Today I want to share the basic principles I applied when I started my business, and how its helped me. I realise that everyone’s journey will look different but I am sure that you’ll be able to apply some of the principles I used, even if you are not looking to start your own business.
In December 2014 I was sitting on the beach in Struisbaai (a beautiful little piece of heaven in the Western Cape, South Africa – 8km from the most southern tip of Africa), just letting the gentle waves wash over my soul. As usual, I was reminiscing about the year that was, and the year that was to come, and I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me in the direction of starting my own business. That was the first time I seriously started thinking about going out on my own.
I can be quite impulsive, but I knew that if I was going to go out on my own, I would have to take some time to plan this properly because let’s be honest – quitting your day job and just starting your own business is actually quite scary. Some people quit on a whim and jump right in, but my process took planning and some time.
The Principles of Preparation
It took me 15 months, from having that first nudge, to actually handing in my resignation, but I am glad I took my time to put solid building blocks in place for the foundation of Zunshine Consulting. I believe that the house you build is only as strong as your foundation, so I wanted to make sure my foundation was solid. I didn’t want to do things hastily and build a shaky foundation only to have to re-do things a couple of years down the line. I was fortunate, I had the time to put specific things in place before I took my leap of faith.
There are actually loads of things that go into thinking, planning and doing when starting a business, but the following 5 principles highlight, for me, the most important building blocks.
PRINCIPLE I – NAMING YOUR BUSINESS
You have to choose a name for your business. I believe there is so much power in a name, and therefore choosing a name for my business that expressed my vision and heart for Zunshine was important to me. Whatever your motives behind your name, make sure it means something to you and will to your clients too.
When I was a toddler, my parents used to say I brought sunshine with me whenever I entered a room. Even during varsity my close friends called me ‘Sunshine’. I felt it fitting as I want to help people find their own sunshine (the light inside that makes you shine = potential) and shine brightly in their own lives. So I decided I would start there and go with ‘Sunshine’ for a business name.
And somewhere during the choosing-a-name-journey, the ‘S’ turned into a ‘Z’ and Zunshine was born.
PRINCIPLE II – YOUR DESIGN = YOUR IDENTITY
I went to see a graphic and web designer to help me express in my logo and website design the identity I wanted people to associate with my business. You can obviously design your own, but I wanted a professional look and feel right from the beginning. I wanted to do things properly. I loved working with Angie from Daniel+McKay. Angie is funky, really listened to my heart for my business, and made magic happen when we began to play around with some concepts (warm orange and yellow, circles like the sun, stabilising gray, and it’s all about the journey).
I read about the psychology of colours in marketing only after I had chosen the colours for my logo but it’s worth doing this before you choose your colours. I was fortunate, the colours stirred exactly the thoughts and feelings that I wanted people to experience when engaging with my brand:
- Yellow: happiness, optimism, clarity, warmth
- Orange: energetic, enthusiastic, fun
- Gray: balance, calm
PRINCIPLE III – GET THE ADMIN DONE
Irrespective of the type of business you start, there will always be admin. Get the initial admin done quickly and put templates in place for recurring admin.
From all the things I spent my time on while getting my business up and running, admin took up most of it. Things to think about, admin-wise include:
- Get a good accountant
- Register your business and business name
- Register a tax number (my accountant did my company and tax number registrations)
- Write content for your website
- Design a letterhead
- Design a business card
- Design a proposal template
- Design a quote template
- Design an invoice template
- Design a presentation template
- Design a quote and invoice register (to keep track of the amount(s) you quote and the amount(s) you actually invoice, as well as for document numbering)
- Put a marketing strategy/plan together (my strategy wasn’t much of a strategy in the beginning, and to be honest, it is still evolving and changing on a monthly basis, but you have to start thinking about where you want to advertise your services/products, the social marketing channels you want to use, the content you will post, etc.)
- Register a domain name for your website and email address (Angie did this for me)
The above is not an exhaustive list and I am sure we can spend time elaborating on each point mentioned, but that is not the purpose of today’s post. Also, company and tax registrations mentioned above are applicable to the South African context.
Last thought on this point though, having templates in place made the actual work (writing a proposal, putting a quote together, sending out an invoice) so much more enjoyable because I didn’t have to spend time on designing documents when work started coming in. It might be time-consuming in the beginning, but it makes things so much easier later on and allows you to focus on the client and the actual work and not waste time on admin.
PRINCIPLE IV – RELATIONSHIPS ARE WORTH MORE THAN GOLD
Networking. Networking. Networking.
From all the principles that I applied, this has been the most important one. I am all about relationship-building as any business is ultimately built on/around people and you need good relationships to get people to work with or for you. My inner-introvert obviously don’t love big networking events (breakfasts, conferences, workshops, etc., although I try to attend at least one of these a quarter to stay up to date with what’s happening in my industry and to get my CPD points) but I love one-on-one tea dates with people. So that is exactly where I invest my time and energy when building relationships with others.
I also believe there is more than enough work and money to go around for everyone and if you have good relationships with other professionals in your industry, they are likely to refer work to you when their own plates are too full, or pull you into projects when they need a hand because they know you and have a relationship with you.
Relationships (building and maintaining) obviously look different for introverts and extroverts and you need to do what works for you. I met and built relationships with a lot of people and businesses during my tenure as a full-time employee, and from those relationships I have been able to establish one stable and consistent stream of income since I started my own business.
PRINCIPLE V – LEARN FROM OTHERS
There are many people out there who started their own businesses and you may already know a few. Call them up, arrange a tea (or coffee) date and chat to them. Make a list of things you are wondering about, things you are looking forward to, and things you are afraid of, and share them with this person. They are more than likely to tell you about their own journey and you can learn valuable lessons from them.
I had such a person – Marzenna (founder and owner of Holistan) who freely and eagerly shared her journey of starting her own business. She even ran a workshop on starting your own business in our industry, and wrote an e-book (Chasing the Dream which is so worth the purchase if you are a professional wanting to start a practice or consultancy based in South Africa). This gave me immense insight into the world of starting, owning and running your own business. She shared her wisdom and knowledge and I could apply some of the golden nuggets on my own journey.
Being Zunshine Every Day
In February 2016 I wrote my final board exam to register as an Industrial Psychologist and that, for me, was the final milestone to pass in order to get to a place where I could step out and start my business. After my exam day, I typed up my resignation letter and resigned. My notice month was bitter-sweet as I had joined the company as a graduate and had grown and learnt so much during the 9 years I spent there. My timing was somehow perfect as well, as the company was down-scaling and my job wasn’t big enough for a full-time person anymore, so they offered me a part-time contract.
After 15 months of dreaming and planning, spending time putting proper principles in place, and getting ready to take that leap of faith, I strapped on my parachute and on 1 April 2016 jumped out of the employee plane into the land of business ownership.
I make sure that I do every job with passion and energy, and let my ‘zunshine’ shine through to all my clients. Getting up in the morning and going through the day is really so much easier when you enjoy what you do. It is true though; working for yourself often requires more hours and working harder than ever before. However, the reward lies in getting home after a long day, kicking off your shoes, enjoying a cup of tea, and knowing that your time and energy is being productively invested into building the legacy that you want to leave behind.
I hope this post helped you in some way – whether it’s to start thinking about your own business, setting new business goals, or pouring your energy into your current job, I would love to be part of your journey.
Drop me a comment or an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can have a cup of tea together and start chatting about getting a coaching relationship started. I look forward to hearing from you! 🙂