Startup Diaries: 10 Lessons Learned From a Life Spent Building Businesses

As I approach my 60th year, I find myself working as hard as I ever have.  Yes, I’m back in start up mode.  Let me explain.  For the majority of my working life, I’ve run my own businesses.  Some (well, one) went spectacularly well; one went spectacularly wrong and the rest (yes, there’ve been a few) did ok, provided me with a reasonable income but didn’t set the world on fire.  

Now, I’m giving it one last shot.  This is the one which will be my crowning glory.  This is the one which will provide my pension (I didn’t learn the ‘save for your old age’ lesson until it was too late) and prove to myself that I’ve got what it takes to see something through and get it right.In the Myers Brigs world, I’m an ENTP. If you’re more familiar with the Insights* profiling model, I’m Yellow, pure Yellow. I remember my profile description had one very telling statement “Her life will be littered with unfinished projects”.  Never a truer word has even been spoken.

Left to my own devices, I lose interest and move onto the next new shiny idea. I have a history of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

What’s Different This Time?

Now, I have a team.  The business, Zlimm123, is an online weight loss programme.  It’s a very crowded market filled with the ethical and the non ethical.  The customer base is one which has a history of enthusiasm followed by bitter disappointment (known as yoyo dieters). It’s an emotional subject and the product being sold is hope.  So, in a world where dieting has been proven time and time again not to be a long term solution, Zlimm123 is a programme of habit change where weight loss is the consequence. We are a team with a common goal, to release people from the hold that food has on them. We’re a team with diverse skills (we barely overlap at all which means we have to understand each other’s personal needs and way of working) but we’re a team which has all the bases covered, releasing each of us to do what we do best.  

The Best Start Up Advice I Can Give You

So, apart from getting your team around you, let me share with what I’ve learned about myself and what I think you should consider before leaping over the ledge into the world of the entrepreneur:

  1. Never stop learning.  The world is advancing at 100 miles an hour.  Don’t get stuck in the past.  Read “Who Moved My Cheese”.
  2. Network, network and then network some more.  Seek out the people who can support and help you.  Surround yourself with high achievers.  Remember that you become the average of the people you hang out with.  It’s true.
  3. Exercise regularly.  Don’t confuse long hours with working hard.  Work smarter and give yourself permission to take a walk and smell the roses.  It’s when I get my best ideas.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  People generally like to be asked their advice and you’ll be surprised how generous they can be with their time.  If you don’t get a response, move on and know that it’s not personal.  
  5. Join a Mastermind Group.  If you can’t afford one, set up your own.  I’ve done both and each has been invaluable. 
  6. Get a mentor.  I used The Next Women mentoring scheme.  Sophie Neary was worth her weight in gold. 
  7. Know your strengths but understand your weaknesses.  Work with people who can plug that gap for you.  You’ll free yourself to do what you’re best at.   You’ll be happier.
  8. When times are tough, use discipline to keep you on track, knowing that motivation will take over. 
  9. Know that it’s all about the customer.  When you understand your customer, get inside their head and solve their problems, you give yourself the best chance of success. 
  10. Read ‘Rework’ – the best no-nonsense business book ever.  No theory, just solid, common sense advice from the guys at 37 Signals.

So, if you’ve made it this far, ‘thank you’ for reading.  I never underestimate the fact that I’m competing for your attention and my goal, with this blog, it to entertain, inform and inspire you.  Join me on my journey.  I can only dream about where it’s going and I’d love to take you with me.

Jackie Hutchings is founder of two online businesses. Scubadviser (a TripAdvisor for scuba divers) and Zlimm123, a ground breaking weight loss programme. Jackie has extensive experience in starting businesses in a career spanning nearly 40 years.  A qualified business coach and leadership trainer, she started her career in Rank Xerox, quickly realising that corporate life didn’t suit her.  She launched her first business in the late 1970s, taking that company public on, what was then, the Unlisted Securities Market.   

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