I needed LinkedIn to remind me that it is seven years exactly since I was thrown out of corporate life and dedicated myself full time to Great Escape Cars. It's been an interesting trip.
Here's what I've learned.
1. Dedication's what you need
There are plenty of statistics laying bare the success rate of new businesses. Most commentators infer from the low survival rate that the ideas weren't good enough or the planning and preparation was poor. I disagree. The main guarantee of business success, in my limited experience, is determination. Giving up is easy: carrying on takes guts and stamina. Very few business ideas fly like eagles from the nest - they need driven and they need moulded and adapted.
2. Be dependent on as few external organisations and people as possible
Any fledgling business risks being buffeted and blown about by outside interests, whether that's banks, staff or investors. As far as practical, try to rely on as few of them as possible. In the early days, and ideally as the business matures too, you want to be in control. Nobody believes in and is as committed to your business as you are. And everyone else has other priorities.
3. Think & Rethink
Very few ideas arrive fully formed and destined for sure-fire success. Long term success is about having a decent shot at a good idea in the first place and then refining it. As you trade you learn and the landscape you operate in changes. You need to change with it. My business is very different from the one I started.
4. Be Your Own Boss
Of course, it's a given. But in business lots of people will try to tell you what's right and wrong or tell you a better way to do things. These include competitors, customers, suppliers, friends, family and business partners. Learn to sort the wheat from the chaff - learn where you need help, ignore the rest.
5. Take a Break
Building a small business is tough and stressful. It can be hard or seemingly impossible to get away from it. Do. You will serve your business better by working less hours more effectively. You are your own task master.
6. Plan Your Exit Route
Be honest with yourself about why you're doing it. You may want to get rich or you may want to escape the 9-5. Whatever it is, be clear. Then decide how and when you plan to get out. If you haven't got an exit you haven't really got a goal. And you're trapped.
7. Build a good team
One of the most satisfying parts of running a business is creating a good team around you. This takes time. It also takes good leadership, which I admit I'm still learning. You want people around you who share your priorities and interests. I am very proud of the people who work for my business.
About Great Escape Cars
I created the business in December 2006 as an antidote to corporate life. I started with two classic hire cars. I ran the business as a hobby until 2009, when I was made redundant and went onto it full time. We now employ 10 full time staff plus a team of 7 part-timers, operating across several the hire, film, event and workshop markets. The business model has been changed and refined constantly - and still is.
As well as the above 7 rules I have a very understanding and supportive wife.
Find out more at www.greatescapecars.co.uk