ACORNS – a fantastic developmental programme to support female entrepreneurs starting their own enterprises in rural areas – is currently looking for 50 new participants.
To mark the closing date for applications, which is next Friday, September 21, Martha Kearns takes a look at eight key lessons she took away from being an ACORNS participant and has since implemented at StoryLab.
What’s your vision?
While we frequently write vision documents and vision statements for our clients, I always felt they were really only for bigger organisations and not for an SME. But after spending months defining and redefining our vision statement and looking at what constitutes success, I am totally convinced it is one of the first things you should consider when setting up a business. If you don’t know where you are going, how are you going to get there?
There is a difference between management and leadership
Just because you are managing a staff of 50/100/200 people, doesn’t mean you can run a business. There is a lot more to running a business than management of people (although that is really important) so really think about the skills you have and what you are getting yourself into before you take the plunge.
My Lead Entrepreneur on ACORNS Plus, which was a further development programme after ACORNS, was Heather Reynolds of the hugely successful Eishtec. Heather told us never to sit back, to always innovate and introduce new services. “Your job is to put yourselves out of business,” was her advice. This has led to us introducing new services over the past year such as video and graphic design and her voice will be in my ear as we continue to innovate and change into the future.
What constitutes success to you?
This is related to your vision statement, but you need to set down what constitutes success to your business in two, five and ten years’ time. This can include financials, growth, performance etc. but it needs to be established now and measured at those milestones in order to truly know if you are being successful. Pin down measures of success and work everything back to there.
Network, network, network
I have never been to an event – the ACORNS forums included – that has not resulted in us gaining business from it. If you are asked to speak at events by groups such as your local LEO or Chamber of Commerce, just say ‘Yes’; the return on investment will be worth it.
Be true to your values
Sometimes a client will ask you to do something and you just say ‘Yes’ even if it’s not within your abilities or core to your business. This might work out and become a new stream of business for you – or it might not, and you are stuck doing something you are not comfortable with. Be careful not to be dictated to by your customers. Always be true to what your values are.
Keep an eye on the cash
Always know what you are owed, what you owe and ensure the cash flow is working for the business. If you are not getting paid, then you are not running a business – it’s just a hobby.
Probably one of the most important things you have to be when starting a new business is to be passionate about what you are selling. Believe in your business, believe in yourself. If it becomes a chore, it’s probably not working for you. Care about what you do, about the results you get for your clients/customers – and always love getting into work in the morning.
We hope these will give insights into what ACORNS could do for your new business and inspire you to apply for the initiative. Check out ACORNS for further details.