Like many people reading this article, whilst working at huge corporate pre the global pandemic, I attended thousands of internal meetings, prepared endless monthly revenue reports and did more than my fair share of psychometrics tests and “team building” events. Like so many people out there I wondered if I could do more, if there was a better world out there? I wanted to build something which created value for our customers and clients, which made a real difference.
This is where my path diverges from most. Instead of wondering, I jumped. And started a business during a pandemic.
I swapped the comfort of a salary and a structured environment to enter a new world of risk and chance. Shortly after, in March, the pandemic began to spread across the world, the UK went into the first lockdown and we were plunged into a space with even greater risk – no government grants and no furlough. But there were still rent, staff and consultants to pay. So, 12 months on what have I learned?
You need clear vision – especially in a pandemic
You need a clear vision of why your business exists. It needs to be authentic, because you are going to be living with it for a long time. If your vision is to be the next billionaire and rub shoulders with Elon Musk, then it is probably not strong enough to get you there! The challenge is having a vision that can be delivered and a marketplace for your vision. Your vision will be the thing that keeps you going when others give up.
Articulate your Message
You must be able to articulate your vision in a way that resonates with people. People do not buy into how or what you do, they buy into why you are doing it. The reality is that most companies do not do this and the more things they do, the harder it is. As a start-up you have a massive competitive edge in this space, so getting it right is critical.
Change your Thinking
Can you imagine going to your boss and saying I have a great idea for a new product, I don’t know how much it will cost and I don’t really know how long it will take to generate revenue? But gut feel is this could be great! Large corporations want certainty, they trade upside for incremental stable revenue growth. Large companies have been institutionalised. They do things because they have always done them like that, not necessarily because they work! Start-ups are not in that space you must be brave and focus on things which have impact!
We are in the information age the world is moving faster and COVID-19 has fundamentally changed everything. A clever teenager with PC and a detailed understanding of coding, UI/UX and the market can do in a couple of months what would have taken many people years to achieve. A cursory understanding of how much tech works is not enough, if you don’t understand what is possible and more importantly how to procure and implement new technology – you are dead as a business. Period.
Mistakes are Ok
Mistakes and failure are both ok, but inactivity will kill you. When I was initially starting out someone said to me you only get one chance to get it right – utter BS! You get as many chances as you create. Mistakes and failure are both found on the road to success. You move forward much quicker by getting things wrong and understanding why and then adapting. Always waiting to get everything perfect eats time, teaches nothing and will kill your business.
Nimbleness is your Advantage
In the corporate world it can take years to adapt and change simple processes, for a variety of reasons many of which are not logical. Within the agency world fee splits cause thousands of hours of debate and ultimately put neither the client nor customer first. As a start-up you can make decisions, change direction, and correct your course very quickly.
Think differently about Competitors
Do not make the wrong assumptions about competitors. Big companies are not your competitors, they likely exist for a different reason. Most simply exist to generate as much revenue as possible, for their staff and shareholders. Your biggest competitors either do not currently exist or are a couple of folks with a few computers and a garden shed. Even better try and convert these competitors into collaborators.
I guess the real question is, 12 months on knowing what I do now would I make the same decision? The answer is a hell yes!