Start-Up Success: Five Entrepreneurs On Growing Your Business

setting up SME

Every year, thousands of ambitious innovators set out to start a new business venture, but the world of entrepreneurship is not as plain sailing as it might initially seem.

With a daunting knowledge that over 50% of start-ups fail during their first year and a requirement to have the right funding; it is harder than ever to be confident in dropping the day job for your dream job to come true.

Being your own boss is one thing, but the world of business is complex and competitive; over 137,000 businesses are born every day, so just how easy is it to turn perseverance into profit?

We spoke to five leading entrepreneurs to discuss the foundations of enterprise success:

Time and research are your best friend

Matt Hayes, co-founder and managing director of established brand agency Champions UK plc says: “Research is key. You need to check that it is actually the case that your ‘unique’ product is exactly that. If you are going to make a difference, you and your idea is going to have to stand out from what is already on the market.”

Penny Power, co-founder of Ecademy, an online learning tool for businesses, adds that by rushing you will make mistakes: “You need to invest your time in learning the integral business skills, including money management and cash flow, and building a powerful brand that impacts their clients.”

Find the right space

Richard Smith, CEO of Office Freedom, a flexible workspace consultancy, says there are advantages to being adaptable, whether it’s hot desking, co-working spaces or even renting space by the day.

“Coworking providers are now more than ever supporting start-up companies and can assist them with company formation, legal work and accountancy.”

Start out as a side-hustle

Jo Fairley, co-founder of Green & Blacks, a renowned organic chocolate brand says: “I believe that for many people, starting a business as a ‘side-hustle’ while continuing in paid work is a practical way to start. It means working very long hours, sure – but that comes with the entrepreneurial territory.

“If you’ve given up the day job and are ploughing money back into your business, it can be very dispiriting not to have enough to treat yourself to a cup of coffee, never mind pay the mortgage. That’s when I see a lot of people give up, and their businesses run into the sand.”

But, don’t put off starting-up for too long

Many people are put off by political and economic crisis, in high times of uncertainty the future for both established and newly founded businesses is particularly troubling.

“There will always be uncertainty in the world. Don’t allow that to put the pause button on your business,” says Jo.

“We began Green & Black’s in the middle of a recession in 1991, all around me, I saw companies were like rabbits in headlights; that’s your opportunity to grab market share and power forward, while competitors are paralysed.”

Penny echoes this: “Economically, the best time to start-up is when there is the most disruption and financial challenges – if you can build a business when it is tough, you will fly when it is easy.”

Passion and openness to learning is a star trait

True leaders are prepared to educate themselves and understand that learning is forever, says Robert Lockyer, a leading entrepreneur for luxury packaging in the retail sector.

Working with top brands such as Coach, Radley, Tom Ford and Ted Baker, he says his company Delta Global always think big and aim high. “Business owners need to have passion in everything they do. They need to have enormous reserves of energy, confidence and be open-minded.

“You’ll never have all the answers at the beginning of the journey, so go looking for them.”

Matt adds: “The best trait to have is a cast-iron self-belief and stubbornness; even when it looks like the world is against you, you need to persevere and believe in yourself regardless.”

“Embrace learning. If you aren’t learning something new, your growth as an entrepreneur has come to an end.”

Age shouldn’t restrict you

The internet has created a level playing field, says Richard. “It’s amazing to see many teen entrepreneurs involved in leading tech companies and as technology continues to grow then the youth will have a further advantage.”

Robert discusses how it is more about getting other factors right early on that will help sustain your business venture: “My vision for business was propelled at a young age. When I was 12, I sold my first pushbike, learning that presentation is the key to a sale in doing so.”

The dynamic duo

There are many benefits to having two founders when starting out, one being that investors tend to support companies which are ran by several people.

Matt, who began his brand agency with his father, John Hayes says: “There is evident strength in having a partner who shares your vision.

Multiple founders offer a distribution of workload, a broader perspective and flexibility when it comes to building strong relationships with various personalities and traits.

“We are different in our approach but have the same leading values – family, honesty and exceeding expectations.

“My dad has been my inspiration. As a child I was in an entrepreneurial environment that had a buzz about it, there was always something going on. I always thought ‘if [my dad] can do it, I can do it’, because he instilled in me a sense of belief.”

Penny shares the same ethos: “Always choose a role model who shares your values, don’t chase the dream with people who aren’t like you.”

Get a step ahead of the challenges

Challenges can lead to pivotal moments in your career and will certainly change the course of your future vision.

Matt notes for him, getting a knock back from Nestle’s top job at Rowntrees drove him to change his course: “I realised that my heart was never in the recruitment process and it came as a relief. It allowed me to do what I really wanted to do.”

For Penny the need for investment in the UK was so challenging that she built a business that didn’t require investment.

Robert observes ‘fear’ as something to embrace. “If something doesn’t scare you, you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. Great things can be scary to accomplish, but they wouldn’t be great otherwise. Build a reliable team that have the skills and support you need to reach your end goal.”

Be a people-person and trust in others

Sourcing like-minded staff and finding the right people to help build your business is important. Recommendation and word of mouth – including that of your employees – is crucial to building a good brand name.

Matt adds that leaders should create leaders: “I work out what I am good at, then surround myself with people who are good at everything else. There is this idea that you need to be good at everything, but you can’t let your ego get in the way.

“I was lucky enough to have a family network when Champions begun, I trusted people to bounce ideas off. Find people you respect to be your soundboard, as being an entrepreneur is a very lonely place.”

Robert says by joining collectives you can get in front of the right people and get ahead in terms of researching the next industry advances.

Penny agrees: “Building Ecademy created a global brand for me and my husband. Building a community of people like us. We have grown with our members; I would consider many of them to be my friend. My husband and I have made thousands of friends across the world.”

Accept that it’s not for everyone:

Richard finishes: “I don’t think [starting-up a business] is for everyone. Many people are happy to support other people’s success, preferring stability. As a company owner, there are many ups and downs, including dealing with regular financial and emotional risk as well as the responsibility for others – it is not for everyone.”