Five truths for business success

Serial entrepreneur William Berry shares the core rules he applies to every business he starts

I’ve made a decent living out of e-commerce, the most valuable lessons were made from my mistakes.

If there was a nucleus of five common factors I wish I knew before investing, money, time and energy, it would be this:

1. Complementary factors

Don’t go into business with someone just because they have the same skill sets as you, or personality type, just because you get on in the pub. Business-wise you are more aligned with someone whose skill sets complement, not match yours.

The main thing is to share the same vision, not the same hobbies or habits. So if you are a disorganised and creative type, you might work better with someone is organised and has attention to detail. An extrovert might get on with an introvert.

You are going to have differences, no matter how well you get on, but the important thing to look at is to see how you resolve conflict, not the conflict itself. Conflict can actually be helpful, because it helps the relationship grow, and the business too.

Classic Quote, Dale Carnegie: “Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face, especially if you are in business. Yes, and that is also true if you are a housewife, architect or engineer.”

2. Build trust

The most important thing above big ideas and promises of big money is trust. Trust is essential. It takes a while to establish. Partnerships are not something to be rushed into, just like marriages, but it’s so important to have trust in the person with whom you are partnering. Perhaps the most important thing. Don’t go into business with a stranger, and at the very least don’t go into business with someone you haven’t known at least six months.

3. Be realistic

It’s good to be ambitious, but make sure the targets you set yourself are deliverable. Unrealistic yardsticks just lead to false expectation and disappointment. Set your strategy but don’t be afraid to be flexible in the early days and see it as a test of what works and what doesn’t.

Quote from Chris Corrigan: You can’t overestimate the need to plan and prepare. In most of the mistakes I’ve made, there has been this common theme of inadequate planning beforehand. You really can’t over-prepare in business. 

4. Passion is essential

It’s the force that can drive even the least well-funded business idea into a thriving income. Do something you feel passionate about, or find someone who feels passionate about it to help run it. That will get you through the down days and uninspiring moments more than anything.

Quote from Sir Richard Branson: “I never get the accountants in before I start up a business. It’s done on gut feeling, especially if I can see that they are taking the mickey out of the consumer. A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.”

5. Innovate

You don’t just have to invent something from scratch. The romantic idea of business is to come up a big idea, and invention, and see it through a struggle.

Resist that temptation. Some of the most successful businesses are those that take an existing business idea and innovate or improve it, for example can you take something and add something new to it?

Apps are the latest accessory; could you add one to your service? Say if you run a gym, you could have one that told the customer when it was full, or the waiting time on each machine.

William Berry is a serial entrepreneur and in 2006 was named a Young Gun by Growing Business. He is the founder-director of accommodationforstudents.com, conferencevenues.com, and Vincentbond.com. William is also CEO of the new video start up p6.com, based in California.

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