Five things I wish I knew when I started my business

Entrepreneur Tim Cocking shares the lessons he learned from starting his own company, BrightCare.

Tim Cocking, founder of care provider BrightCare. Picture: Malcolm Cochrane
Tim Cocking, founder of care provider BrightCare. Picture: Malcolm Cochrane

Never underestimate the value of being an employee

How will you know how to relate to your employees if you’ve never been one yourself? You will also have a better understanding of what makes a great employer if you were once aspiring to be one yourself!

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As someone who started a business fairly early on in life, I now know the person you work for in your early years can have a profound impact on your business and management skills later on. Seek out great business leaders, go and work for them and learn as much as you can.

Be brilliant at just one thing

“Jack of all trades, master of none” is never a compelling marketing message. Figure out what one thing you can be brilliant at and put all your efforts into that. Hone your product or service to this end, to the exclusion of all else.

It takes an unwavering conviction in your business model and market position to be prepared to turn down potential business that does not fit with your core business model. However, the rewards are there if you can stay true to your chosen expertise. Watch your business gradually rise above the noise of the competition, when you stick to your guns.

Sell, sell, sell

“Selling” is not a dirty word. No sales, no business. Get out there and build real face-to-face relationships and demonstrate to people you are a business owner of character and integrity. More sales will fix most things or at least give you the breathing space you need to address other issues. The more you speak to and engage with potential customers, the more you will understand what they want. This in turn will help you hone your business offering and expertise.

Hire new people before you actually need them

Be bold in your belief that you can make your business grow and as such, keep hiring even if you think you don’t need anyone new yet. By the time you have found the right person, waited a month for them to finish up a previous post, got them trained up and contributing usefully to your business, four to six months will have passed.

It’s never a nice feeling to work hard to win new business but then feel you are unable to take it on with confidence due to a shortage of staff.

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Never let thoughts of the cost of a new start get in the way. “A-grade” employees are always “free”. They will always pay for themselves and more in what they can bring to your company. They don’t need to be managed or supervised and they are always totally committed to the success of the business.

Never shy away from crucial conversations with employees who are not performing

Everyone knows that people are your greatest asset and recruiting people of the right calibre, attitude and fit is essential to long-term success. However, as with most things in life, this is far easier said than done.

Many well-meaning business owners at all levels put up with the wrong people for too long and may even try, sometimes for years, to bring someone round to their way of thinking – usually unsuccessfully. You will always be pleased you called time on such endeavours. Your A-grade staff (if you have any left at this point) will thank you when you take decisive action to move B- or C-grade people on.

An A-grade manager will have long-term vision for your business and will hire people who they think have the capacity to grow and develop under their tutelage to become even better than they were.

• Tim Cocking is the founder of BrightCare, a provider of in-home care for the elderly