Business Life Lessons

5 lessons I learned early in running my own business

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I grew up in a middle-class family in India. My mum was a teacher and dad worked for the government. They made sure that we always had food on the table and we went to a good school.

I moved to Australia when I was 22 years old in 2009, and since then have started 3 businesses. I have no business background and my parents always focused on education as a means to success in life.

If you’re curious?—?No, I did not succeed in the first go nor did I make millions. I sold my first business (teaching English) for $3,000 after 8 months. A couple of years later, I started a coffee roasting business where the rewards were a bit higher. And shortly after that, I opened a cafe where the rewards were significantly higher.

Although I still consider myself an amateur; there are some valuable lessons I’ve learnt along the way and it will definitely help if you’re thinking of starting a business.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”3607″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Do not wait for the perfect time

There is no better time to start a business. The best time to start a business was yesterday. I waited too long to start my second business. I was always busy. I had to go to the gym, work, movies, cooking, outing and if I had some spare time I’ll create something to keep myself busy.

The older you get, the busier you get. If you are married, you already have commitments beyond your bachelor life. And if you have kids, I bet you’ll not find time to eat your dinner peacefully.

Want to start a business? Start NOW.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

You do not need a billion dollar idea

Every time I speak to youngsters and aspiring entrepreneurs, all they want is to make a billion dollars. Million dollars is so yesterday.

I recommend — start with a real-life problem and try to solve it. Look at Airtasker; a simple idea turned into a multi-million dollar business. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to start something small and learn from your mistakes, so you can prepare yourself for something big in future?

When I started the cafe business, believe me making coffee was the last thing I worried about. There were so many other things that I had to learn first such as dealing with hundreds of customers, dozens of suppliers, lawyers, accountants and managing staff.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Invest in people

You can run a great business by yourself, but if you ever want to scale; then invest in people. Hire right employees to run your business and pay them what they deserve. Make a list of attributes you want in your staff (both attitudinal and skill level) and interview them based on that.

We hired highly talented baristas who would never talk to the customers. They will occasionally nod at them while making coffees. What do you think happened? We lost customers one by one. People don’t come to a cafe just for the coffee; they come for a chit-chat, some music and smiley faces. The overall cafe experience was more important to people than just quality coffee. Shortly after we hired a couple of bubbly baristas with average skills and trained them. They will always greet customers with a smile and talk until they left. Guess what happened? Our sales skyrocketed within a month.

Also, treat all your staff equally and with respect. Every time they called me a boss, I’d say “I’m not your boss. You don’t work for me, you work with me.” Even a small change in your attitude can buy you years of loyalty.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Have a passion for learning

The way I see it?—?running a business is like going to a university where I invest money to learn skills on-the-job.

Apart from the core skills to operate a business, I had to learn so many things I was uncomfortable with. I had to learn accounting best practises, reading legal contracts, tax implications, dealing with the local councils and managing those awkward pay rise discussions with employees.

Without such learnings, you cannot run a business successfully. You need to be comfortable with all sorts of things thrown at you, adapt quickly and respond on time.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Keep an eye on finances

I’ve made this mistake not once, but three times. For some reason, we kept forgetting that every dollar had a tax percentage attached to it.

We would just keep buying more and more stuff for the business without putting aside some cash for the tax time. We always assumed the tax would be a small amount and we can get over with it. This wasn’t the case.

We had a (cheap) book-keeper fresh out of the college who would reconcile our books at the end of each month or sometimes every two months. By the time he did his work, we were already too late in tracking our financial performance. In March first week, we’d realise how we screwed up the numbers in January and went into tax debt in February. At one time, we racked up a tax debt of $21,000 and it took us nearly 11 months to pay it off. Plus dealing with the tax office is another fun ride. Try convincing them that you’ll pay off the debt without selling your kidney.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Final thoughts

Entrepreneurship is a challenging journey with good rewards. Treat your business as a place of learning and developing your skills. Do not aim to hit a jackpot in your first attempt. But if you do?—?Brilliant! Do share your story.