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Posted by Sarah Brown on 21 Jun '11

Seven rules for success based on 20 years of experience

Seven rules for success in business learned from the first 20 years of experience

This month sees Sarah celebrate her 20th year in business. My goodness! Where does the time go? Today's blog is written by Sarah, looking back over her time as a successful entrepreneur... enjoy!

20 years - is it really?

20 years ago this month I set up on my own. Of course, as I recommend to clients I had a full business plan, a clear strategy, particularly for marketing and had developed lots of potential clients.

Or maybe not!

Actually I had tripled my mortgage, taken my parents on an expensive holiday to Switzerland and got back to find I was parting company with my employer and losing my fully-expensed car and everything else. I’d worked for large and small firms mostly at director level and decided enough was enough, I should go out on my own.

I had no plan; no contacts in the town where I lived – Milton Keynes, I just commuted from there into London; and limited financial resources, but that’s another story.

I got on the phone rang everyone I knew and said I’ll do anything (legal) - I need to make money – in fact £2,000 per month to cover my mortgage and basic living costs not getting complex.

Strangely enough, I wasn’t certain that this well thought out strategy would work and I knew I would be losing my company car so I since I was worried that I would only have a bike in future I went out and bought lots of tins of basic food – they would keep and reduce what I needed to carry on my bike.

(When I moved to Sheffield 6 years later I threw out some of the tins which I had bought in that initial panic.)

Anyway it worked, I got initial jobs and then more and built on my strategic skills, management experience and marketing background to develop first a successful consultancy in Milton Keynes – the HBH Partnership and then a flourishing company Brown² Profit Consultancy which trades as inspire2aspire in South Yorkshire, offering strategy and coaching support across business and charity sectors.

So are there any words of wisdom from surviving 20 years?

Here are my seven rules:

  1. Keep on learning and be open minded – I’ve attended training in Hawaii, California, Dallas, Chicago, Toronto and also much more locally and am always learning more.
  2. Be flexible – markets change, needs change, sometimes it’s just about changing the marketing sometimes it’s more fundamental I think strategic thinking is even more critical now than when I started.
  3. Do something – when I started I needed to earn money. I could have first of all thought about strategy and produced a business plan but I knew my goal and bits of paper without a queen’s head wouldn’t pay the mortgage. I acted and let the planning catch up. Strategy is great and will make you more effective but eating is better, split the short term and the long term.
  4. Join JCI – if you are young enough. I made lots of contacts which got my business going and accessed cost effective training including courses in America (and I even met my husband, Bob!)
  5. People (generally) will help – if you ask people they mostly will help and advise.
  6. Define what success looks like – if you know where you are going you’ll get there, set goals, write them down and then refer back to rule 3.
  7. Aspire to change the world – you can. Nothing ever happens until one person decides to make it happen. My greatest joy is helping others to change the world and reach their aspirations, my greatest sadness is that so many people are not inspired and do not believe that they can change the world.

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Tags: entrepreneur marketing charity