Branson. Jobs. Zuckerberg. Musk. If you’re dabbling with the idea of starting your own business, you’ll probably have waded through countless generic, soulless advice articles drawing from the journeys these startup icons took on en route to making their billions.

But life isn’t always a bed of roses. Sometimes abject failures can teach you more than resounding successes. And with the second series of ‘This Time with Alan Partridge’ launching this month, what better public figure to look to for prolific balls-ups than Norfolk’s favourite son – the self-proclaimed ‘King of Chat’ himself?

Oooooooooh… it’s a good list!

Phase One: Look before you leap

Remember, fools rush in. You might have a brilliant idea, but if you’re so sure of yourself that you don’t take the time to check your surroundings and conduct meaningful market research on your competitors and audience, you’re setting yourself up to fail.

Starting a business is far, far less complicated when you know the basics, and more specifically, what hazards you’re likely to face. Avoid piercing your foot on the proverbial spiiiiike by checking out our handy article How to start a business, giving you a better idea of how to prepare for any dangerous missteps.

Phase Two: Get a Business Plan

Unless you’re sitting on a mountain of startup capital, you’ll need to find funding for your big business idea. And unless you’ve properly thought the finer details through and are able to present a solid business plan, you’ll just sound like our hero desperately pitching a slew of ludicrous TV shows to BBC chief Tony Hayres.

Phase Three: Don’t ignore your paperwork

Failure to keep on top of your bookkeeping can result in sheer panic when tax inspectors show up to audit your business. The process can be daunting, but like most chores, little and often is the key. Check out our Bookkeeping article for top timesaving tips. Spoiler: cash in hand isn’t a term HMRC are keen on, and you’ll have a bit of a job convincing them that a dressing gown is wholly and exclusively for work purposes.

Phase Four: Surround yourself with the right people

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Not our words, the words of American entrepreneur Jim Rohn.

Ask yourself who your five (or as the Americans say – “faahhhhve”) are. How happy, ambitious, and successful are they, and how does this rub off on you?

Hey, if you want to spend your time exclusively fraternising with a vaguely disturbed, ‘Tommy Hilfinger’-wearing petrol station attendant, that’s up to you. But your creative juices aren’t going to flow with quite as much vigour as if you attend networking events, join relevant LinkedIn groups and enter business partnerships with optimistic, knowledgeable and motivated movers and shakers.

Join Crunch Chorus: Self-Employed Community Support on Facebook for advice and chatter with freelancers, contractors, and small business owners just like you.

Phase Five: Protect yourself

What would happen if a clumsy employee spills Sunny Delight all over your important legal documents? In today’s age of Cloud-based storage services, there really is no excuse for failing to backup all your data.

If disaster strikes and your work schedule is scuppered, you can make sure you’re prepared by getting the appropriate insurance for your business, protecting you from – among other things – loss of documents and data.

Phase Six: Avoid PR Nightmares

Nowadays more than ever, running your mouth in public can land you in hot water – especially if you’re running a business. Being opinionated is fine – but pick your battles, and always take your business’ wellbeing into account before launching into a perhaps ill-advised tirade.

A full and frank apology or retraction might get you out of a lot of silly bother, but it may be impossible to bounce back once your business’ reputation has been pulped. You don’t want to become a social media laughing stock, or end up underneath a dead cow because you’ve needlessly made enemies.

Our free Press Release Template can help you structure your request for the public’s forgiveness in a professional manner – the complete opposite to Alan’s poor attempt to win back the support of the UK’s farming community.

Have we missed any obvious ones? Let us know in the comments below.

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Tom West
Community and Social Manager
Updated on
April 27, 2021

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