Just do it!

Just do it!

by Annemarie Robson

International Editor


Millions of people dream of starting their own company, but only some are brave enough to take the leap. Fewer still go on to achieve success.

I don’t think of myself as a true entrepreneur as I am rather risk-averse. However, I did start my own company with a partner just before 2008’s recession in the UK.

By 2010, I decided it was no longer viable as I was leaving to work in Palestine, so closed my business.

In retrospect, I am glad I took the risk but wish I’d taken more time to plan my strategy.

During a recent BBC radio programme about entrepreneurship I heard some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs sharing their tips for business success – as well as revealing some of their biggest mistakes and lessons learned  – and wanted to share them with you:

Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group

I suppose our most famous failure – if you can call it that – was trying to take on Coca-Cola for a year (with Virgin Cola). We were doing fantastically well in the shops that we were in. Coke literally sent a 747 plane full of squat teams and money over to the UK, and our stocks started disappearing from the shelves. They managed to squash us, and the lesson was that you need to be better than the people you are competing with. My advice is five words:

“screw it – just do it”.

Jo Malone of Jo Malone and Jo Loves

I’ve made hundreds of mistakes. When we launched our brand, Jo Loves, we hadn’t checked Google properly despite spending a lot of money on the IP [intellectual property]. We then found out there was someone else top of the Google list with a similar name as ours, selling sex toys. I hadn’t checked. That was my biggest mistake and I had to really dust myself off and pick myself up. Sometimes the business you failed at takes you on a journey to something far greater down the road

Doug Richard of School for Start-ups

I accept the fact I’m engaged in a high-risk activity. If there’s no risk there’s no reward. I sold my second business, a software company, to a large public corporation. I took shares instead of cash and 89 days later those shares dropped by 99% and I was wiped out. The advice I’d give is to take cash.

Richard Reed of Innocent Drinks and Jam Jar Investments

When we started out, we had one company making our plastic bottles, and one company bottling the crushed fruit. They were totally unconnected businesses, but at separate stages both rang us and said they would no longer be able to manufacture our bottles or pack our smoothies. They only gave us 24 hours’ notice. Overnight we would cease to have a business. We worked our way through it but it definitely taught us: focus on your Plan A, but know what to do if there’s an emergency. If you sit around waiting until you are 100% certain or 100% confident, I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.

Liz Earle of Liz Earle Skincare

The biggest mistake I think we made was not taking on more help in the early days. My partners and I were young mums at the time, and we were working 20-hour days.

I think with hindsight we should have been kinder on ourselves, and brought in a team of specialists and experts earlier than we did. My one piece of advice would be not to rush things.

It’s incredibly tempting to accept every opportunity, even if you’re not ready. We have an expression: if it has to be ‘now’, it has to be ‘no’. It’s really important to not get pushed into making quick decisions.

I take the view that it is better to crawl, and then walk, and then run.

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