My Advice for Entrepreneurs

by Nicole Burstow, chief financial officer at Dow Schofield Watts

Almost 50,000 new businesses are set up each year in the professional, technical and scientific sector. In some cases the founders are prompted by the loss of their previous jobs, in others they may be seeking positive change –  the ability to set their own terms and work in their own way – or have seen an opportunity to innovate and deliver services differently.

Corporate Finance Scotland

Nicole with our corporate finance partners, Tom and Melanie, in Aberdeen. (L-R Tom Faichnie, Melanie Clark, Nicole Burstow and James Dow)

Running your own business can be immensely rewarding, but if you are used to working in a bigger firm, it may require some adjustment. As a business advisory firm that operates a licensing model, we have helped over 40 partners to start and run their own business and learned a lot about what it takes to succeed.

Based on our experience and feedback from our partners, here are eight pieces of advice for entrepreneurs that can improve their chance of success:

1. Build resilience

Running a business offers higher potential rewards than being an employee but it can also be challenging. And as a business owner, you may have other people who directly depend on you not only for guidance but for their main source of income. Building resilience will enable you to navigate the highs and lows with a clear head and make sound decisions.

2. Have funding in place

In the initial stages, you will need some income to tide you over until the money starts to come in. Some people are able to rely on savings, an inheritance or a partner’s earnings but otherwise you will need to consider what access to finance you have, for example loans from banks and alternative lenders.

In this video, Nicole and our CFO, James Dow, talk you through our ethos and how our support works. 

3. Learn to manage the sales cycle

Running a business is a 360-degree process which starts with building a sales pipeline, converting leads into contracts and finally delivering the work. All too often new entrepreneurs become so immersed in a project that once it is complete, they have no new work coming in. The trick is to keep your eye on all stages of the cycle at the same time which is quite a balancing act. Discipline and time management are crucial.

4. Develop your networks

Most professionals will already have contacts who refer work to them. Once you have started a business, networks assume a new importance – not only as a source of referrals but also of other professionals who can collaborate on projects or like-minded people to share experiences and ideas.

James Dow at the Pandea Rotterdam Conference 2023

James Dow at the Pandea Global M&A Conference in Rotterdam (Pandea is an international network of M&A professionals founded by Dow Schofield Watts to increase overseas knowledge sharing for the benefit of our partners)

5. Build trust

Your reputation and your personal brand is central to your business. Our partners felt that integrity was a key quality because it helps to engender trust from others who may pass work your way as well as becoming trusted advisors for your clients.

6. Recruit the right people

According to our partners, recruitment was one of the most critical factors in the success of their business. It pays to have a trusted recruiter or HR consultant who understands your needs and can seek out and screen suitable candidates.

7. Sort the practicalities

There are a host of other things to consider. Where will you work? You may not expect to miss the office but working from home all the time can be isolating. Having access to a workspace looks more professional and enables you to enjoy a sense of camaraderie. What about your branding? Could you use a PA service to assist with admin? And do you need help with compliance?

Steve and Carla Holmes DSW Reading

Read about Steve and Carla’s unique approach to office life in this blog post

8. Find a mentor

Perhaps one of the most important factors is to seek support from someone who has done it before. We urge all our entrepreneurs to find a mentor at an early stage. Speaking to a professional who has already built a successful advisory business will help you find your feet much more quickly and enable you to learn from others’ mistakes.

Running your own business enables you to fulfil your ambitions on your terms. However, it is important to anticipate the challenges you may face and understand how to overcome them. Believing in your own ability to succeed is often the biggest barrier. Our partners have found having confidence in their own abilities and backing themselves incredibly empowering. We hope this advice for entrepreneurs can prepare you for the road ahead and wish you every success in your future endeavours.

Dow Schofield Watts offers a range of benefits for professionals starting an advisory business, from start-up funding, business coaching and support services which include recruitment, marketing and people development.

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