What millionaire entrepreneurs wish they’d known before starting a business

'Hindsight is a wonderful thing' so we've pulled together reflections from successful business owners to help you on your start-up journey

A common theme in a lot of our advice, guides and features is the fact that starting a business is, by no means, easy.

There are ways to take less risks, and there are several mistakes you can avoid that will make starting up easier, but the long and short of it is that getting a business idea off the ground requires a lot of hard work.

If you’re thinking of starting a business, you should have a clear idea of what you’re getting yourself into and have a business plan in place to take your idea to market.

But to ensure that you’re more informed of what it takes, and to give you some insider tips, we’ve pulled together some snappy comments from successful entrepreneurs behind million-pound companies to find out what they wish they had known before becoming business owners…

I wish I had…spent more time building relationships

Andrew Jennings is founder and CEO of Larsson and Jennings. He started the independent watch company four years ago and it now generates revenues in excess of £8.5m and has stores in America:

“When I first started the business I was so excited to get the product to market that we worked with a factory in China to produce samples but they didn’t deliver the kind of quality we were looking for.

“As a result we had to quickly forge connections in Switzerland, where all of our watches are now made. […] I wish I’d had more patience and taken the time to forge relationships with Swiss manufacturers earlier on.”

Read our guides on sourcing manufacturers and suppliers here.

I wish I had…believed in myself

Emma Wilkinson is founder and CEO of fashion marketplace SilkFred. Her business works with some of the top independent fashion brands and is set to turnover £8m with plans to expand internationally:

“I wish that I had known not to underestimate myself and listen to my instincts; allowing myself to be more confident in my decision making.”

This feature has tips on how to overcome a fear of start-up failure.

I wish I had…known how hard it was really going to be

Andy Oldham is managing director of Quidco, Europe’s largest cashback platform which drives more than £1bn in sales. Despite having an MBA, Oldham has said that starting up wasn’t as simple as it seemed:

“I’d gone through university, had a career at a consultancy firm and went to business school before I started. But not even that can prepare you fully for taking the helm of a vibrant, dynamic business.

“With the full benefit of hindsight and knowing how things have panned out for some of our product lines, there are things I would have approached differently. But all in all, the business has scaled in a way which I would mirror if we were doing this again.”

Ross Mendham, founder of £1m gluten-free noodle, pasta, rice, and ready-meal company Bare Naked Foods, agrees:

“[I wish I’d known] how hard and competitive the food industry is and how difficult it is to create a recognised food brand. I still would have done it though! The tougher something is, the more I want it!”

To give your business idea the best chance of success, follow these 10 steps to starting a business.

I wish I had…sought out advice from those with experience

Alastair Campbell sold his data analysis business Company Check to CreditSafe in 2013. He’s now working on his new venture, car search engine Carsnip, which he has secured more than $1m investment for:

“[I wish someone had told me] that asking experienced people for help can get amazing results. I do this now for other people starting up. It helps save new start-ups time and money and passes on the learning.”

For advice on finding a mentor and what you should look for in a mentor, click here.

I wish I had…understood that the first year would be a rollercoaster

Andrew Stalbow is former VP of Angry Birds’ creator Rovio and founder of app business Seriously. Seriously’s first app ‘Best Fiends’ has been downloaded approximately 30 million times:

“I wish I’d known that – especially in the first year or so – as you go from zero to something, the highs and lows can be a little dramatic. So I guess I could have prepared myself (and my wife) a little better for that!”

Bobby Kalar is founder of Yu Energy. With £4m in revenues, the challenger energy business is looking to take on the “Big Six” and recently listed on AIM with an oversubscribed IPO:

“[I wish I’d known] the impact [running a business would have] on my family life, that the hours would be long, and that [starting up] can be a lonely place.”

To get advice on how to juggle work/life balance when starting a business, click here.

Finally, I wish I had…known that success takes time

Maria Hatzistefanis is founder of £16m cult beauty brand Rodial. The brand, which includes NIP+FAB, has a number of celebrity fans including Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, and Millie Mackintosh:

“[I wish I’d been able to know] that things would work out in the end. I was stressing out every single day when I started.

“[Now I know that you have to] work hard and be patient. There is no such thing as an overnight success, small steps will lead to something bigger but success takes a long time to achieve.”

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