As we approach the end of 2021, it seems less and less likely that next year will see an end to Covid-19.
With the pandemic still ongoing, those who were hoping to start their own business in 2022 might now be feeling unsure about whether to take the leap.
But former Dragons’ Den star Piers Linney feels this is not something that should put aspiring entrepreneurs off.
And as the chief executive of Moblox, a company which offers tech and tools for small businesses, the serial entrepreneur has plenty of knowledge about the sector.
‘Entrepreneurs typically don’t put off starting a business because of an external issue. No matter what the climate, people often get on with it,’ he says.
Former Dragons’ Den star and chief executive of Moblox, Piers Linney, has created the ‘Pitch to Piers Competition’ which will award £10,000 to one entrepreneur who impresses him
In fact, the British businessman, who was born in the former mill town of Stoke-on-Trent, thinks that now is one of the best times to become your own boss.
Taking the plunge now, he says, will make it easier for founders to adapt to the gig economy that ‘is coming for us all’.
Linney explains: ‘Eventually the idea of employment will peter out. We’ll be hired for specific projects and in some way we’ll all be working for ourselves.
‘There’s a business in everyone, just as there’s a book in everyone. Now’s the time to step out of employment as you may not have security in the future.’
But he warns that those starting their own ventures in an uncertain climate should plan carefully, especially when it comes to borrowing money to kick-start the business.
He adds: ‘Uncertainty is the danger for any business. If you’re borrowing money, you’ve got to remember that interest rates are going up, so the cost of borrowing is going up and there’s inflation to contend with as well.
‘Can you service this debt? People may have saved up money during Covid, but are they going to save it or spend it as prices and unemployment are going up? It makes it harder to be successful.’
Here Linney, who’s been recognised as one of the top 100 Black Britons and is a huge supporter of small businesses, shares his top tips for start-up success for 2022 and beyond:
1. Do your research
Linney advises people to stay employed for as long as possible while doing research for their start-up.
The businesses who survive Covid best will be tech-first
Piers Linney, former Dragons’ Den star and CEO of Moblox
He points out that credit is harder to come by without a regular income, with banks reluctant to lend and the government closing some of their support schemes in recent months.
‘I don’t think credit is easy to get. There’s a misconception you can [easily] borrow money to start a business,’ he says. ‘There is lots of equity swimming around, but they’re mainly interested in big start-ups.’
2. Keep costs down
Linney advises entrepreneurs starting out to ‘keep it simple and have a clear idea of the target customer’.
He says: ‘Ask yourself what problem you’re trying to solve for them. Keep it cheap and keep the costs down.’
3. Ask customers for their input
Linney says that entrepreneurs should not be fearful of asking their target customers what they think of an idea, product, or service.
He says: ‘Show them your service, software or app. Talk to them and ask them if it adds value and what they would they pay for it.
‘Get that feedback, and you will find out very quickly if it has legs.
‘If customers are willing to pay you for it then you can think about starting a business. Till then, don’t bet the farm on it.
‘It’s a process, like being a scientist. if it doesn’t work out move on to the next one.’
Piers Linney advises entrepreneurs to test their products and services with their target customers and ask them what they would pay for it, before committing too much cash
4. Be tech driven
Linney points out that the businesses who were able to survive during the most difficult times of the pandemic were able to pivot and embrace technology.
He says: ‘The ones who survived Covid best were tech first. We saw a decade of e-commerce growth in a year. You must be tech-first or you will be left behind.’
5. Know what you’re getting into
Linney encourages entrepreneurs to put themselves forward for competitions and grants.
However, he warns wannabes to read the fine print first and ensure that their business will benefit in the long term.
‘Grants are all slightly different and can come with strings attached,’ he says. ‘Just make sure the money you receive can be used how you want to use it.
‘There’s lots of places where you can get various forms of finance; for example some may be tech-focused. Just make sure you apply for the right one.’
He points to his own initiative via his business Moblox, which is currently offering one entrepreneur the opportunity to win £10,000 for their small business.
To find out more, see ‘How to enter the Pitch to Piers competition’ below.
6. Build relationships
Linney’s final tip is to build relationships with communities. He says this is where small businesses have the upper hand over their larger competitors.
‘SMEs have this advantage over big companies – the faceless enormous brands,’ he says.
‘What those brands can’t’ do is build a real, compelling relationship with customers.
‘Customers want to know who you are, what you’re selling or offering, and what impact it is making on the world.’
Small Business Essentials
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.