Young entrepreneur, round-the-world motor-biker and big ball of fire James Rix, founder of StreetPR  , lays down the things he wishes he’d known when he was first starting out. It’s advice for anyone planning to start their own business or wondering how to grow it beyond the cottage walls… Welcome to Global Entrepreneurship Week   everyone. Take it away James.

If you’ve got to the point where you’re reading stuff like this from people like me, then it’s a very good indication that you’re thinking about making the jump to starting your own business, or have just made the jump. Put it another way, you want to be an entrepreneur…

Or you could just be so bored at work that you’ll read anything by anyone to pass the time – in which case you really need to make the jump!

So, my fellow hurdlers, here are the first three things I’d like to pass on to you that I wish I could have told my old self when I was starting out.

1. Keep track of where you started and how far you’ve come

In 2011, I shut down my company, StreetPR, to travel from London to Australia by motorbike, spending 11 months riding through 30 counties and having some brilliant experiences. When I returned from my trip in 2012 I restarted StreetPR. We went from nothing to £400,000 in year 1, £800,000 in year 2, and £1.56million in year 3 – impressive stuff!

Then our turnover stayed the same for about 18 months. I got a bit annoyed, frustrated by this sudden plateau. The truth was, we’d founded and grown two other companies significantly over this period. And we’d improved StreetPR so that it was a completely different company to even 12 months before, meaning our bottom line was significantly better.

It actually took a Facebook memory of our old office in Great Newport Street from 2012 – just me, my business partner Ferg and one other staff member in a tiny office – to remind me just how far we’d come.

Five years later, and we have 30 staff across three companies, turnover of more than £2.5million and offices in Alfred Hitchcock’s old film studios, with solid wood floors and brick exposed walls. How cool is that? It’s a long way from our tiny, almost cupboard-like space in Leicester Square, London. I have amazing clients and we do some amazing things, and my team impresses me every day.

It’s really easy to forget how you’ve grown when you’re feeling tired or frustrated.

2. Write out what you’re doing during the week

One of my mentors told me to do this, and it really helps put things in perspective.

Here’s a week from my life in September:

Our events company is organising parties at Ministry of Sound, LightBox, The Piano Works, XOYO, Piccadilly Institute, Fabric, Proud Camden, Café de Paris and Koko London. We also have parties in Brighton and Birmingham. We will sell close to 12,000 tickets this week alone.

We have exclusive contracts to organise student events with 10 London universities and we have marketing to do for Fresher’s Fairs across London.

We have added 10 new clients to StreetPR this week alone, we’ve run three events and are staffing two other events at Wembley Stadium, we’ve run a tech investment conference for the Israel equivalent of the Financial Times, we’re promoting the London Octoberfest, we’ve got staff at Brentford FC, Chelsea FC and Saracens RFC, 19 regular clients confirmed new bookings…

…and its only lunchtime on Thursday.

I could go on for another three or four paragraphs, but you get the picture.

3. Mentors rock!

Let’s get one thing straight right now: a mentor is not a business coach. If a business coach only does business coaching as their business, I would personally avoid them. But good mentors are ace.

I always try and find people more successful than me, respectfully ask for some of their time and listen and learn – from their victories and their mistakes. I take on things which are important, and I discard things that are outdated or no longer relevant, perhaps due to changes in society or technology.

Mentors can be found by emailing CEOs or founders you respect – I’ve connected with two like that. Remember, if you don’t ask, they can’t say yes. Alternatively, you can find mentors through resources like Rockstar Group   or the Entrepreneurs’ Organization  .

4. Be lucky

I hate being called lucky. But people often do call me that. I suppose it’s a sign that something’s working – at least from the outside looking in.

If people around me think I’m lucky, then maybe I should lie back and enjoy it all a little more. I must be doing something right, if they look at my life and think they’d love to be living it… even if they greatly underestimate the work involved to get it.

Which leads me to my next point…

5. Being an entrepreneur is 24/7/365 work

Lots of people work hard, but for other people. Funnily enough, I work hard too – and for other people. The difference is I’m working hard for the people who are working for me. I’m working to make sure we get the money coming in to pay our staff and support their mortgages, kids and way of life.

I get up each Monday and the first thing we have to do is pay everyone else. As an entrepreneur, you work your ass off, and some months you won’t get paid because everything’s gone to pay your staff. Then some months (hopefully lots) you will earn more than you ever dreamed.

Being an entrepreneur is a strange thing. You never finish work. You don’t leave work and forget about it – you carry it with you all the time. You think, you innovate and you get inspired. You work evenings, weekends and while you’re on holiday.

You network in a bar on the other side of the world because you’ve happened to bump into a great person. You see an empty space and think what you could do in it; you have a poor customer experience and you think about your own company and your customers’ experience.

Your business becomes an extension of who you are. You never ‘go to work’, because if you love something, why wouldn’t you be happy to take it with you everywhere? Good luck explaining that bit to people who don’t do it!

6. Be true to yourself – don’t get lost on the way

It’s really easy to get lost in the day-to-day stuff when you’re running a business. Try not to.

The truth is, this is something I’m still working on today. I’m doing what I love because I really am damn good at it. But (watch out for the ‘buts’ !) there are things I’m not great at, which have to get done. If I’m not careful, I end up feeling like a lot of my time is being spent doing the bits I’m not very keen on. At that point, business stops being fun and becomes a chore.

That’s the point when you have to be honest with yourself. It’s OK to admit you’re not good at certain things and ask for help from your team. Remember, you’ve hired people you like and you’re encouraging them to grow and find out what they’re good at. Find the right person to take on the tasks you can’t or don’t want to do (let’s face it, if you can do something but don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it well).

It’s OK to say I’m not good at this and get help from your team. They won’t think you’re a rubbish boss – they’ll realise you’re human.

7. Don’t listen to people who haven’t done it…

People are very happy to give you advice; but the only advice that matters comes from people with real-world experience that’s relevant to your situation. Filter out all the irrelevant or biased comments. If you listen to everyone, especially those who have no idea or have never done it, you’ll grind to a halt. It’s great to throw ideas around with some pals over a beer, but don’t, for goodness sake, ever forget that it’s your idea, your future and your passion.

My lovely beautiful girlfriend recently bought a ticket for this very inspiring man who claimed to be some kind of business guru. Now, I have to admit, he was charismatic (even more than me) – but when I did a bit of digging, I discovered that he had in fact failed at pretty much everything he’d tried, apart from telling others how to do it.

Not really that helpful in the real world. Motivation is one thing, but actual experience from someone who has some success under their belt is another.

There are lots of real world, real entrepreneurs out there giving back to the community – our friends here at Barclaycard know a lot of them and work with the best. Look up start up conferences, accelerator programmes and, if you’re young, I would highly recommend The Prince’s Trust, who I work with on business mentoring programs – they are fantastic.

8. …even if they’re family

Of course your family love you and they want you to be successful (well, mine do anyway!). But they also want to keep you safe – and that involves a lot of negatives. Don’t risk it, you’ve got a good job, you’ve got rent and bills to pay, think about the kids…

Some of us may have the luxury of no worries and no commitments – but if the only people who followed their dreams and started their own companies were worry- and commitment-free, there would be a lot fewer new businesses and a lot less innovation.

Some of the people telling you not to do it are honestly worried about you – my mum told me I was mad to stop working for someone else and start working for myself, and I know that was real worry.

But a lot of the people telling you why you shouldn’t make the jump are telling you their own reasons, the ones which help them sleep at night in their safe jobs. The truth? They’re afraid. They don’t have the guts, and they use the ‘buts’ as an excuse – “I’d like to start my own company, but…”

9. Seize the word YES, ignore the word NO

NO is like BUT – it’s a very negative word. It stops us doing things. It’s about being scared. We don’t ask people who we fancy out, we don’t ask our boss for a pay rise and we don’t tell people our dreams in case they say it’s a terrible idea.

If we all had a little more courage, and said YES more, we could be in a relationship with that person we like, have a better paid job and be living our dream – or at least be working towards it.

In business, ‘yes’ is a very, very important word. Let me emphasise that: VERY. It’s the life-changing word.

Just imagine for a minute if I promised you that the next five people you speak to are going to say ‘yes’ to whatever you ask them. Who would the five people you’d call be?  Why? And how would their ‘yes’ help you out?

In life, the truth is you can’t guarantee 100% success. But if you don’t try, then you can guarantee 100% failure. So maybe to get five people to say ‘yes’, you have to call 500 people. But you will get there in the end.

OK, the more people you approach, the more likely you are to hear the word ‘no’. But you know what? No changes nothing. Your idea is no worse; in fact, often a ‘no’ allows you to ask why, which helps you improve your idea or your pitch for it, which brings you closer to ‘yes’. And if someone says ‘no’, you’re still the same smart, motivated and determined person you were before. Just keep at it.

10. Work with positive people you like

I’ve been known to turn down good, well-paid jobs if I’m really not a fan of the person running the business. Same goes for potential employees: if there’s something about an applicant I don’t like, I send them to my competitors – let them be their problem.

After all, what’s the point of working for myself if I can’t surround myself with great people who I like working with?

All joking aside, this is actually one of the great perks of running your own business, so enjoy it. Hire amazing, talented people and encourage them to be awesome; let them do their jobs, let them innovate, let them help you and let them grow as your companies grow.

What you need are people who say ‘yes’ – not ‘yes men’ who always agree with you, but people who don’t let ‘no’ and ‘but’ stop them finding a route forwards.

They will buy houses, have families and, at some point, they will leave you and move on to their next thing. But that’s not betrayal, it’s not a judgement on you – it’s all part of the growing process, and you will always be a big part of their lives. Personally, I enjoy this; my team are like my family.

11. Always be in a hiring frame of mind

I don’t need any staff right now. But whenever I meet someone who is awesome at what they do, passionate and driven and can help me and my team achieve our goals, I switch to hiring mode.

Good people are good people. Hire them when you find them. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes now and then: it only takes a couple of months before you figure out if someone is actually right or wrong for the job, your company and you – and if they aren’t, then you haven’t really lost that much.

If they are right, though, then you’ll soon know. Like I said above, that’s the time to give them what they need to grow.

This is part of the Barclaycard Business Mindset & Planning series – content dedicated to practical advice for SMEs when it comes to getting in the right mindset for business growth.

Published on Barclaycard Business as a 3-part series  | November 2017

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

KLPR – a Business & Entrepreneurs PR Agency in London. Contact Kelly Lloyd-Watson or the KLPR team on 020 8996 5061