'What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?' is one of my favourite questions from Tete a Tat. I love good advice, so I always feel excited to read the answer. Many people talk about life advice which I devour, but I remember Max Rollitt's, 'Drive for show, putt for dough' – an accountant told me this as a maxim to run a business by. It basically means that although turnover is important, more important is the profit.' Wow. That's what I need, a bit of business advice. Tat has been a great friend to me; I've enjoyed its company and the opportunities it has presented. But if I'd known that it was so two-faced, I am not sure I would have ever got into bed with it. The other face is made up of shipping, accounts and HMRC; those brown envelopes still strike fear into my soul. Before running my own business, I'd only ever had one, which was a tax rebate. Not any more. Now they are Pandora's box of things I don't want to do. So Max's little insight - is hugely helpful. So I thought it might be useful for those who are thinking about starting their own business. Or perhaps you, like me, are a few years in and in need of a bit of inspiration. To seek out the advice of a few people who have created businesses I hugely admire. I asked them to share with us what they wished they'd known when starting out.
Henry Hales, Director of SIRPLUS
SIRPLUS Quality menswear born from surplus fabrics.
Try not to put yourself in a position where you are doing everything. That is not good business!
Find a great accountant, they are worth their weight in gold.
Don't stress the small things so much. Focus on the bigger picture.
Enjoy the ride. The early days are manic, but you will look back fondly.
I started SIRPLUS selling boxer shorts outside on the market. Looking back, I'd probably tell myself "you won't make enough boxer short sales outside in the rain. Focus on expanding the range and selling online."
But, those long, cold (often loss-making) days made SIRPLUS what it is.
So, I think you should also carve your own path. When the world zigs, zag!
Sarah Watson Founder Of Balineum
We are passionate about beautiful bathrooms, so much so that we named ourselves after
the Latin word for bathhouse.
Probably the number 1 piece of advice: Have a prudent reserve. Have one or two months’ worth of costs in a separate savings account. I couldn’t do this when I first started but when I did get to be able to do this, it has done wonders for my stress levels. Having a safety net makes every decision a little easier.
More recent learning: value consistency over intensity. Small, consistent changes and processes are ultimately far more powerful than grand gestures or sweeping wholesale changes (as anyone who has started a no-sugar, no-carb, no coffee diet and then given up after 3 days can also attest). There’s a book called Atomic Habits that I avoided reading for years as I thought it would be too American-gung-ho – but it turned out to be great. And I enjoyed listening to the author James Clear being interviewed on a podcast by Brene Brown for those who don’t want to read the book. It’s a good podcast episode.
Tobias Vernon, Founder Of 8 Holland Street
8 Holland Street is a gallery specializing in a mix of 20th-century European antiques,
contemporary crafts, and housewares.
Cashflow: One of the most crippling things and far more important than profit or loss! I didn’t really understand what it meant but it can quash all the fun and cripple creativity. Plan ahead, monitor weekly and keep a float to ride the downtimes. Overheads add up to far more than you ever expect them to be so allow contingency.
Archive: Photograph everything you do, screenshot website as they evolve, file newsletters, invitations, press-cuttings and keep an archive of everything visual that you can refer to. Brilliant imagery is at the centre of every brand and is a rewarding thing to look back to.
Bianca Fincham, Founder of Rainbowwave PR
Global sales & communications agency. Offices in LDN & NYC, showrooms in LDN, PAR, NYC
Create a board of advisors in an informal or formal capacity. Surround yourself with people you really admire and whose opinions you trust and care about. Sometimes when you listen to too many people, things can get confusing but a consistent group of voices from varying backgrounds who are on the journey with you can provide excellent insight, especially when starting a business solo.
Christopher Howe, Founder of Howe London
Bespoke Design, Craftsmanship and Antiques
It has to be that staying small is wonderful. You can keep life simple, keep the overheads down, stay focussed on learning all the time and spend your time doing what you originally set out to do. Wanting more space for the reasons of buying more and showing it off impressively is inevitable, but with it comes all of the diversions, and not necessarily more money in your own pocket. I am very lucky with my set up but I must admit I do envy those runners who visit me with their latest haul ready to do a deal and go home with an empty empty van and a pocket full of cash, ready for the next expedition, and of course the modern generation of Instagram dealers who can sell it all within 30 seconds of posting a few low angle photos from their iphone.
Georgia Spray, Founder of Partnership Editions
Partnership Editions aims to make remarkable art accessible to all. We work collaboratively with some of today's most exciting emerging artists, curating prints and originals from just £50.
I think I assumed that starting a business on my own might be lonely, but I found it was the absolute opposite. I'd advise those starting out to make the most of reaching out to other founders, whatever stage of business they're at, to share ideas and collaborate in some way. Just because you're new and small it doesn't mean you don't have something exciting to exchange with others who may be "bigger" than you - it's about what you have to offer not about the size of your following.
Huge thank you to all the very generous people above!