Welcome to our founder lessons series. This week we have an exclusive interview with Sarah Buttery, founder at Sayse Services, a claims management company that deals specifically with employment law claims in the UK.  The company assesses whether cases are viable and whether workers can make a claim against their employer. If they can, they specialise in locating them solicitors that are most suited to their case,  that can provide them with ‘no win no fee’ agreements, (subject to the strength of their case).

Sara shares how she started her claims management company and some pretty tough lessons along the way. My overall advice is that, if you have decided to take a leap and set up your own business, make sure you are committed and that you love what you do. If you have doubts, find time to analyse if you are doing something you really want to do.

–How I started my own business

When I graduated from university in 2013, I intended to go straight into a steady job, as the majority of my friends were doing. However, I considered all of the pros and cons, high unemployment rates and lack of jobs for graduates’, vs the flexibility and empowerment of working for myself, and I decided to head in a new direction. I wanted to work towards something more, so I decided to set up my own business.

I started out by analysing my skills and evaluating how these could be turned into a lucrative and successful business. This should be the first step for anyone starting a business, ask yourself the question ‘What can I do better than anyone else?’ Use that information to develop what you are going to offer to your customers.

It is also advisable to look at your personal network, who do you know that could help you get started? Luckily for me, I knew other people who were already in a similar type of business to the one I planned to start. I was able to acquire a lot of information from them, which steered me in the right direction.

I began researching my target market to assess how I could make enough profit. Next, I identified my competitors, looking at how their businesses operated, what made them successful, and whether I could offer something more to clients, what was my USP?

Once I was confident that I had a sound business model and I was sure that I was up to the task of running my own business, I took the plunge and set up my own company. The decision to start up on your own is easier to make if you believe in, and have passion for, what you are offering your customers. Carrying out market and competitor research is also key.

–Lessons learned after launch

Launching your own business is a real roller-coaster ride and you learn some pretty tough lessons along the way. There are many things that, when I look back, I would have done differently.

For example, I learned a lot from the build of my company website. I didn’t realise just how important it was to get the right website developers for my particular business. I didn’t appreciate how much time would be spent on trying to get my ideas across in order to get a website that met my objectives, time that would have been better spent trying to grow the business.

I was pleased with the end result, but the process was more time consuming and difficult than it should have been. Looking back now, perhaps it would have been easier to have gone to someone with experience of building a site for my particular business in the first place.

Lesson two; always get three quotes for any product/service you are looking to buy for your business. Don’t settle for the first thing that comes along, you may not be getting the best value for your money. Value for money is so important, especially in the early days of running your business.

–Biggest challenges after the launch and how I solved them

There are many challenges faced by business start-ups, but the biggest challenge for me was networking and building connections in my area of business.

I overcame this by being persistent in my approach with others without appearing too pushy. Don’t contact someone once and then give up, they may be interested but it might just be the wrong time. It’s also a good idea to look at your current network, who do you know that could help you meet more potential customers?

Fortunately for me, I already knew someone who could help me expand my network of people. I made the effort to reach out to them, with the hope that they would recommend me and connect me to their clients, which they did. When starting out it is amazing how many people want to help you succeed.

Another challenge I faced was creating a system of working where I was dealing with clients from start to finish and for services, which at times, made me feel out of my depth. But I knew that I had to overcome this, if I couldn’t do it, then no one else would have done it for me.

When I did feel out of my depth dealing with client’s requirements, I took the time to go back over my competitor research and analyse the way they were doing things. I made it my goal to improve on the way they handled specific challenges.

I also found start-up business books really helpful. Not only can they help you find the answer to a problem but, they show you that you are not the first, nor the last, to be facing that particular challenge.

My Advice for entrepreneurs chasing the start-up dream

My overall advice to those of you that have decided to take a leap and set up your own business is, make sure that you are committed and that you love what you do. You will be spending the majority of your time on making it work, especially in the beginning. If you are having doubts, make the time to analyse why and, if you are really doing something that you want to do.

You will be working on your own for the majority of the time to begin with, be prepared to feel isolated at times. To avoid this, set time aside to mix with family and friends.

You need to be quite independent and be ok with not having the support network that comes with being employed by someone else. It’s also perfectly natural to feel scared and unsure at times. Don’t let this put you off, as long as you stick to a routine and deal with clients politely and professionally; you soon get to know how you are performing from their feedback, you will succeed.

If you haven’t got a business partner and you’re going solo, always be aware that it is your business; no one else will care quite as much about it as you do. Make it your mission to give it all you’ve got and don’t be afraid to direct other people to help them see your vision or goal and be polite when you do this. When you are polite, but assertive it is much easier to get people to co-operate with you.

Learn to delegate, there are some things that you have to do yourself in the beginning. But, as soon as you can afford it, bring people in to help so that you can concentrate on delivering your products and services.

If you try to wear too many hats, you can get burned out trying to learn different things whilst running a business at the same time. A business requires different skills from different people to work, it’s your job to have the vision of what you want, express it to others and get them to contribute to help bring it all together.