Work the hours you choose. Make more money. Become your own boss. There are plenty of reasons to start your own business - but there are lots more reasons not to. Few things in life are as risk-laden as starting a business. So why do people do it and what makes them successful?

We asked business owner, Maureen Lamburn of Lamburn and Turner, to find out.

First steps

“It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it”

Five years working for Ernst & Young did little to prepare Maureen for her first client meeting as a small business owner. She carried it off, of course, but with a briefcase on one arm and a baby on the other.

Following maternity Maureen returned to work on a sub-contractual basis. Realising she could do the same job, just do it for herself, she put an advert for accountancy services into a local magazine.

On the way to her first client meeting the call came through that her childcare had let her down. Instead of cancelling, she went ahead…baby and all. One client became two; two became three and the rest, as they say, is history. Some 20 years on from giving her the flexibility to look after 3 young children, Maureen’s business continues to grow.

The importance of support

“Don’t be afraid to ask for support or help. You can’t do everything yourself”

In the early days Business Link provided invaluable support - a grant of £40 per week to cover childcare costs for 2 days and a client referral program. It was also through Business Link that Maureen met her business partner when, after discovering a mutual desire to work around family commitments, they established Lamburn and Turner LLP.

Maureen also accessed support from a group of local chartered accountants. Here she received the technical updates she needed after her maternity leave – not to mention an invaluable professional support network.

So what did starting the business feel like? Two words sprang to mind for Maureen: “positive” and “petrified”.

With hindsight (and having now attended some CABA personal and professional development courses building her soft skills and finding out more about the support CABA) Maureen thinks things could have been easier.

“If I had to do it all over again, I would have taken full advantage of the services CABA offers.”

From start-up grants for new businesses to a listening ear for its founders when times get tough, CABA delivers a range of support services for people thinking about starting their own businesses.

Networking and finding opportunities

“It doesn’t matter how good you are at your job, if no one knows you’re out there you won’t get the work”

Networking was a different (and arguably a much harder) when Maureen started out. Social media and professional online communities didn’t exist so it was great work and referrals that Maureen and her partner relied on. Happily these came thick and fast.

An important lesson all business owners learn is that opportunities can arise from anywhere - so network where you can. For example, a conversation between Maureen and the printer of her first business cards gave the partnership a new client and allowed them to secure the premises needed to take the business to the next level.

Continuing to work on your business and not just in it

“It’s not for the faint hearted”

Being goal-orientated and staying focused is vital if the business is to grow and develop.

For Maureen it was 5 years until she felt really comfortable and established in her business. She’d already hired 2 members of staff and built up a regular client base by this time, but never became complacent. She always remains up-to-date and continues to evolve the business. Indeed, Maureen and her partner regularly use business and management consultants to assess their success, keep them focused on their goals and help them grow in line with their objectives.

Soft skills can often be often overlooked, but they remain a priority. According to Maureen some 50% of the job is technical and knowledge-based. The other 50% is about people – engaging effectively with all kinds of clients. Mastering and developing skills such as emotional intelligence and personal branding can be a tremendous benefit in helping to manage clients and their expectations.

Maintaining a work-life balance

“It’s an all-consuming job. You have to be very disciplined and focused when you’re at work”

Having 3 small children at home meant that shutting the door and leaving work behind at 5pm was important. When that became a challenge, as the workload increased and working late became the norm, Maureen moved the business out of the house to new premises – effectively reinforcing that necessary barrier between work and home.

Maureen was (and continues to be) very focused. She has invested a lot of time to achieve the income she now enjoys – moving from working 2 days a week, to school hours and finally back to full-time.

Top tips and recommendations 

“If you’ve never made a mistake, you’ve never made a decision”

Now, some twenty years on from that tough first year, Maureen’s business has grown successfully. So what are her ‘top tips’ for people starting out today? Let’s find out:

  • Don’t undervalue yourself or the services that you provide
  • Don’t be something you’re not
  • Have strong ethics
  • Be professional at all times
  • Keep in mind what you’re trying to achieve with goal setting exercises and business plans
  • Don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go the way you want them to

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