Why start a business

As you know for the last 3 months my postings have concentrated on giving some bite sized guidance to those thinking about going it alone. I hope I have at least given some assistance to a small number of you who found yourself reading the blog and thinking should I or shouldn’t I?

A recent comment from Martin Rushton has prompted me to make this post. Martin says don’t do it, well not in the UK at least I think is Martin’s view.

Martin is right, setting up your own business is not the easy option, but if you are thinking about setting up on your own you will no doubt have many and varying reasons for doing it, and it being the easy option is probably not amongst them.

I asked a newer client of my practice about setting up and why they did it. The client is Arena Rooms.Com. Arena Rooms is an online meetings and conference booking organization. Below are the questions I asked together with the unedited answers:

Q.  What made you set up Arena Rooms?

An opportunity to become financially independent (when successful) and mostly to show ourselves that we can turn our ideas into an actual business. Our time of life also means we wanted to try whilst still having the energy.

Q.   How did you come up with the idea of conferencing facilities at sporting venues?

We attended a business meeting where the hotel was difficult to find (we had to start late), car parking costs in excess of £650, the food and drinks were cold & expensive and there was minimal privacy, as there was a video presentation in the next room. We thought there must be a better way and with our links to UK football, we simply added the meeting & conferencing need to the fantastic sporting stadiums the UK now has.

Q.  What was the hardest part of getting Arena Rooms from an idea into a reality?

We thought it would be to convince the football clubs it was a good idea. But, they instantly agreed! The most challenging area in practice is showing customers that the facilities are less expensive then match day hospitality…there seems to be a perception that football facilities are very expensive, whereas, they are normally far less than a mid-priced hotel.

Q.  Even though it is still early days, what do you wish you had done differently?

We have been very fortunate to have a great accountant, bank and group of friends. Being of a certain age, your friends are usually in fairly senior roles and can help. We would have been clearer with our messages and more focused on our services (i.e. what we wouldn’t do…hotel rooms etc), if we were starting again.

Q.  What advice would you have for anyone else who has an idea to help them turn that into a reality?

Do your research, find out exactly how long things will take and find likely customers before you start. Ask everyone you know (and some people you do not) whether it’s a good idea and ask for straightforward feedback.

Q.  You took professional advice early on, why?

We wanted to fully understand the dynamics of starting a business, get a view of the things we hadn’t thought of and ensure we did things in an ethical manner (i.e. hadn’t missed something fundamental in the way we intended to do business).

Q.  How has taking professional advice helped?

It gave confidence that we were building the company infrastructure with solid foundations. It helped with establishing new contacts and sound boarding new ideas. It helped us understand what was a good deal and what wasn’t, from suppliers etc.

Q.  What would you say to someone worried about taking professional advice because of the ‘unknown’ cost involved?

Just like the perception of how much football stadium facilities cost to hire. Find out, agree a plan and get it in writing. Not having professional advice (particularly from an Accountant) can cost you more in the long run, especially if you try to register and record everything yourself. The online accounting software we were given access to, gives us a daily cash flow, profit & loss and trending information. It helps us understand how much risk we can take.

Q.  Moving forward, how important are your advisors in this process, if at all?

Our advisors are critical to us. They have a view of their specialist area that we do not, they have contacts that we do not and they have life experience that we do not. In the end, its about taking advise and making informed decisions rather than purely emotional ones.

As you can see, starting up from nothing in the UK can still be done, and many are doing exactly what Arena Rooms have done.

If you really want to run your own business here in the UK, no matter how small, find a good advisor to partner you and support you with the knowledge they have built up over many years, and if you can’t find someone local, call me and let’s see if together we can’t make your dream a reality, just like Arena Rooms have done.

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