Discover the inspirational secrets to starting your own business
At Amaiz, we love seeing entrepreneurs turn ideas into successful businesses. But how do you begin a career as a self employed creator? What are the important lessons to learn, or the steps you need to take to succeed? And how much of a role does mindset and emotional well-being play in your chances of turning your passion into pounds? We sat down with our friend Simon Tefula to find out.
Simon is a startup founder, podcaster and enterprise skills coach empowering people from all backgrounds to get into tech and entrepreneurship. He runs skills and training workshops that have helped over 400 business professionals and young people develop their ideas and break new ground. Simon is the Founder of Refined Creatives Limited - a branding agency focused on improving business performance through creativity.
What are the three best pieces of advice for people starting out as entrepreneurs?
- Start today! Don’t put it off. Because there is no perfect time to start - don’t wait for the moon, stars and horoscopes to align. Even if you have a job, start thinking and planning now because it’s tough enough even when you have nothing in the diary. Start, but agree to give yourself lots of time. If you want to write a book, writing a sentence a month is better than nothing. As I often tell my clients, “slow motion is better than no motion.” Getting somewhere is all about that first step. Then the next ones come - whenever they come. Usually quicker than you expect.
- Surround yourself with like-minded, smart and supportive people. Don’t be afraid to discuss your ideas, private career passions and ambitions. Join forums and online communities where you’ll find both supportive allies and also people who will challenge you too. Try to take some of this offline as much as possible by hanging out with like-minded peers at least once a week. This, more than anything, is the key to your success. Being challenged means you’re growing. As they say, if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. So network, and take all opportunities for self-development. After all, we are who we surround ourselves with.
- Upgrade yourself. This is my favourite and probably the best piece of advice. What do I mean by it? It’s all about self-improvement. As human beings we’re keen to get our hands on the trendiest tech, the best phones and the latest software - we understand the benefits of upgrading our tech. But it’s just as important to upgrade our own operating systems: what’s in our heads - our emotional, intellectual and psychological software. To do this you should always be learning, growing, developing and testing yourself whether it’s reading books, attending workshops, moving out of your comfort zone, exercising, meditating. Whatever it is, it’s all quietly building your skill set and resolve to tackle problems when they arise.
What is your greatest success?
That depends on how you measure it. Success, to me, is empowering people to become the best versions of themselves while making our world a better place. I’ve coached, mentored and trained over 400 entrepreneurs and creatives many of whom have gone on to start their businesses. You can read some of their stories at www.simontefula.com/testimonials
How do you know when you’ve had a good idea for a business?
There’s a concept in the startup world that we like to call a ‘Minimum Sellable Product.’ This is essentially the most basic version of the idea that you can sell or that a client is willing to buy from you, before you build a fancy app, website or design flashy logos. Whenever I’ve come up with ‘a good idea’ for a business, the first challenge I give myself is simple. Can I sell this to someone without building anything? Most entrepreneurs (including myself in the past) get this wrong.
We come up with these so-called ‘great ideas’ and spend huge amounts of time and money developing products and services in the hope that “if we build it, then customers will come and buy it.” A minimum sellable idea ensures you’ve created something that solves a problem, that clients value and that they’re willing to pay money for. It’s incredible how many so-called ‘good ideas’ get launched with huge investment rounds without having sold a single item.
A lot of entrepreneurs do everything to avoid selling in the beginning until ‘they are ready’ when reality hits them like a ton of bricks. Let’s say I’m a photographer interested in starting a photography business specialising in weddings. I’d visit all the local churches in my town or city to find out if there were any couples engaged to get married. Perhaps I’d ask all the local priests for recommendations. Let’s suppose that I was able to get in touch with 10 couples in my local area. I would approach them to find out if they were interested in hiring a photographer or videographer. Then if I were successful in persuading them, I’d perhaps spend more money hiring more expensive cameras to undertake the jobs, instead of doing the latter first.
What is your advice to anyone starting out?
Get a contract. It’s a huge lesson. Not least, because these days you’re more likely than ever to be working closely with friends, and not just colleagues. A contract makes everyone’s roles and responsibilities transparent; it’s not just a map of what to expect - it’s a template and failsafe if something goes wrong. This makes it so much easier to resolve any conflicts that may pop up in the future.
Also, be curious. Millennials and Gen Zers have grown up with the internet and YouTube as a major part of their lives. They are natural self starters, without even realising it. Because they ask “How can I do this?”- and expect to be able to find out. Often the answers are right under your nose. Nowadays, it’s much easier to be a company of one with a broad skill set. You’ll know the expression “jack of all trades, master of none.” I actually think that’s outdated. It’s now possible to master many aspects of your own business.
What good habits help you in life and business?
- Rest! This sounds like antithetical advice on the face of it. Surely a small business should be working flat out, round the clock, right? But actually, it’s really important to take some time off to breathe - just one or two days - to look after yourself physically and mentally. Exercise and rest is the lifeblood of good mental health and well being. Every Saturday I switch my phone off, maybe go to the park in Greenwich where I live - and literally sit and read a book and do nothing. I spend most of my time doing a million things at the same time, during the week - and so will anyone running a business on their own, so it’s important to find time to switch off.
- Trust your intuition. You may have heard the phrase ‘paralysis by analysis’. If you can overcome the temptation to over analyse you’ll be doing yourself a favour. I’m lucky. If I like an idea or I feel like giving something a go, and it fits with my ethics and goals, I’ll likely jump in. I don’t over analyse or over think it; I act more than I speak. So act on your intuition, try new ideas, new approaches and new techniques to overcome problems. There is always so much to learn in the process of trying. I understand this doesn’t always come naturally to everyone, so force yourself to try something - at least a little more often than you are now!
- Self-development. I try to learn something new every day. I especially like reading. Some things you can only learn through living your own experience and those of others - and reading books of those who have been there and done it is a great place to start.
What is your life philosophy?
My personal life philosophy is, ‘to be an enduring source of hope, empowerment and opportunity to the world.’ I believe in empowering people and making our world a better place. I want others to be the best they can be
What books have had an impact on you?
My dad gave me a book at 15 by Napoleon Hill called ’The Laws of Success’ - this was a guy who interviewed really successful people, like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison to find out what made them tick - and then take pointers from these men. What he discovered is as relevant today as it was then. He also wrote a book called ’Think and Grow Rich’ about the power of a positive mindset, and the importance of controlling your emotions.
Similarly, ’The Chimp Paradox’, by Professor Steve Peters educates you how to manage emotions internally and externally. The traditional mainstream education system is not perfect in most cases because it was designed for the industrial revolution. It does not account for emotion; but that’s how humans are built. If you can’t figure out how to manage your emotions you’re in trouble. The book posits that if there is no enemy on the inside there is no enemy on the outside; but we continually sabotage ourselves with negative thoughts. We tell ourselves false stories, like “I’m not good enough, not smart enough, I’m not ready, not confident enough” - the truth of the matter is you are being your own worst enemy - the book helps us control, understand and manage our own emotions.
What keeps you going?
Being grateful. I count my blessings every single day when I wake up. Every day I am thankful to God for giving me another day. I am healthy, I am ready. My life may be far from perfect, however I’m grateful that I’ve been given another day to push on have a positive impact on the world.
Over the past 52 weeks, I have been posting a 1-minute video of motivation, inspiration and encouragement on my Instagram as part of my campaign to empower and support the world, especially when it comes to mental health. I’m now turning these messages into a book called ’52 Messages: Motivation, Inspiration & Encouragement to get you through life.’ More details of the book can be found on www.simontefula.com
If you’re an emerging entrepreneur or thinking of starting a business on your own, Amaiz is here to support you at every stage of your journey.
Sign up now for our latest news and product roll outs.
And you can open a business account with all the support you need in minutes.