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career 13 min read

Everything you need to know to become a successful entrepreneur or business owner

By USQ 11 Apr 2019
Lady studying outdoors at park bench with laptop, post-it notes and cup of coffee

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Have you ever dreamed of quitting your day job and starting your own business? If your answer is ‘Yes!’ you’re not alone.

Apparently, Australia ranks eighth out of 38 countries that are part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) when it comes to starting new businesses (McLeod, 2017). Likewise, one survey of over 12 000 millennials conducted in 2017 found 68% of respondents believed they had the opportunity to become an entrepreneur (The Foundation of Young Australians, 2017).

But dreaming of leaving your day job behind to pursue a life as an entrepreneur and actually calling it quits and forging your own path as a business owner are two completely different things. You might be held back by questions like, ‘Is starting a business a financially viable idea right now?’, and ‘Where would I even start?’

In this article, you’ll find the answers to these questions as well as a lot of other information that will come in handy if you want to start your own business. To bring you the best tips and advice, we’ve consulted with USQ’s Dr Paul Newbury and two USQ community members who currently run their own businesses.

Statistic - 68% of 12000 millenials surveyed in 2017 believed they had the opportunity to become an entrepenueur

Benefits of starting your own business

Some of the most common reasons why people decide to start a business include:

  • Needing a creative outlet outside of their regular 9-5 job.
  • Feeling like they have the strengths, knowledge and connections to be their own boss.
  • Discovering a need for a product or service that they think they can create.
  • Experiencing push-back at work. Even if their ideas and suggestions are good, it might be difficult to initiate change in an established business.
  • Feeling taken for granted at work, or like their current career isn’t going anywhere and they need a change.

Do any of these ring a bell?

There are other benefits of starting your own business as well. For example, if you become successful, your business can bring in an independent source of income. From a career perspective, the entrepreneurial skills you’ll develop in the process of starting your own business (including problem solving, creativity, communications, teamwork, financial literacy, digital literacy, critical thinking and presentation skills) can improve your readiness for future opportunities. Enterprise skills are easily transferable and are required in many jobs across each industry. For example, The Foundation of Young Australians claims enterprise skills are more than 50% of the skills currently requested by employers in most industries, and that jobs of the future are going to demand enterprise skills 70% more than jobs of the past (2017). The Foundation of Young Australians’ research has also found that wages are higher for job seekers with these enterprise skills (2017).

Statistic - Enterprise skills are more than 50% of the skills currently requested by employers in most industries

Why uni is the best time to start thinking about your start-up

Starting your own business while you’re at university can put you on the path to pursuing your future goals and increase your chances of success, whether your start-up continues or fails. However, like with any major, life-altering decision, there are going to be pros and cons to consider. If you want to start a business while you’re still studying, it will obviously be challenging to establish a healthy work-life balance, because both ventures require so much attention. Getting a business off the ground is likely to become all-consuming and it will be difficult to switch off and enjoy down time, which is essential for managing stress levels and maintaining your overall mental and physical wellbeing.

That being said, starting to think about your future business while you’re at university can have its benefits. Developing your business concept and plans at uni allows you the opportunity to start small and test the waters while you’re still in a supportive learning environment and have access to students, staff and community members who can help you on your journey.

Dr Paul Newbury has recently overseen the development of USQ’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation website, which launched mid-2018. He says it’s important to encourage all USQ students to develop the entrepreneurial mindset, not just those enrolled in business courses. Paul is passionate about creating an environment at university that allows all students to nurture and evolve their ideas. He believes that as students begin to learn more about their course materials, they also begin to develop their critical thinking skills, and are likely to identify opportunities for innovation and product or process development.

‘Our aim at USQ is to build the entrepreneurial mindset in all students. My best advice is to go to the Entrepreneurship and Innovation website, which is a one-stop shop for students who have an interest in pursuing a business venture. It’s not about getting students to sign up to long-term courses. That might be one of the options, but we understand that students have got a lot of commitments, and we want to offer something for everybody.’

We understand that students have got a lot of commitments, and we want to offer something for everybody.
Author profile of Paul
After co-founding TAPAK, the first food truck park in Malaysia, USQ MBA graduate Tawfique was named Young Entrepreneur of the year at the 2017 Malaysia Australia Alumni Council Awards. He says his studies provided him with the basic marketing analysis skills and project management methods he needed to execute his own business marketing strategy. While local creative business owner and USQ PhD graduate Tarn says she didn’t learn business skills as part of her undergraduate creative arts degree, she did learn the technical design skills, industry knowledge and time management skills she needed to start her creative business, Ocre Designs.
Statistic - Jobs of the future are going to demand enterprise skills 70% more than jobs of the past

How to get started and what to consider

Did you know that almost 97% of start-ups in Australia either exit or fail to grow within the first two years (McLeod, 2017)? There is a lot more to starting your own business than having a great idea, and there are no guarantees that you’ll succeed. That’s why it’s important to be realistic when considering whether starting your own business is really something you want to do, to do your research, and to find the support you’ll need to help you along the way.

When asked how she started her local creative business, USQ PhD graduate Tarn said, ‘I researched the market to find industry support and picked up the phone and made contacts. I kept a note of everyone I spoke to and ten years later I continue to network within and beyond these initial connections’.

5 things to keep in mind when starting a start-up

  1. Ensure your business idea fills a gap in the existing market and meets a need not currently being met by anyone else. Verify the validity of your idea with someone who has relevant professional insight and industry experience.
  2. Don’t let fear and self-doubt hold you back from going after something you’re passionate about and driven to achieve. If you find yourself saying things like, ‘I’m not ready’, or, ‘I don’t have enough credibility yet’, identify why you think this, resolve anything that needs to be addressed and move forward.
  3. Start small but think big. Set yourself up for long-term business success from the start by creating a mission statement, business plan, media pack and other key documents to help you build and grow your start-up.
  4. Going it alone doesn’t mean you should actually do everything by yourself. You need people who will give you advice and support, and a network of contacts who you can learn from and seek advice of, such as professionals with specialised knowledge like law and finance.
  5. Remember that growth takes time, so use the time you have while you’re studying to test, get feedback on, and work out the kinks of your business idea, so that once you’ve graduated, you’re ready to hit the ground running.

It’s important that you’re realistic about how much you can achieve in your timeframes and what you want to invest in the process of starting your own business, because the reality is that it is likely to be expensive and take time before you see any profit.

When it comes to funding your start-up, there are many factors to consider. For example, how will you raise the initial capital you’ll need to launch your business and how long can you wait until you need to see a profit? Will you need to hire staff, and how will you know when to scale your business? Different businesses will be eligible for different kinds of funding such as grants and scholarships, but if you’re planning on starting a not-for-profit business, you may not be eligible to seek investment.

Tarn shares her experience. ‘I instantly had a market that purchased my product and they continue to purchase from me today. Financially, I have continued to reinvest back into the company as a way for it to grow. This process was slow (a six-year period), as I continued to focus primarily on my postgraduate studies and then achieve a PhD. I am now at the stage where I am able to work full-time on the business. I currently have less focus on horizontal spending/expansion and am now concentrating on gaining profit margins (as opposed to mark-ups) through vertical gains.’

Statistic - Australia ranks 8th out of 38 countries that are part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) at starting new businesses, but almost 97% of start-ups in Australia either exit or fail to grow

What is the ‘entrepreneurial mindset’?

You might have heard of the entrepreneurial mindset … but what does the term actually mean, and what does it really take to be an entrepreneur? The entrepreneurial mindset is what many people refer to as the specific skills and qualities a person needs if they want to be successful as an entrepreneur.

These skills and qualities include:

  1. The ability to identify your own weaknesses and knowledge gaps. Successful entrepreneurs have to be across all aspects of their business, including aspects they may have no prior knowledge or experience in. This is why it’s important they have enough knowledge to get by, but also have strong networks (or eventually, staff) they can rely on to bridge any gaps.
  2. The ability to be brutal when it comes to prioritisation and time management. Starting your own business requires a LOT of time, so in order to be successful, you’re going to need to become an expert at time management, be firm when it comes to time wasters and ensure maximum efficiency in all areas of life.
  3. The ability to be your own cheerleader. It’s only natural to experience self-doubt when starting a new venture, but no one will buy into your business or what you’re trying to do if you don’t believe in yourself. Become a champion of your business and everything it stands for and others will want to come along for the ride.
  4. The ability to be remain positive and resilient during tough times. When starting your own business, you’re going to have to do things you’re not super enthusiastic about. It’s also inevitable that you will come up against barriers that will challenge your enthusiasm for starting your own business. That’s why it’s important that you are able to stay positive, and to have the motivation and drive to keep going.
  5. Assertiveness. Being your own boss comes with the responsibility of deciding which opportunities to pursue and which to decline. You don’t need to take on every potential client or opportunity that comes your way if you don’t feel comfortable doing the work or it doesn’t align with your business values. You will probably have to have difficult conversations with clients, stakeholders, investors and staff, so it’s important that you know your worth and can back yourself when communicating this to others.

While these skills and qualities may help you find success as an entrepreneur, Dr Paul Newbury suggests entrepreneurs come in all shapes and kinds. Rather than entrepreneurship being something someone is innately good at, anyone can learn how to become proficient in entrepreneurial skills, just like anyone can learn to be good at public speaking, even if it’s something they don’t like to do. Likewise, you don’t need to be good at everything to be successful as a start-up creator. What you need is a good idea and someone who shares your vision and has the skills you lack yourself in order to carry your idea to fruition.

Last words of advice

Still not sure whether starting a business while at university is the best option for you? Entrepreneurs Tawfique and Tarn share their final words of advice to encourage the next generation of business owners.

Tawfique’s advice is to ‘Carry a notebook with you always, and key in all your great thoughts daily. Always make plans for tomorrow and think 10 steps ahead. Have seven to eight hours of sleep and wake up early. The rest will fall into place if you put your heart into it’.

Put your heart into it.
Author profile of Tawfique

Tarn says that,

‘There is no clear path to follow. Know that most overnight successes take at least 10 years to “succeed”. Continue to seek education and knowledge daily. You will meet entrepreneurs who will tell you that they didn’t need a university education to succeed, but I am so grateful I have my degrees as I have a truly balanced understanding of what I want and where I’m going. There is no doubt you are going to learn from the outside world and “school of hard knocks” but my confidence was made fertile through the ongoing support of my lecturers, and the gaining of historical and technical knowledge that is so embedded in the university system.’

Most overnight successes take at least 10 years to ‘succeed’.
Author profile of Tarn

Whether you’re committed to pursuing a start-up venture or only have the kernel of an idea you want to investigate further, USQ’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation website lists a number of ways you can get support and learn all you need to see your idea through to fruition.

You can also read more about other USQ students and graduates who have created their own businesses by visiting USQ’s Social Hub and searching for ‘entrepreneur’.
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Resources:

McLeod, C. (2017). Why are Australian start-ups failing? Pursuit. The University of Melbourne. Retrieved from https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/why-are-australian-start-ups-failin

The Foundation of Young Australians. (2017). The New Work Order: Ensuring young Australians have skills and experience for the jobs of the future, not the past. New work order report series. AlphaBeta, Sydney.