2 February 2015

Business people looking at budget forecast

So you’ve been thinking about running your own business and working for yourself. This may be a long harboured ambition, or something that has only recently come in to your thinking.

You’ve started planning and done some research.  You’ve started to discuss the idea with family and friends perhaps.  The issue there might be that they’ll tell you what they think you want to hear.

So now the time has come where you could really do with an outside and independent opinion.  This is where a meeting with a Business Advisor will be really beneficial.

The act of actually taking that step and making the appointment may take quite a bit of courage on your part – it could feel like a real leap into the unknown.  For some, the prospect may feel quite daunting.  So having made that move, what might you expect?

Here is a bit of inside information that should convince you that you’ve done absolutely the right thing in arranging that meeting:

Sure, when the day comes you may be a bit (or a lot!) nervous.  Nerves are good, because they help you perform – but there really is nothing to fear, the advisor is your ally.  They’ve seen it all before.  You aren’t the first person to come in needing help with a new business idea and you won’t be the last.  Business Advisors are used to this situation.  Please don’t ever feel ‘unworthy’!

Before you come in, be prepared.  By that, I mean know what you want to get out of the session.  If you have a shopping list of questions, bring it.  Write things down in advance if it helps clear your mind.  In the heat of the moment, you may forget something. If you’ve got photographs or samples of your products, for example, bring them along.  It will save a lot of words and may demonstrate your skills too.  Also, come prepared to write things down during the meeting.  Bring paper and pen – unless you have an extremely good memory, there may just be some gem of information that passes you by if you don’t make a note of it.  If you’ve already started drafting your plans on paper, consider sending them to your advisor in advance (by a couple of days ideally, not hours – he or she may be fully booked and not have time to read through what you send otherwise).  That way, you’ll save valuable meeting time and get the most out of the session.

So you get to the meeting with your list of questions.  What’s likely to happen?

The advisor will want to listen to get a good understanding of what you plan to do, where, how, when and what?  What planning and market research (if any) you’ve done up to this point.  Silence from the advisor    isn’t a bad thing – they’re keen to understand what point you’ve reached and will be absorbing the information.

Be prepared for some challenging questions.  The advisor isn’t trying to catch you out.  Challenging questions are there to make you think – to challenge yourself and your own assumptions.  This isn’t some kind of exam with a pass/fail.  You won’t be expected to have thought of everything.  If you have, that’s really excellent work on your part.  The advisor will confirm your plans and ideas, but they’ll be hoping to add real value to the planning process.

As an advisor, I know I would be really disappointed if I couldn’t help everyone I see in some way, however big or small that help might be.

Be honest with yourself and your advisor.  If they ask you something where you either don’t have an answer, or realise you need to do more to be able to answer fully, say so.  If you hide the truth, you may get an imperfect solution or suggestion to your situation. It’s a bit of a ‘poor data in, poor data out’ syndrome.  Advisors can only react or respond to what they’re told.

Don’t be reluctant to ask questions, however trivial you may think the advisor may think the question is.  He or she won’t be at all judgemental in that respect.  After all, we all have to start somewhere and if you don’t ask, you’ll never find out the answer.  Someone will have asked it before and there’s no need to be apologetic or concerned about exposing what you might consider to be your perceived weaknesses or ‘silly question’.

As far as the meeting is concerned, this is a very safe environment. If you want to practice your sales pitch, for example, this is a great place to do it.  You can get some constructive feedback without having lost a potential customer in an attempt to get it right.

As the meeting nears its end, make sure you’ve covered everything you wanted to cover. If not and you’re out of time, make sure you’ve arrange a follow up meeting there and then.

Be prepared to have to do some more work after the event.  You are likely to be given an ‘action plan’ of things to go away and work on before meeting for a follow up session.  Make sure you allow yourself enough time between meetings to do what needs to be done.  It’s your business and it needs to be worked on at your pace.  You set the agenda as far as possible.

So in conclusion, please remember my comment at the outset, “the advisor is your ally”.  He or she is here to help and will be really delighted to see you actually take the leap of faith and start your business.

Good luck with your plans.  We’re looking forward to helping you!

Written by Vic Short, Business Advisor

You can join Vic for a FREE 45 minute advice session at the Millennium Library in the Forum, Norwich every other Tuesday between 1-4pm.  Vic will be there Tuesday 3rd February.  Just call in, or book a place by calling 01603 774740 or by email businesslibrary@norfolk.gov.uk

Alternatively contact Nwes direct on 08456 099 991


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