet, Carla subsequently found her own source of aspirational aphorisms to slow her to sleep and face the next day with renewed vigour and purpose in the form of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies.
‘Imagine a caterpillar moving‘ rekindled her internal locus of control; ‘Repetition is a form of change’ was a comforting reassurance that even the biggest thinkers of the era aka Albert Einstein can sometimes get it disastrously wrong; ‘Pay attention to distractions’ allowed her to stop obsessing with the orthodoxy that expects obsession: and ‘Disconnect from Desire’ jolted her into remembering that having a desire for your business is one thing but that sometimes desire can get in the way of allowing things to happen of their own volition.
Carla’s current fave track is Pharell’s HAPPY is fantastically infectious and a great incitement to keep your spirits up: but sometimes its OK to realise that there are very good reasons to be miserable about the state of your business. It won’t be the end of the world and it won’t be the end of your business, or indeed your life.
More tales from The Business Allotment here!
Clare is currently on holiday, sat at a Mediterranean hotel pool-side considering her next career steps. A long history of regular employment within the manufacturing industry has been a source of much stability and comfort; but increasingly as that industry gets leaner and meaner, she finds herself increasingly inside someone elses business, looking out at the possibility of setting up her own. A recent redundancy threat has focussed her attention substantially.
This move from long term employment to making something from nothing is a huge step for a fledgling entrepreneur who’s not spent the last 3 years at university on various boot camps, workshops or motivational seminars which are all geared up to the thrusting alpha (fe)male, hungry generation Y millenials who grew up in Thatcher’s Britain and know nothing other than cutting your opponents throat before wishing them to have a nice day. For Clare, and many others who are coming into business after a long time in employment, the thought of taking the next steps into self employment is riddled with uncertainty and doubt.
Today however she’s at the hotel pool-side, waiting for her kids to join her and as it’s still early, the pool has been undisturbed, it’s surface flat and as still as a mirror. She sits on the edge of the pool and slowly dips a toe in and out: and that small action sends out a series of ripples across the pool surface which travel undisturbed to the other side and from end to end. A ripple pattern shapes it’s way across the surface and before long she sees her small actions having a series of small but significant effects across the pool. She’s disturbed the status quo and nothing will be quite the same again.
Dipping her toe in and out of the pool is her first business move: the occasional phone call, the hesitant email, the chance meeting all combine to produce a series of actions which show the early business actions, reactions, causes, effects and consequences: all at a distance, someway removed from where she’s sat: but actions they are, and there’s no un-doing them. Her business is beginning to make ripples back in the UK and when she gets home, her second steps will be to make some bigger waves and reap the consequences of those first tentative toes in the water.
You can read more ‘Tips for Business Start Ups, Lessons for Life’ here.