Ten top tips on managing a start-up and a 9-5

Accept compromises

It is an unfortunate fact that you will never be able to manage a business in your spare time as well as you could day in, day out. Growth will be slower, income lower and frustration higher. But you can take a more pragmatic approach, focus on long-term objectives and rely upon your day job to pay the bills.

There is unlikely to be an absolute need to make money from day one so spend your time building your website and/or product before persuading customers to cough up. In the case of LandedHouses.co.uk, landlords were not billed for the first 12 months which allowed me to create the website, try new features and generate goodwill.

Decide upon priorities and give them your best shot

Time is short and when you're doing two jobs at once it seems even shorter. It is easy to become distracted in search of a quick buck but ultimately you lose focus on what the business was set up to do.

I set up my business because it was hard to find big houses to rent. Listing smaller places would have been a great way to turn some quick pennies but ultimately it dilutes the main offering. Where possible try and stick to your original idea.

Listen to everyone

Friends, family, customers and suppliers are all sources of information and are especially valuable when time is tight. Some of my best 'ideas' are real implementations of feedback received - the blog, some of the website search options and even the design of invoices was improved after castaway comments. Use other people's minds as best you can.

Have a thick skin

Every start-up has its ups and downs, but when most communication comes in via email (as it tends to be out of working hours) negative comments can be cutting. Sometimes it's customers trying to negotiate a better deal, sometimes people have had a bad day and want to vent; just occasionally the underlying message is useful.

Positive feedback means a lot (humans are always quicker to criticise!) and negative feedback, when rephrased, can be great. Avoid taking comments to heart; just because the business is 'you', does not make them personal.

If you can, find a friend to make calls

Speaking to customers is so crucial yet so hard when you work in a different time zone. Callers can leave a voicemail or email message and I always respond but there are some conversations which just need to be had over the phone.

Either schedule a time for when you are on leave from the day job or have a friend help. This is particularly true for negotiating prices and my particular approach is to err on the low side to avoid lengthy email debates and, unfortunately, accept that revenue will be lower until the business is large enough to warrant daytime help.

If you do set pricing low, play tough

It is easy for customers to chip away via email in the hope that you will eventually concede defeat but if you have set the prices sensibly in the first place then hold your ground. A polite 'I'm sorry but I cannot accept' via email is usually sufficient. Leave the door open with a comment like 'if you still wish to proceed then there no hard feelings and we would love to keep supplying product X to you at the original quote.'

Everyone likes a bargain but if your product is genuinely good and your pricing genuinely sensible then have confidence in it.

Manage your 'helpers'

Every penny will count so do keep a close eye on staff/marketing/SEO/PR consultants that you employ. As much I would love to do everything myself for 'free' it is just not possible!

Have a top-class website

Make sure your website is clean, easy to use and self-sufficient. If the shop front is well designed and always open then your business can grow without you sitting behind the till.

Keep your competitors close

I have every major competitor bookmarked and one of them as my browser home page. If they do something well I try to imitate the idea - and preferably improve it. When time is tight free ideas can be a great help.

Decide how you are going to manage your employer

Possibly the hardest part of all. Do you have an obligation to tell your employer about your sideline business? Some will, some won't, but stick to the rules. It is very tempting to answer the odd email or even take the odd call at work but my advice is to simply turn your mobile off during the day. Resist the urge and you will be more productive in the daytime and sleep easier after you have done the evening job.

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