One of the things I dislike about popular culture is how complex and nuanced debates are distilled down to black and white. Nowhere is this characterised more effectively than in the debate around working mums. “Can mums have it all?” the media frequently asks – often citing [highly successful investment fund manager and mother of six] Nicola Horlick as the standard by which all should be measured.
The problem is that comparing your average mum (or dad for that matter) with Nicola Horlick is akin to measuring the performance of Physics A-Level students against the standards set by Albert Einstein. Unlike many of the celebs we see being idolised in the press, Nicola has actually earned her status. She is famous for being exceptional.
The good news is that in order to succeed in business today you don't have to be well connected or exceptional (though it helps). The advent of the internet means that issues that once might have stopped entrepreneurs in their tracks, such as finance, business rates and rents and technical know-how are far less of a problem.
It's not just the technology that has revolutionised the way business works, it's the way it is supplied. The world is gradually moving to a pay-as-you-go model, which is great news for start-ups. Every pound spent on business basics is money that can be used to generate and fulfil sales and today pretty much all of them are available online at minimal cost. For instance, you can:
- Register your company online at Companies House.
- Open a business bank account online, often free for the first year or more.
- Sign up to use online payments with services such as PayPal.
- Buy legal agreement templates.
- Manage your accounts and cashflow with KashFlow or Crunch.
The same is true of technical services. As well as financing your computer hardware, you can buy the essential software you need on a pay-as-you-go basis. For well under £50 a month you can pay for a company to host your website and email address and even your online store.
You don't even have to be technical. Many services are designed for novice users, so some basic writing and image-editing skills can get you a long way, especially if you start by trading on eBay and Amazon, or build your own online store using a product such as our own SellerDeck Catalog.
You make the difference
So, if setting up a business is that easy, why doesn't everyone do it and why isn't everyone successful? Well, not everyone has the imagination and ability to create a successful business. Although my own company is an ecommerce supplier, we have always been aware that it's not our software and services that create success, we simply enable it.
Successful entrepreneurs tend to combine expertise in the fields they operate in with commercial acumen. They seem to know where to spend their money and how to spend their time. Time and money are interchangeable commodities, the key is to spend your time where you can make the most impact, and spend your money where others can make the most impact.
First break all the rules
It's great to have a good reputation, connections and lot of start-up capital, but even if you don't, the internet age means that it's definitely not a show stopper. There are plenty of low-cost alternative ways to get your business off the ground. If you love what you do and spend your money wisely you can start a business on a shoestring budget and perhaps one day live out your dreams.
Blog provided by Chris Barling, chairman of ecommerce software supplier SellerDeck (formerly Actinic Software).