Alasdair Woodbridge and Simon Turner of Heat Genius.

Be your own boss: have you got the entrepreneurial spirit?

As September approaches, many of you will be thinking about embarking on a job hunt or considering career options for once you've finished your studies. But rather than finding a job, how about creating your own?

More than 4.5 million people in the UK are self-employed. That’s the highest figure since records began in 1992. On top of that, the economy is continuing to improve. There has perhaps never been a better time to start a business.

IT and engineering specialists can make excellent entrepreneurs. At the heart of a successful business is a good idea – whether that’s filling a gap in the market, providing a solution to a problem or just creating something brilliant that people will want or need to buy. Who better to do this than those with a real knack for innovation?

What is entrepreneurship all about?

Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. From one-man-band consultants and inventors to serial entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, all have had an idea and taken the somewhat daunting move of setting up their own business. As an entrepreneur you have complete control of your business and everything and everyone in it – from finance to marketing, from HR to sales, everything is in your hands. It’s a big responsibility but it can also be very rewarding.

Is it right for me?

If you’re considering setting up your own business, you’ve got to really want it and have the passion and dedication to make it a success. There’s no right time or place. I started my first business when I was 20 because I looked at the company I was currently working in and thought ‘but you’re doing it wrong!’ It’s that ability to push against the grain and the belief that you can do better that will put you in good stead for being your own boss.

You’ll also need to consider the financial side of things. The absence of a stable income can be a de-motivator for many potential entrepreneurs who are not in a financial position to deal with the consequences of a business not working out.

However many young people are in a strong position - without the financial responsibilities of a mortgage and family you’re more likely to have later in life there is less pressure to start making a lot of money very quickly. Assess your financial situation and whether you are financially able and prepared to make that jump.

Getting off the ground

If you decide to pursue your business idea, take yourself through a series of checks to maximise your chances of success. Ask yourself: where will my first customers come from? Where might this take us? Where in the market will we sit? And what is our niche within it? Narrowing down your focus and getting a few early ‘wins’ will help so much when it comes to getting your business off the ground.

In a crowded and competitive market, it’s important to stand out from the crowd as a small business (and for the right reasons). From day one make sure you believe in what you do and that you do it well. Showing that you’re enthusiastic, deliver great service and are generally a safe pair of hands will go a long way. In the same way be realistic and do what you say you’ll do. First impressions count and if you fall at that first hurdle – not replying to an email or getting someone a quote late – it’ll make a real difference. Your first customers may come from your existing network of contacts but the next ones won’t. Word of mouth spreads and for small business, reputation is everything.

Boosting your business

Once your business is off the ground, step two is to keep it running efficiently and continuing to grow and move forward. That may sound like the easy bit but it’s often where hurdles pop up. Consider getting external support so that you have someone to discuss ideas with and get advice from. That could be a business coach or simply a peer. It’s crucial to know other people who are slightly ahead of you on the learning curve to consult with and learn from. Take a little bit of time to step back from the day to day running of the business to look at the bigger picture and talk to people around you for their thoughts. This is often where the real progress is made.

Running your own business takes dedication, passion and hard work. But there’s nothing more rewarding than being your own boss and making a living from doing something you are really passionate about. The UK is brimming with innovation and entrepreneurial spirit so before you dismiss your next idea, think about whether you could turn it into a business. It may just be worth that leap of faith.

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