Many people have a dream of starting a business. Separate to the idea itself, expectations are often framed by the positive, glossy, upbeat versions people consume from successful business people and media. But, let me tell you, the reality rarely matches the dream. I’d go so far as to suggest that helping people not lose sight of the dream, when the sometimes dreary reality of starting a business bites, could make a big difference.
My personal experience lies in creating OneFifty. We are a digital and social media consultancy fusing the emerging fields of behavioural data and digital marketing. In our second year trading, we have a ten strong team composed of bloggers, Instagrammers, consultants and data analysts, with clients who range from the world’s biggest brands to cool start-ups. In short, I, and my co-founder Katie, are living most business people’s dream: our idea has proven appealing, we’re commercially successful, and growing fast.
Getting here, however, saw some dreams prove tough to hang on to, in the face of the cold reality. Here are the top three we faced:
Dream 1: If I devote myself to finding customers, the business can thrive.
Reality 1: Actually being able to receive payment from these hard won customers can be tough: getting VAT numbers takes weeks and weeks, and getting business banking is surprisingly difficult, and has surprising restrictions.
Dream 2: A great vision is what matters - the idea is the business.
Reality 2: Finding info on how to set up the business is seriously tough. Full stop. As in the basics of registering, what structure to use, where and what to register, what insurance you need, working capital requirements, tax obligations… No one-stop shop, no real advice from government which is detailed enough to navigate your way through. Great for professional advisers and experienced business people, less useful for those stepping out for the first time.
Dream 3: We’ll deliver the plan.
Reality 3: You spend hours sweating out your business plan… then reality strikes. Events overtake you, for better and worse, and what you’re left with is the pragmatic plan. I.e. what you can execute within available opportunities, time and resources.
So, what could interested parties - such as the Government - do to help more entrepreneurs be able to retain the dreams, and not get put off by the reality? Well, I’d start by simplifying, streamlining and changing the support to be focussed on small, not big business. That way the reality can match the dream - the passion people have for building their business, providing services and goods to customers, not trying to understand legacy byzantine systems, struggling to work out whether they even apply, let alone how to pay taxes larger businesses can navigate with ease, or suffering the pain of working out the actual cost of hiring people… Of course, the old saying “if it weren’t hard, everyone would do it” remains valid.
In essence, I’m proposing helping people deliver and live the dream, by making the reality come closer to the rosy expectations everyone sets out with.
Alex Pearmain is the Co-Founder of OneFifty, a consultancy which uses data and models of human behaviour to drive purposeful digital interactions.
Alex was one of the early UK pioneers of brand social media adoption. He has built awarded social media, service, communications, and digital marketing teams for consultancies, agencies and within major brands. His work at O2, as the ﬁrst head of Social Media demonstrated that it was possible and desirable for major organisations to utilise social media at scale across customer services, sales, retention, brand and communications activity, blazing a trail for other brands to invest and adopt. He brings together analytical data and creative strategies.