Starting a New Business in Australia
Today, 1st March 2010, I re-entered my business after almost six months doing contract corporate work in Melbourne. I also have the wonderful privilege of providing consulting services to newcomers, and I have just spent two hours on the phone with a person who is starting a new business after a successful corporate career.
Whilst he is not a newcomer to Melbourne, he is a newcomer to his own business. After a fabulous range of ‘send off’ parties last week, the reality is now here. The mobile phone has stopped ringing. The difficult boss is just a memory. The politics and game playing has ceased.
In its place, silence. Blank pages in a diary. An empty email inbox. A few tentative calls are made, a few coffee meetings are booked. Those difficult and time consuming tasks that we never have time to complete when we are working full time are now waiting to be completed.
Conversely, in my inbox, there are nearly 20,000 emails (yes, I subscribe to a lot of things that I often never read). There are updates to be made to my database, business work awaiting my completion and friends and family members who have been put on standby whilst I juggle trains, city madness and packed lunches.
What I noticed back in the corporate world is that being proactive is not always welcome. Hierarchies have to be negotiated and what is ‘seen’ appears to be more important than what is ‘done.’ People are not so focused on results (unless that includes keeping their job). There is also an awful sense that if you reveal something personal, it may be used against you.
On the other hand, this new business starter is full of optimism. But it has an expiry date, 30 June 2010. That is when the ‘panic’ button could be pressed…so now it is time to get some results. Will the experience, the contacts, the belief in himself be enough to make this deadline and move ahead to the job of his dreams?
He has started off really well – by getting professional advice – how many people think that just because they were good at work that they will be good at their own business? Later on in this article, I will provide links to some very useful websites that are good for RESEARCH and information. But firstly, I would like to start with some really practical tips based on the discussion we had today.
If you are about to embark on your own business, I am sure you will find some suggestions here that you can implement. I hope they help you with your own leap of faith.
1. Time Management
I have spoken about this topic in the past and I have to admit, I am not the best at it despite how much I cram into every day! But in your own business, you need to be very careful not to waste it! Just because a once in a lifetime event is on television, it does not mean because you are working from home, you have the luxury of watching it (today it is the 2010 Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony)!
Keep your focus on what needs to be done and get yourself into some new routines so that you can do just that. Don’t spend all your time travelling to appointments either – make them close together in both time and location. Just because your diary page is blank does not mean you are ‘available.’
2. Diary Management
Appointments have already been mentioned, now it is time to focus on what you are doing. List what you need to do but also what you have done. It will help you remember what is done and you will not be too disappointed if you did not get done what you had planned to do IF you have done other valuable work – and you also have a ready reference for tomorrow (or next week if need be). You also have a permanent record of what you did and when you did it. Use a pencil if you are using a paper diary – that way you can rub out and move things easily.
3. Work Management
It is so easy to drift off and spend your time doing what you love and not what needs to be done. If there are tasks you do not like doing, work out your best times to do these (first thing in the morning, after lunch, in the evening) but DO THEM. You cannot forget to do your bookkeeping, pay your bills or send off your GST requirements. Do not let your personal life take over your work day – get out of bed on time and do your washing before you start work (so it dries by the afternoon!)
4. Social Management
So you work from home and now you can meet people for lunch – but watch the time – if you take out three hours – will you make up two hours of work somewhere else in the day? If you have been working with other people, you WILL miss human interaction and you cannot replace this with many appointments a week. Now it will be even more important to make time to catch up with some of the same people on a regular basis (emulating the work place).
This is especially important if you are single. In the past, you may have had a special work colleague who shared lifes ups and downs with you. Who is going to replace these people in your life? Nothing is worse than repeating your entire story every time you meet someone – having someone that can just share the current chapter is really special. Make time to listen to them as well.
5. Health Management
The fridge is just a few metres away – so you will find that you either snack more or forget about lunch/dinner and then 10pm arrives and you are starving and you heat up frozen chips in the oven! Keep up regular meals, snacks and breaks – just as you would at work. Get dressed for work if this is important for you. Visit the doctors and get regular check ups and go to the dentist! Keep up your own personal and household hygeine.
6. Household Management
For the other people that live in your house, make sure they understand how you are now going to work so that they do not have unrealistic expectations of your time. Share your journey and get them to help if they can (children are generally terrific with computers and could earn some pocket money by helping you out – even with GST!). Set some clear boundaries – for everyone’s sake! If you live on your own, keep your mess organised.
7. Computer Management
Your computer is often a vital part of your business. Make sure you know how to use it and if you don’t, learn! Do you know how to do a back up? This is especially important if you are using a laptop which is more easily damaged and can lose all of your data immediately. Keep your backup at another house in case the absolute worst happens. Diary to do this once a month (another excuse to get out of the house and catch up with a friend).
8. Security Management
Corporate organisations usually have all sorts of policies and procedures for keeping information secure, resources safe and risks insured. What do you need to keep secure, what do you need to have under lock and key and do you have professional indemnity insurance? Is your business structure the best for your personal circumstances (many consultants set up Pty Ltd companies so that if they are sued, they do not lose their personal assets).
9. Government Management
There are many new rules and procedures you will be required to follow. In Australia, this includes local, state and federal government! Again, you may need professional advice through a business consultant to make sure that you are operating within legal requirements.
10. Systems Management
Very good business is started with a plan to exit the business. So a succession plan begins from day one – set up your operations assuming that you will expand and that you need to be able to do everything you are doing today with one person, with more people or with someone else instead of you! Write down your procedures so that someone else can buy your business.
Finally, be realistic. I have found that most successful businesses start with a small investment and build up gradually – they do not start with a fully mortgaged house and a huge cash outlay (although there are many successful franchises that use this model – do your research with franchisee owners, not from franchisor websites).
Have a few back up plans in place and also perhaps some other income earning possibilities at the same time so that you don’t use up all your savings too quickly. You may need to modify your lifestyle (particularly for non essential items like meals out at restaurants, clothing purchases etc) until you get on your feet, but for some people, being their own boss is their ticket to freedom.
Websites for people starting a business in Australia
Australian Government Business Resources Website – excellent information portal
Starting your first business in Australia
State Government Websites
New South Wales http://www.business.nsw.gov.au
South Australia http://www.southaustralia.biz
Western Australia http://www.smallbusiness.wa.gov.au
Northern Territory http://www.nt.gov.au/dbe/
Australian Local Government Association – find a link to your local council (they usually have an Economic Development Unit that provides an information pack for new businesses starting in their municipality)
CEO Online Business Resource – links to many useful expert advice pieces
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry – links to all state based chambers that offer services to members (like telephone advice etc)
Professional Indemnity Insurance Online – a website that compares companies
Cheapskates – a website that will help you save money around the home