Starting your own business: sizing up the start up dream

Thinking of starting your own business? Dream of start up success? London Sock Company’s co-founder Dave Pickard shares some of his lessons and takeaway realities from the past five years.

I remember reading ‘The Four Hour Work Week’ by Tim Ferris and thinking a lot of it sounded a little too good to be true. Well, five years into my own adventure I can honestly say starting a business has been chaotic, terrifying, exciting and pretty much all-consuming.

Since co-founding London Sock Company in 2013 there has barely been one minute to breath, let alone write a blog. But I’ve always felt like my experiences and the lessons I’ve learned (and am continuing to learn!) might be something worth sharing with others. If my insights or mistakes help someone else out there launch their own venture, solve a business problem, or simply decide that embarking on a start up isn’t for them, then I’ll feel like I’ve achieved something.

Starting your own business is liberating and empowering, but it is far from simple. It is easy to see being an entrepreneur through rose-tinted glasses – be your own boss and become the next start-up success story – but the reality is that takes insane amounts of hard work and dedication, and requires serious sacrifice. WIP here – I’ll let you know when we get there!

So, thinking of starting out own your own? Here are some of my key takeaway realities from the past five years.

Hit the ground sprinting

Queue sporting reference… Starting a business felt a bit like coming on as a cold substitute, late into an already frantic match. I think you can do as much preparation as you like, but once you put yourself out there with no other job or income, you know you’ve got a limited runway to make as big an impact as you possibly can. The pressure is on. To be honest, even five years in, although the runway is constantly altered, that feeling is still there!

Out of control in control

I think one big change from leaving a corporate job, was adjusting to the pace of things. Yes, you are in charge now, but being in control of your own destiny means that you instinctively will drive things faster than anything you’ve done before. Ironically, very quickly you’ll never have felt less in control than when you are in control.

Reality kick

I remember working hard in my Accenture days, but when I look back, I didn’t appreciate how easy we had it. Or how sheltered you are from real business risks. Take cash flow, for example. I never once worried that my Accenture team might not get paid that month simply because a client paid an invoice late, or we didn’t quite achieve our sales target that month. This 100% happens as soon as you set out alone – and far more regularly than you’d like.

“Being in control of your own destiny means that you instinctively will drive things faster than anything you’ve done before”

Pay day … one day

To be honest, money is at the heart of a lot of the anxiety and adrenalin of a start-up. While some founders of new businesses choose to (or are able to!) raise large amounts of investment up front (Simon Duffy at Bulldog, for example), it’s quite possible that you won’t be able to draw a salary for the first 12 to 18 months. Today, raising the right amount of capital in advance is becoming increasingly hard to do without giving away large amounts of equity up front. So prepare to prove your business model first and live off your savings where you can. A salary (and maybe even a big pay out) will come, but not right away.

Relating to relationships

Never overlook the impact of starting your own business on your relationships. It is all-consuming. Partners, friends and family will all see considerably less of you, and even when you are in the same room, you’ll find yourself talking or just thinking about your business. Often simply because someone has asked you how things are going. It is fun to talk about your venture, but can be less fun for you friends or partners that have to hear the same spiel over and over again! I can tell you now, my wife has put up with a lot over the years. The 24/7 nature of leading a business – combined with the risk and short-medium term money worries – will put a strain on any relationship.

For what it’s worth

So, has it all been worth it? You betcha! Despite the cautionary tone behind some of these insights, I can honestly say it’s been the most phenomenal experience so far. Sure, you’re never more than two days away from your next disaster (seriously, I’m not exaggerating here), but with every major problem solved comes a stronger belief that you can get through anything. It comes to a point when bigger and bigger things go wrong, and you almost revel in finding the next solution.

And there it is – my first blog article. I hope it was helpful on some level. I’m planning to keep writing, whenever I can squeeze in some time, so expect future insights, lessons, realities and tales. If you have any questions about starting your own business or are wondering about a specific aspect of becoming (and being) an entrepreneur, I’d love to hear from you.

Dave Pickard co-founded LSC with Ryan Palmer in 2013. He is living the dream / surviving the chaos and learning every single day. Any questions? Get in touch with Dave

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