So, you’re inspired to start a business? Well let’s talk about that…
Melissa Middleton is the Business Support-Coordinator for PNE Group, a Newcastle-based social enterprise which has been supporting people to set up and grow their businesses for more than 40 years. Here, Melissa explains how PNE Group has adapted its support to meet the needs of people with young children to care for during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s safe to say that the first half of 2020 has seen…let’s just call it CHANGE!
We have made a start on Brexit, COVID-19 showed its face, and we have all had to change the way we work and interact with others. But it’s also been a great time for reflection and that has meant an increase in individuals thinking about what they can do for themselves.
The whole purpose of this blog is multi-pronged – I want you to know that there are business support companies out there ready to support you, that support is available for you, but also that we have adapted to ensure that, if you are like me for example, and have a three year old running around the house while trying to work, we have taken that into account.
Before lockdown we gave one-to-one advice, delivered business courses, supported you to access finance and property, enabled access to accountants, solicitors, banks etc etc etc and guess what? We are still doing this, the only difference is at the moment it’s digital (using Skype, Zoom, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Facetime, emails, phone calls or texts).
Starting a business is one of those things that everyone dreams of at some point (sometimes multiple times) in their lives and it’s usually because of a change in life circumstances – redundancy, COVID, children reaching school age, finishing a qualification etc. What is really important is that you plan and get help before you leap into it.
I’ll let you into a secret: business advisors like myself dislike ‘firefighting’ and so what they do is work with you to ensure that you have everything you need in place before you officially trade, making sure you’re fully aware of your roles and responsibilities, and then continue to support you once you’re in business.
Because of this, business support organisations like PNE create a lot of resources, courses and support that covers everything you need to know before you even start, and, do you know what? Honestly, the most sustainable businesses start because of all this planning and preparation.
What’s also really important to know is that we are all very prepared for your own circumstances. For example, I mentioned earlier I work full time and have a three year old who also requires attention and support throughout the day. I also run my own business and am the Chair of large educational company. What I have always known is that time is a precious thing and so the best thing I can do for people in a similar busy situation is to combine a few of the many tasks people have each day. One example of this is the how we adapted a few resources to make them child friendly and exciting and made tool kits to work through.
Have you heard of a cash flow forecast? It’s a really important part of business planning which allows you to see income, expenses and your profit. Traditionally this is a spreadsheet with exercises you do to find the answers so, I get the kids involved. Write a shopping list of what’s needed for the business and add up how much it costs. If you have older children, ask them to research prices of products you need. It sounds straightforward but I have had feedback from parents who say this has helped them to work with their children on their business, rather than battling with them.
This is just one example that I wanted to share, but what is important to know is that we as business advisors, when we first meet you, will ask about your personal circumstances so we know how best to help you – for example by setting realistic deadlines. And if you are struggling that you can talk to us.
So start on the right foot: find your local business support company and start the planning.