A New Entrepreneur’s Guide
What You Need to Know Before
You Start Your Business
Why I Wrote This
An accomplished, bright and successful friend of
mine applauded me for having the courage to
explore my urge to setup my own business. “I wish
I didn’t have so much fear,” she said honestly.
That’s what starting anything new in life is about -
getting rid of that fear to free yourself to engage in
following your true path in life. When a career
change lays ahead, and you consider not working
for someone else, fear creeps in. We doubt our
abilities to work for ourselves. We worry that we
will fail. We worry we won’t fulfill our potential.
Once, I even worried that I’d be ‘broke’ and as my
partner so smartly put it, ‘oh don’t be foolish there
will always be a bed and food around.” She was
trying to say, “stop fearing the really impossible
and free your mind to explore your dreams.”
As I’ve started to live the life I’ve always dreamed
of, I’ve written down a few observations from
setting up my business. I want to share with you
my insights from leaving the safety (and relative
mediocrity) of salaried life. If you’re pondering a
move or just feeling stuck in life I hope that my
experiences can reassure you that you’re not alone,
that I can help give you an ounce of courage. Most
of all I want you to conquer your fear of the
Before you read on let me assure you that most of
us have doubts, worries and many sleepless nights
as we develop the courage to make change. It’s
normal. It’s natural. It will make you a stronger,
smarter, wiser and more colourful person.
I. Intuition 5
II. The Opportunity 6
III. Research. Research. Research. 7
IV. Fear - Get Rid of It 9
V. Don’t Listen to Your Parent/s 13
VI. Big Minded Friends 15
VII. A Business Plan 18
VIII. Cash Flow 20
IX. Alright Isn’t Good Enough 23
X. To the Ladies 24
XI. It’s Not Work! 27
Copyright 2010 by Naomi Matthews
All rights reserved. If you’d like to reproduce or use any part of this
work, please request permission from the author.
Have faith that your inclination is the right one.
Listen to your gut and follow what it tells you to
do. Indulge the voice that is urging you to move on
this idea, your concept. Remember to disengage
the logical part of your brain - for just a while.
Purposefully put on pause the helpful
contributions from family members, namely
parents. Their influence can be powerful as may be
their underlying authority. Remember that they’ve
had their life. And they’re living it. Now go live
Follow what your heart tells you.
II. The Opportunity
You have a great idea - well, brilliant! It could be a
new angle, it could be just doing something better
than how it’s done today (which seems to be the
case for many successful businesses). Let me
remind you of one thing though - good business
ideas will keep coming along. If you don’t move on
this idea, that’s fine. There will be another one. To
misquote Richard Branson, business opportunities
are like buses. If you miss one there will be
another one along.
Don’t panic today if you miss the idea or it
doesn’t work out. More will come along.
III. Research. Research. Research.
You have the gut instinct that your idea and your
timing is right. It seems to be a good opportunity.
You’re excited - you might be on to something
here. It could help people improve their lives or it’s
a new technology. Or just a fun new product with
brilliant branding. Maybe you’ve decided to skip
working for someone else and hang out your sign
as a professional in your field.
This is the Hard Work stage where we find out if
you can make a go of it. Ask yourself - does any
one want what I have to offer? It’s your life, your
money and likely, other’s money. You might be
married and have a spouse and children. It’s all
rather daunting. Fear and doubt might be creeping
in as your venture into what feels like an unsafe
To reassure yourself and others, you need to
steady your compass to guide you along. Now is
the time to hit the books. Talk to people. Read
industry reports. Conduct surveys. Whatever it is
that you need to do to convince yourself (and your
banker, if you have one) that there is a viable
market, a need for your product or service, your
research needs to settle this.
A word of caution about research. An article once
said, ‘Science can be used to prove or disprove
anything.’ Be unbiased and ruthless as you
explore your idea. And also be realistic. If you’re
doing your sales projections, do them, then reduce
by 50% for the first few years and add 15% for cost
overruns. I guarantee that your project will go over
on its initial projected costs. Plan for it. Nine out
of ten new businesses fail in the first year for just
this reason. (We’ll talk more about cash flow in a
IV. Fear - Get Rid of It
This is the most important topic that I’ll write
To be successful you must remove the barrier that
limits your creativity.
Conquer your fear that you will be broke.
Conquer your fear that the worst can happen.
Conquer your fear that you will fail.
Without fear ideas will grow into action!
Know that you are bright, talented, and capable of
amazing things when you put your mind to the
Know that you will always have shelter and that
you will always have food.
Know that failure is only a limit that other people
set upon you.
Live your dreams. Your ideas. Live your life.
Success is to be measured in your freedom, your
health and your happiness. It is what you create
and what you give back to others. Your success can
be intangible - be it an idea or how you affect
others - and it can be building a business from
nothing. It can be conquering a fear, learning a
new skill, or changing careers to something that
you’ve always wanted to do.
Wealth and public profile is often seen as a
measure of success. My personal opinion is that I
deeply respect those that have earned it
themselves, free of shady deals and less than
ethical conduct (which is subjective in its own
right). There is no doubt that in my own mind that
I want to profit handsomely from my venture. For
me, profit is an indicator of how well I’ve done as a
leader and I love having a goal. Define your own
measure of success and go for it!
When you think it’s impossible, that all of this just
isn’t sensible, think of the mobile phone salesman
who had a dream to be a famous opera singer. He
dreamt it and it happened. Paul Potts appeared on
the stage of a UK talent show. He sold cell phones
for a living. He looked like a very average person.
His dream, since he was little was to sing opera for
a living. He wanted to be on stage and to have
people come to his performances.
Stepping outside of his comfort zone, Paul went on
the talent show With his talent that he’d taught
himself and his innate ability, he won the show
and was vaulted into the public eye. A cool £1m
contract later, Paul started travelling the world to
entertain others. Paul is living his dream. He
stepped out on stage.
Breath in as deep as you can, sit up straight, put
your shoulders back. Now go on and step out
on your stage.
V. Don’t Listen to Your Parent/s
Every eight year old would love to be reading the
heading of this section. There would be peas left
on every plate across the nation. Now is the time
for you to unlearn what decades of being parented
has taught you. True, remember to respect your
elders. Also know when to respect yourself and to
trust your capability and your knowledge.
This adventure of exploring your idea is a good
exercise in having confidence in your given
abilities and the learnings you’ve absorbed along
the way. You are a capable human being. (And I
know you are because you are reading this which
means you are considering a change.)
Switch off when your parents ask out loud why
you’re quitting a perfectly good job to explore less
known territory. You can handle this how you like
but I recommend that given their use as future
potential investors, and because they are your
parents, treat them with kindness and good
manners. Be patient with them. Listen to them but
don’t let them stop you. Forget about limits.
Boundaries are what other people who are
afraid put on others. This is their fear. Don’t let
it spread to you.
The incredibly talented and focused Olympian Carl
Lewis summed this up perfectly. In reference to
the possible he exclaimed, ‘“Scientists have proven
that it's impossible to long-jump 30 feet, but I
don't listen to that kind of talk. Thoughts like that
have a way of sinking into your feet.”
This following exercise helped me to dream and to
stay focused (when there are days when I’ve been
unfocused or have ventured down a ‘wrong path.’)
Write down what you want your dream life to be.
Envision it as a picture - write about your home,
your family, your spouse and how you dream the
business to be. Or think about your invention and
dream of what it could do. Or see what your
photography studio looks like. Write about your
wealth - if that is important to you. What will you
do with it? Explore all the avenues in that dream -
and remember to write about you. How do you see
your physical and emotional self (I hope healthy
and happy. Tell yourself what it is that you’re
going to do to get there if you are unhappy or not
fully fit. I did a form of this exercise in college and
later in life for short term goals (1 year). When I
first did this in my professional life it took about 5
years for it to happen (and it happened in stages,
building as I grew). It only took a long time
because it was a big dream and those aspirations
take time to come true.
VI. Big Minded Friends
You will come across friends that are unsupportive
of your ideas. This is, disappointingly, a fact,
unless you are surrounded by incredibly
exuberant, forward thinking and empowered
people. For most of us that is not the case. Don’t be
afraid to tell your pals your dreams but have the
courage to step away from those that put you
down. Surround yourself with people who dream
the way you do, who think big ideas and who have
grand plans of their own.
Grand plans are anything that expands the mind
without having to take a drug or too much alcohol
to get there. Read about successful people. Meet
other grand planners you otherwise would not
meet. Listen to their ideas. Step out of your zone.
Big people have big ideas. Small people will put
you down and try to throw the harness on you to
rein you in.
One of my extended family members asked why I
was working at my business plan since I didn’t
have a business or a ‘proper job’ to go to. I told
him I wasn’t going to get there if I didn’t do the
work. He himself had lived a life of unexplored
potential and I wasn’t about to be held back by
him. The few times I did visit him and his wife,
there were always minor digs. I stopped visiting
It might be difficult to ‘divorce’ some people in
your life. But you have to ask yourself, “is my own
happiness and the fulfillment of my dreams and
aspirations more important than our friendship?”
The answer should be yes. If it isn’t you need to do
a rethink because any friend that holds such sway
in your life should be a Grand Planner too.
In my past I had a partner that did not support me
in the way that I needed for my plans to move
forward. I felt stuck and this was holding me back.
In an effort to ‘save/heal’ the relationship, a
counsellor worked with me to understand myself
and my partner. Once a week I’d show up with the
mindset that I was there to solve my relationship
woes. What I found was the conviction to uncover
where I honestly wanted my life to go.
Knowing myself better, what drives me, what gets
me up in the morning gave me the courage to
leave an unhealthy relationship. It also gave me
the fortitude to plan to leave my work as I knew it
(at that time I was in a salaried, corporate role).
With that I left financial security, an Audi
company vehicle, a healthy salary, bonuses, and
my future as someone else’s managing director.
Today I’m happy to tell you that this has been the
happiest year of my life (except when I got my
pony at age 10 1/2).
Surround yourself with Grand Planners.
VII. A Business Plan
Let me share with you the more ‘practical side’ of
setting up your own business. In the last six
sections we dealt with the softer issues that are
vital for your success. If you’re stuck on any of
those sections deal with them before moving on.
The foundation of your planning has to be rock
solid before you build the details.
Now that you’re confident that your personal life,
your emotional self and your research is in order
it’s time to write it all down. Yes, the business
plan. This plan is surprisingly easy to write. It’s all
in you, just not in concrete words. This exercise is
the process of digesting your life’s experiencing
and placing it in written format in a document that
could also be called “The Road Map.”
You need a thorough business plan and your
investors and your banker will demand one.
Businesses without plans cease trading shortly
after they are set up - in most instances. The
planning can be arduous. It will take weeks and
maybe months to write. You might have paralysis
at first. Have heart and have patience. This process
will clarify the worries you may have about certain
areas and it will give you the discipline to develop
a plan to conquer those worries.
Many who go through this will say that their most
dreaded part of the business plan is tackling the
finances. They have fear because they’ve never
tackled a cash flow statement before. Others are
afraid that they might lack the capital to get their
business off the ground and running. The latter is
how I felt. For me, the fear of what those numbers
has shown me has caused inertia. Inertia can be
solved by having someone push you (such as
deadline with a banker). Or it may be having a
knowledgeable pal or local entrepreneurship
organisation that can review your project.
Knowing your numbers and your limits will give
you the confidence to move forward.
You need to know your numbers.
VIII. Cash. Flow.
My 103 year old grandfather said ‘make sure you
have enough cash in your first two years or it won’t
work out.’ Every decent business start up book
will say the same thing. Back to what I said earlier,
most businesses fail in the first year. Many fail
because they don’t have a business plan and run
out of cash. We all know the saying, fail to plan,
plan to fail!
You must know how much money you will need for
start up. Then plan what you will need for working
capital for your day to day needs. Make sure you
pad in there for cost overruns or ‘I didn’t see that
coming’ events. When or if you get into financial
difficulty you may suddenly feel very alone. And
you very well may be.
Have a good accountant. Keep your books up to
date. Don’t be the Managing Director and the
bookkeeper if you tend to be disorganised with
paper and receipts. Know your figures and where
you are financially at all times. Make sure your
accounts receivable are being paid on time, all the
time. If they’re not, call them. And call them again.
Some companies give payment discounts if the
invoice is settled within 30 days. Whatever it is
that you need to do to limit the money going out
and keep it coming in as forecasted - do it!
On the detail side, if you have inventory - keep it
low. Inventory isn’t stuff piled in a room waiting to
be turned into a product. It is cash. It is coins. It
just happens that you used your hard earned
money to buy something that looks like it could
one day be a bar of soap. Be mindful that it’s
useless until you use it and mindful that money
went out to pay for this. Keep your stock as low as
possible. Watch where your employees spend if
you have someone else helping with buying. A
good practise for this is to make sure you sign all
invoices before payment.
Your income statement might show that you are
making a profit but it’s your bank account and the
cash in it that is your true measure of solvency. If
you take a loan, please remember that at any time
the bank has the right to call your loan. With the
credit crunch, the recession, toxic asset-backed
loans and failing banks, nervous bankers have
called many a loan.
Setting up procedures and processes from the start
is good discipline. Apart from organising your
accounting software and your bookkeeping, that
also means getting any legal work with respect to
leases, company formation and/or distribution of
ownership clear from the start. I know this isn’t
directly about cash flow but it can certainly affect it
in the future! In all good conscience I had to put
these words in somewhere and here seemed like
the best fit!
It’s your money. Protect it, watch it and be
mindful of where it goes. Make sure other’s
treat it like it’s their own.
IX. Alright Isn’t Good Enough
As you travel through the various stages of setup
you will need the help of others. This may take the
form of bankers, an accountant, a lawyer, branding
help, graphic designers, chefs, artists,
photographers - you get the idea. You’ll be
interacting with a vast spectrum of personalities
How you articulate your vision and convey that to
others will directly affect the quality of the output
that they will provide to you. Be clear. Where
needed, write a brief of your expectations for that
person. If you’re working with a chef, write a brief
explaining your company, your vision, its intended
clientele, the products and ingredients.
Learn how to say what you are doing and why it’s
so great in 20 seconds or less. (It’s okay if it takes
ages to figure this out, I’m still trying to find the
words for mine because the attraction is I want to
talk about it for ages but people don’t want to
listen for long!)
Be clear about what makes you and your company
different. Why will you survive in these times of
austerity? What can a small business proactively
do to avoid a trouncing in the competitive world of
Most importantly, remember to promote yourself.
By this I mean mentally switch your mindset from
“I’m setting up a soap making business” to “I lead
a soap making business that produces own label
bar soap for better quality retailers in the UK.”
All this builds to the topic of this section, “Alright
Isn’t Good Enough.’ As you develop your
enterprise not everyone will share your
enthusiasm. There will be those that you hire or
meet that will consume your time unnecessarily.
These people may seek something for nothing or
they may lack the commitment to your vision. As
the Managing Director you have the right to
control your time and to know when to leave
There will be those that will not work to your
standard. When they want to cut corners it’s time
to cut them out. It’s okay to take charge and to say
to people it’s not working out or that you are not
comfortable with the current direction. You must
do this for you to progress. This is about your
success and happiness. You need to engage with
other Grand Planners who also work to a high
standard if you’re going to do the job right the first
There are some things in life that are just plain
true and one is you get what you pay for. Services
that cost less may demand much more of your
time and input. This may be fine if you have a
strong sense already of what you want and can
help guide the person or company along. It’s not
helpful, for example, if you need a copywriter and
struggle to find the right words yourself.
Some of the best money that I ever spent in the
start up phase was hiring copywriters to develop
the ‘tone’ of the business. This was much like
giving my company a personality - and a life. I will
freely admit that for one person starting a small
company it was what many see as a peripheral
indulgence. Remember what your mother taught
you - you get what you pay for.
Do it right the first time.
X. To the Ladies
For the women reading this, let me speak to you
candidly and say never underestimate your
ability to create a roaring success. Possessing
XY chromosomes is not a prerequisite to success
and we can look to a long string of brilliantly
accomplished women to prove this.
Another saying that proves mostly true is, “behind
every good man is a great woman.” You know
why? She does all the work - he gets the credit. The
majority of women that I know are simply lousy at
taking credit because they just want to get on with
the job at hand. On the UK version of the The
Apprentice show, Lord Sugar had advised two of
the female participants to stop being ‘busy bees” in
the background and to step up and get noticed for
Ladies, you possess inherent talent that is vital to
the success of your venture. You are likely loyal,
hard working, bright, committed, a nurturer and
an accomplished multi-tasker. There is no doubt
that when you make a pot of coffee or tea in the
morning, you also empty the dishwasher, wipe
down the counters and tidy something else up. You
start multitasking from the first waking moment.
What I’m getting at is each one of you must
acknowledge your abilities and have the
confidence to promote yourself!
Let me tell you another story about a housewife
who turned her home-based teddy bear business
into an international success story. Some years ago
I was an au pair for two small Belgian children.
The husband left the home each morning and the
wife, aged 29, would withdraw to her office to
work on her toy distribution company, AM Toys
(named after her first borne son). Their home was
a child’s dream with stuffed teddy’s occupying the
downstairs quarter. Katia imported plush toys and
sold them to other businesses. Without having a
brand her customers soon went directly to the
manufacturer, cutting AM Toys out. That was
fifteen years ago.
My cousin gave birth to beautiful little girl and I
picked up a stuffed teddy as a gift. It was
exquisitely soft and I was drawn to its soft colours
that perfectly matched the baby’s room. The
product tag said the company - AM Toys.
distributor. It was also branded - Noukies. A quick
internet search revealed that my former employers
had created a distinct and product line.
What was once stuffed teddies sold from a home-
based office was now a DVD series, nursery
furniture, stick-able wall art, furniture and
g o r g e o u s l y c r a f t e d t o y s . N o u k i e s
(www.noukies.com) now has a presence in 26
countries. All this came from the desire of a
driven, bright and committed lady who had a
vision. She was no different than most of us,
juggling two small children, a home, a spouse and
a fledgling business.
You can do it too!
XI. It’s Not Work!
The day will come when you are sitting at your
desk, working, or wherever it is that you work and
it will suddenly feel like it’s not work. It will feel
like this is what you want to do all the time. It will
no longer feel like a chore to review a draft of
something on a Sunday night at 930pm.
If you’re in corporate life, imagine how it feels to
be at your desk, on your computer for a few hours
late on a Sunday night, having spent perhaps
eighty hours at work the following Monday to
Friday. You might feel tired, a bit drained. If you
had a choice between your preparing for your
Monday morning or being in the Seychelles - what
would you choose?
There will come a time when you’d rather be
setting up your business than dreaming of
travelling about, further delaying the start up of
your enterprise. A time will come when all you will
want to do is work on moving your business along.
When that feeling sweeps over you, you will know
that this is what you are meant to be doing. When
that time comes you will know that you are on the
right path. This is where you should be.
My partner and I have a weekly date night. Every
week we do something together, just the two of us.
One evening it was a meal at home then a movie.
In between the end of dessert and the movie I
snuck into my study to check my email. The final
work from the copywriters had arrived! Yipee! Like
a great comic book, I started devouring the pages
and I forgot about the world around me. An hour
and a half later I was still there and so ended our
Get consumed by your work but don’t let it
consume your life. Avoid your spouse resorting to
labelling herself ‘a computer widow’ and
remember to see your children if you are so
fortunate to have them. Life passes by once and
very quickly so. While you’ll miss out on certain
things, be present, however much you can be, to
those that matter most.
About the Author
After a business degree at university a logical
career in corporate life lay ahead, following the
reasonable suggestion of Naomi’s father’s to “be a
vice-president by 35.’’ Naomi started running a
small chain of upscale fishmonger shops. Moving
on up in the food chain, she worked as a director at
a major Canadian grocery retailer before setting
sights on the shores of old Blighty. Whilst working
for one of the UK’s largest chilled food
manufacturers she was resuscitated by one of her
colleagues after suffering a near-death-by-
Powerpoint experience. She resigned to set up her
own food manufacturing business in the UK.
Naomi lives in London UK and when not doing “a
proper job” she’s off doing photography, biking in
Richmond park, running along the Thames,
exploring quaint pubs & restaurants, hiking in
north Wales or hanging out with her 103 year old
grandfather. If you’d like to have a chat, you’re
only a stranger once. Naomi can be reached at