Carl is author of The Start-up Coach, a Teach Yourself title from publishers Hodder & Staughton and he is also director of d&t chartered accountants and strategic advisors, based in Badbury near Swindon.
We met with Carl to find out more about his book, how it’s designed to help entrepreneurs and to find out what his top tips are for business success.
How did you come to write ‘The Start-up Coach’?
Writing a book was always on my bucket list. I didn’t intend it to be The Start-up Coach, I thought it would be a book on franchising with a follow-up general book on business, but when I received a request on Facebook to write a generic business book, I completed the proposal and I was successfully contracted to write ‘The Start-up Coach’. It was more luck than judgement, and things have gone in a different order than I expected, but I’m now contracted to produce a second book with Hodder, ‘The Franchising Handbook.’
How did you find the process of writing the book?
I’ve always been OK at writing and knocking out short three hundred word articles and I just thought it would be fairly simple. However, I soon learnt that writers block is a real thing and it was far more difficult than I expected. To get me through it, I would isolate myself somewhere like Purton House where there is no mobile signal or distractions and I would get on by drinking a lot of espressos!
Writing a book is like running a marathon, it’s a real test, but once complete it’s a real sense of achievement. Seeing my book in Waterstones, never fails to give me a buzz.
What does the book set out to do?
Help people with a business idea and guide them through the process. I’m a business book junkie and they often fit in two camps, either motivational with no substance or too theoretical with little practical advice.
I tried to find a halfway house, with some motivation, a bit of theory, but also practical steps. I wanted to create a book in plain English that made the prospect of setting up in business as least daunting as possible.
What’s the aim for people to do once they’ve read the book?
It’s simple – to start a business with confidence.
What are the largest challenges a start-up firm faces?
A lack of skills – If you are moving away from being an employee to being a business owner this can be particularly challenging. As an employee there are very few roles where you are exposed to all the areas of running a business, from sales, to finance to delivery. We often have our niches / skill set, but being a business owner you have to be a jack of all trades.
Legislation – The Government always seems to put road blocks in the way. Seek professional advice to ensure your business is operating on the right side of the law.
Fear – You shouldn’t be a gambler, but you do need to be confident about your abilities to succeed. People sense a lack of confidence and this doesn’t help people buy into your business idea.
What resources would you recommend to a start-up?
Find someone in your network / friendship group who can offer informal advice and be a springboard for your ideas. It’s always best to make business decisions in an informed way to form the best opinion.
What are your top tips for success?
Ensure they’re on board. They’re your number one stakeholder and the worst thing is someone saying:“I told you so” if something goes wrong. If you’re putting your house on the line to start a business, you need to ensure you have absolute family support.
Are you the right kind of person to be an entrepreneur? Programmes like Dragons Den / The Apprentice glorify this, but the skill set to be a true entrepreneur is very rare. Do some research on your personality type, The book ‘E-Myth Revisited’ by Michael Gerber is a useful tool for this.
Due Diligence Ensure you have completed your due diligence on your personal situation and business. Ensure you have enough of an emergency fund it you do not make enough money in your first months.
Ensure the numbers and ideas stack up
Do your competitor analysis and go into business with your eyes open. Conduct surveys as part of your market research, do footfall analysis if you are premises based, and make all your decisions based on an educated guess.
There will be sleepless nights, there will be long hours and you will never be able to go on holiday without your phone. Someone once said: “It’s like going from working for an idiot, to working for a maniac!”
Learn when to step away
Sometimes you have to step away from the business to gain clarity and insight. I do this by walking around big cities and zone out to think of new stuff. I thought of the strapline for d&t “adding value, not numbers” when walking around London.
Ensure no areas of your life are neglected. Look holistically at what’s important to you and ensure you gain a healthy work / life balance. This incorporates your health, relationships and other interests as well as your career.
What’s the next stage for your personal development?
I’ve just been contracted for a second book and I have a third in the pipeline. I also have aggressive growth plans for d&t. We look after 110 franchise brands from the UK and approximately 2,000 franchisees. We work with household names such as Dynorod, Mac Tools (part of Stanley Black & Decker), Belvoir Lettings and Esquires Coffee House.
Our plan is to grow this business significantly over the next few years. We are currently the number one player in the industry and I’m not planning on giving that away.
To find out more about Carl’s book and to buy it visit: www.thestartupcoach.co.uk