24th August, 2016
So You Think You Want to Start Your Own Business?
Over the years I’ve interviewed a lot of people. All at different stages in their lives and careers. Some just starting out and looking for a stepping stone role. Some who are looking for a role to call home before retirement.
Maybe it’s because I’m currently in my mid 30s and a lot of my friends are in the same boat but I’ve recently come across a lot of candidates and friends who are thinking about going out on their own. People who are ready to screw up some courage, arrange some funding and take on the world as modern day Warriors, or Entrepreneurs as we call them today.
From all the reading I’ve done and conversations I’ve had when it comes to starting your own business I’ve found two schools of thought. Anyone who has been successful will not only tell you to do it, they will almost demand it of you. They want you to do what they did, dive in and take over the world. You’ve worked hard and you won’t get rich working for someone else. “Best thing I ever did” you will hear them say. Mixed with a chorus of “Don’t get me wrong it was hard work”.
Then there are those who have tried and, well, let’s just say it hasn’t worked. Often you’ll hear about how timing was off or funding was hard to come by or they will have a strong finger pointed at the market or a business partner.
At the end of the day it’s like a lot of things in life. Try it and succeed and it will be best thing you will ever do, fail and it can be an expensive life lesson.
With all that being said I recently had a discussion with Danny Marlow of A Positive Funding. Danny is a partner to MATCH Executive through our contracting business. I’ve enjoyed working with Danny from our first meeting. He knows his stuff when it comes to funding, he makes it very easy to work with his business as he alters his offering to fit our needs and he supports the Hawthorn Football club.
I was talking to Danny and found that he took the plunge a few years back. Like many others have tried, Danny has built a very successful business in a very competitive market where reputation, security and longevity is key. He explained that he was currently in the middle of a roadshow across the country where he and his business had been invited to speak alongside some other major and long term players. A sign that Danny had arrived (not that he will say that) but in all respects he has made the jump from start up to legitimate player.
When I asked him how he made the leap here’s what he said:
1. He stuck to what he knew
Danny knew he wanted to run his own business. After 20 years in the finance industry he was ready to take the leap. He looked at different industries and different businesses but in the end decided that if he was going to build a really successful business he had to stay in the space where he had expertise.
2. Find a need and specialise
Danny found a gap in the industry and then specialised. By doing this he could provide the exact service needed whilst dealing with little competition.
3. Define your market
After he found his specialty he was able to define this to the market. He was able to present his product clearly. There was no doubt from his clients as to what A Positive could do. This helped him sell his service.
4. Get your product offering right. It’s not worth talking about specialising and defining your market if the product you offer remains generic. Get everything in line from your business plan to your language and your product. Be sure to stay true to what you plan.
5. Focus on building the right networks
Danny worked hard to first uncover the key networks he would need and then he built those relationships. A long process that has paid off dividends
6. Work hard on cold calling
Business plans and strategy is important. Getting the information together is a big step. However, when day one comes around hit the phones and hit them hard. Everything else will work itself out. Start selling like your livelihood depends on it. Which shouldn’t be hard to imagine because it does.
7. You win a chance by selling but you win a client through credibility and service
Danny’s business offers an excellent customer service experience. With industry knowledge, products that fit a need and a strong customer service ethic, Danny has built a business that now finds nearly 70% of its new opportunities inbound, either direct or by referral.
8. Find the right partners (internal & external)
Finding the right people to work with is essential to getting the job done and enjoying the journey. People you can rely on and trust, whether they be business partners and/or equity partners.
I had to laugh as Danny shrugged his shoulders and tells me it was just business as usual. Maybe that’s what it takes to be successful. No ego and a humble approach towards it all. He had a plan, he actioned the plan and he did it in an industry that made him happy.
So stick to what you know and what makes you happy. The people I know who have started on their own and been successful have all done that. Because it will get hard and the nights will get long but if you truly believe in what you are doing you will fight and that is where success lies.
I tip my hat to those who have done it, to those who are planning it and to those who will do it in the future. The world was built by Warriors even if we call them Entrepreneurs.
Good luck to you.