Get a trusted mentor. Having a mentor from day one will really fast-track your progress and provide an insurance policy against inexperience. This mentor should ideally be of the same moral compass as yourself – and listen to your gut here.
Be kind to yourself. Celebrate the small victories along the way. Apply the 80/20 principle in all areas.
It’s simple: just do it. Don’t over think it. If I had kept weighing up the pros and cons, I would never have started. So, if there’s an opening, if there’s a gap in the market – if you see an opportunity, then just go for it.
Beattie: Hang in there, that’s a big one. Hang on while that horse is bucking and jumping around. Try and make friends in the local area – it’s great to have support. With networking, you can support each other, so getting those connections and friendships is important. Social media is a really big help in our industry, especially now because when people want to know something about a business, they often check Facebook. Have an imagination about what you can achieve, but also be able to bring some of your ideas down to a doable thing.
David: You must be very driven. Your business needs to be your passion. Try to find all possible avenues of getting the word out there for your product. If you can, think slightly longer term, then hopefully you can last the distance over the first five years. You need to be realistic about goal setting as well. And it’s good if you have family support and a good support network.
Make sure it’s really what you want to do. It’s always good to have some funds behind you when you’re starting out. I didn’t when I first started – I borrowed some money off my brother to get started, but it would’ve been better if I had that myself. The longer he was in the business, the more I had to pay him back.
Make sure you set up correctly when you start.
Having the right team is also really important. You don’t want to roll staff over. You have to look after them. Pay above award wages and make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for.
Don’t think about your business, think about the end user of whatever you are producing. So many businesses look inwards rather than looking from the perspective of their client. It’s not about us, it’s about what our client wants and needs. The world is becoming more niche; you don’t have to appeal to everyone. Think about marketing to specific businesses. People are so scared of focusing. Don’t be.
Look after people and help them as much as you can. If you can’t do something, don’t say you can do it. The goal is not a one-off sale – business is about repeat business. Form relationships with your customers, listen to them, and treat them well.
You’ve got to be in it to win it. If you think something is going to work, just have a crack at it. Who thought putting poo in a bag would pay for a wedding?
Do your research. I engaged with the New England Gardeners page and chatted with Lou Forsythe. Lou was really influential in keeping me going throughout the drought.
You need to be open to being a bit versatile, especially at first. We only offered bags to start with, then we started offering loose trailer loads. Not just because people want larger quantities, but some people would rather avoid using bags. Our bags are biodegradable, but ideally, we would like to source a compostable bag. So being open to change is important.
Google how to do it! This isn’t such a bad idea these days, but should be done with caution. My generation didn’t have such open access to information about starting up any sort of business. More seriously, I think it’s important to find a mentor – find experienced people who can steer you in the right direction. A mentor and joining business and professional groups can open doors to opportunities for business growth and increasing your own knowledge base. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That’s where you gain your own experience and can learn and grow in the business. Along with that, don’t be afraid to ask questions. While none of us have all the answers, if we share, we all grow.
Seek advice. Get in touch with people who have done it before and are doing it successfully. Have pride in your business, but don’t be too proud to seek out knowledge from other people because it’s so valuable.
Start small and realise you have got to put in the hours at markets in the rain and have disappointing days. Work your way up so you’re constantly putting money back into your business. Don’t try to go full tilt from day one – work your way there slowly. I only ever intended to do one market a month, but it became quite popular and before I knew it, I was working in this shop. Keep your goals realistic in the short term, and every time you reach your goal set a new one.
You need to financially look after yourself, pay yourself a reasonable wage, make sure you have a super plan worked out. I really try to manage for my retirement as best possible and can see the fruits of that hard work maturing soon.
There is always a price to pay working for yourself. There is not always much of a personal life, and you need to be fit and healthy to stay on top of your game.
Eat well, keep healthy. Try and switch sleep is one of the biggest things: for any important job, you have got to get sleep. Don’t be afraid to take criticism. Know that if you give your best, that it is all you can do.
When you make a decision don’t delay, just get on with it! A business plan is important. Don’t be afraid to ask others what they think, even If they are far removed from your line of work.
I’m really good at pushing paperwork to the side and letting it pile up. So my biggest piece of advice is not to do that! Once you have the paperwork sorted, getting out there and networking, going to community events where you can meet people is probably the number one thing to do.
Know what you are getting into. It’s important to have an understanding of the hidden aspects of the business – the legal side and the accounting side, so make sure you get good advice.
You need to be prepared to ride through the highs and lows because no business is entirely clear sailing – you need to keep focused on the long term. When you hit a hurdle, it’s important to look at the options carefully and decide on the way forward – there’s generally a solution for any problem. Sometimes it takes you out of your comfort zone, but in the end that’s how the business grows and succeeds.
Also, it’s important to focus on communication – from the top down and the bottom up. All members of the team have a voice and that’s where the best parts of the business grow from. And the communication goes further than that: it’s important to maintain good and open communication with all of our customers.
Be prepared. Not every day is going to be easy, but they do come from time to time, so take the good ones when you have them. And don’t be afraid to ask for help because you’re probably going to need it at some stage. I’m lucky that I have got supportive parents who have a background in small business and are so eager to help me out.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You will get the ups and downs but if you’re doing something different that you care about, and you’re doing it well, people will get behind it.
Focus on the basics, the small things matter. Before you commit to running a business, do your research. Ask yourself if it is sustainable. You need to understand what is involved on many levels – you really need to know about the financial side of things and how much time you are going to need to put in. You need to be realistic about your capabilities and when you hit an obstacle, have faith that you will overcome it. The money will come. I think falling in love with your accountant is also important!
To have the confidence that it will work and then do the work to get there. When I was starting out, I questioned throughout the whole process and worried whether people would come and what I would do if no one came. Confidence is built with experience and time, so just push forward.
Chris: Love what you do but at the same time realise that it all doesn’t just fall into your lap. If you love what you do, you will be willing to put in the time to make it succeed.
Tarryn: Perseverance is important. For most people starting out in business, it doesn’t happen overnight. Have a good idea of what you want to achieve and make sure you get advice or look at how others have set up. Also, be willing to keep on learning – there’s always something new or a different viewpoint to consider. People who love what you do will find you.
Plan! Plan well, keep yourself open to opportunities and don’t overextend yourself. You also need to be good at what you do and then back it up with really good customer service. People really respond to that. If you don’t have that right, you may as well close your doors. In our case, we also focus on fast and efficient turnaround while offering really good value.
The most important thing is to do your homework before you start. Ask yourself if the business is viable or if there are too many competitors in the market already. Also, you need to be clear about your financial backing – you need to be realistic and realise that, unless you are really lucky, business will be fairly slow when you start out. And you really do need to be honest about your capabilities – ask yourself, ‘am I good at what I do?’
If you’re starting up a family-based business, try not to mix the business and family – it is really important to separate the business from the personal.