15 inspirational start-up tips

At Entrepreneurial-Spark we firmly believe the best ideas are those shared.  It is something we encourage among our start-ups, located across our three accelerators in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Ayrshire, as the power of collaboration is vital in taking your business to the next level. Here three of our entrepreneurs share their top five business start-up tips.

Leah Hutcheon, founder of Edinburgh start-up, Appointed

1. Be open to opportunity

Say 'yes' wherever possible. If you get the chance to meet with someone in your industry, have a chat and see what you can do to help each other. Sometimes there's an amazing opportunity for growth right under your nose!

2. Be yourself

After all, everyone else is taken

3. Be creative

As a start-up, you're never going to have all the assets you need right at your fingertips. If you can think outside the box then you'll have a natural advantage. Necessity is the mother of invention after all.

4. Be a worker bee

Work your ass off and good things will follow.

5. Be nice

There's the archetypal image of a harried businesswoman with a mobile attached to one hand and a Filofax to the other. But how many of us want to be that woman? If you're a nice person, people are more likely to be nice back. If you have lent a hand (or a sympathetic ear) when others have been in need, people will be happy to help you. If you respect that everyone has their own priorities, yours will be respected too. And, most importantly, when opportunities come up, you'll be the person everyone wants to work with.

Follow @appointedd

 Iain McDougall, founder of Glasgow start-up, Taragenyx

1. Ditch the expensive lifestyle - if you have it

We put our entire life and livelihood at risk for the start-up. We have no alternative. No investments or pensions to lean on. It must work. All day every day, we are consumed in building value in our company. We forgo great jobs, great schools, and great opportunities to be building a start-up - a start-up that will most likely fail. But we continue…

But we continue… Why? Because it's never about the money, it's about the love of doing something better than it's currently being done and building something spectacular with some amazing people in the process.

 2. Only hire people who are way better than you are

Your business start-up is never about you. It's about the amazing people you get to work alongside each and every day. It's the people who you call at 2 am on a Sunday morning when something worries you. And it's the people who you share twin-bed hotel rooms with to the keep the costs down.

You need people who are not only comfortable with this but who are way smarter than you could ever be. And that includes - hires, mentors, advisors… Every one of these amazing people should be a branding event in their own right. If they're not, you're not aiming high enough. Keep shooting for the "rockstars".

3. Get used to people saying "no"

Every time you reach out to people, be they investors, customers or potential new hires, many will say no to you. So you'd better get used to it.

When people say no, treat it as something special because it's quick. It's so much better than getting a protracted maybe.

But remember, VCs hate saying no to you. Here's a test for deciding whether a VC's response was yes or no: just look down at your hands. Are you holding a term sheet?

4. It's not about luck - it's about how hard you can work your ass off!

I started life in offshore oil exploration - sometimes in hostile and unstable countries, harsh working conditions, and long, long hours. Then I moved to a top-tier global management consulting firm. The hours were just as long, and again I was surrounded by an amazing group of people.

As a consequence, I've always worked very, very hard. 16-hour days,  seven days per week feels normal to me. But the flip side is, the harder I worked, the luckier I've got.

5. Investors who are former entrepreneurs are simply the best

Many investors aren't former entrepreneurs. But you'll know what kind of investor they are by how they talk about start-ups and their founders. You'll know by how they express concern and empathy for them, their family, their situation. If they are truly founder-friendly, they'll care. You'll hear it and you'll feel it.

Investors who are entrepreneurs care. Really care. They haven't forgotten the blood, sweat and tears that they shed every day to make their business happen.

Follow @taragenyx

Mark Shervill, founder of Ayrshire start-up, 2-Do-Sport

1. Know your message

A massive part of the ESpark process is doing a 60-second and three-minute pitch. They have been integral to me really getting to understand the backbone of my business, and grabbing the attention of investors and my customer.

2. #Tweet.

Before joining ESpark I had a twitter account but never used it. Now it is a vital tool in my business. The instant connections I have made with key players in my #SportsCoaching world have been awesome to the degree that two of these people are now on my advisory team.

3. Together everyone achieves more

Strategic partnerships and co-competition [forming partnerships with competitors] are two extremely value components to establishing good traction in your market.

I have worked hard on forming both international partnerships with big hitters in my industry as well as local competitors that I feel have good knowledge and resources in my area of business.

Always look to be open to trading skills and knowledge with these people. Think not only how they can help you, but how you can help them.

 4. No substitute for smart graft

I hear all so often about how hard and how many hours people are working, and as a golf coach, I hear stories all the time about how hard people are practising on their game.

But what's the FOCUS? Practice makes permanent, perfect practice makes perfect. So focus on getting 12 hours of graft done in 3×4 hour shifts, where you place your attention on your intention and really get down to getting the job done.

 5. Look after yourself

Remember there's only one person who's going to make your business a success and that is YOU. So eat well - breakfast is KING. Take fruit with your breakfast. Exercise - take 20 minutes in your day to get active, keeping you mentally sharp and physically fitter, fuelling your #GoDo.

If you want help with this, tweet me @Coach_shervill #Fit-Preneur.

Entrepreneurial Spark is supported by RBS. Find out more by following @ESparkUK and visiting www.entrepreneurial-spark.com

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