by Simon Dolan, founder of Dolan Accountancy
On leaving school with virtually no qualifications, some people may well have written me off as someone with little prospects. Despite this, I have gone on to establish and grow a number of successful businesses across diverse industries including including accountancy, PR and even aviation.
It’s safe to say that I have had to overcome some barriers in my time, leading to considerable success – I sold my original accountancy firm for close to £100m. I have also invested in numerous businesses, leading to me being awarded the title ‘Twitter Dragon’ for my method of investing in fledgling business who have pitched to me in 140 characters.
In overcoming challenges along the way I’ve learnt that to have a chance of succeeding in business, there are core pieces of advice that I find useful to remind myself of and offer to any entrepreneurs starting on their journey:
1. Learn how to sell.
Almost everything in business is about sales – from persuading people to help you on your journey, to selling your first and millionth product. Whether it’s selling yourself or your product, you need to feel comfortable picking up the phone, crafting an email or creating a persuasive sales pitch.
2. Go for the niche.
You don’t want to enter a market that is overly saturated, but neither do you want to enter a niche that’s so tiny there’s no money there. Choose something relatively small without a lot of competition, as that’s where you’ll find success.
3. Accept your limitations.
You can’t be an expert at everything, so it’s important to know when to ask for help. Perhaps it is hiring a freelancer to help you with marketing or just an extra helping hand to pick up the phones? Think quality not quantity when it comes to staff. Building the right team makes all the difference, so make sure every member of your team shares your vision.
4. Learn when it’s not for you.
If you’ve tried all angles and you’re not getting anywhere then close it down. Know when it’s time to move on and try something else. Not every door will open for you and your goal is to find the one that does. It’s an important skill to be able to say when enough is enough.
5. Believe in yourself.
This is what will get you to high places. Being an entrepreneur is more of a calling than a career choice. Get up early and make the most of your morning. To give you an example, Richard Branson gets up at 5am and Apple’s CEO Tim Cook gets up at 3.45am. Plan out your day with a schedule and make an appointment for each task. You’ll gain more ground and suffer less from stress and procrastination.
6. Keep your overheads minimal.
If it’s not necessary, don’t spend a penny. Don’t get a personal assistant, an office, a printer or even advertising. A web page will work just fine for you until you get your client base.
7. Plan for cash flow challenges.
Try to always keep a month’s worth of expenses aside to a financial contingency plan for an unexpected events – you never know what could happen. Depending on your offering you could try and get clients to pay you a deposit upfront, or place funds in an Escrow account. Be prepared to chase invoices for payments where necessary and be very careful of debt – you don’t want to fall foul of one of the most common business killers.
8. Learn from other entrepreneurs.
It’s worth reading about who has successfully built a business from the ground up as well as listening to speeches or presentations from speakers that can inspire you. There will no doubt be times when your stress levels are high, so hearing from someone you respect can work wonders for your morale.
Businesses do not become profitable overnight and it takes a great deal of work and effort to succeed. However, that said, the rewards of running your can be enormous and you are in charge of your future – the sky really is the limit!
Simon Dolan’s success began with placing a £10 advert in a local paper when he was 22. After working from a kitchen table for five years, Simon opened the first office and the firm grew rapidly, becoming a market leader in the contractor accountancy sector. After leaving SJD which he sold in 2014 for £100m Simon Dolan started Dolan Accountancy in 2017. Simon had a desire to return to the industry and create a new brand to exploit the weaknesses of competitor firms.