The second in our series talking to business leaders about how they overcame challenges, trials and tribulations on the way to growth and success, Growth Stories is tailor-made for budding businesses.
This time around, we’re talking to Jason Tassie, co-founder and director of Know Your Money. In business since 2004, Know Your Money has grown into a price comparison force to be reckoned with, going from a part-time venture to a company with some real business clout.
Now, with a team of 19 and a fair share of credentials to its name, read how Jason helped to boost Know Your Money’s growth and turn it into what it’s become today…
To begin, could you tell us a little about your business? Specifically, its history and how it has changed since you first launched?We initially launched Know Your Money, a financial comparison site, in 2004 as a part-time venture with an initial investment from a £5,000 credit card. Fast forward to 2017 and we were fortunate enough to break into the Sunday Times Top 100 list of fastest-growing UK technology companies, seeing a three-year revenue growth of over 200% (from £2.7m in 2014 to £8.3m in 2017).For the first two years, the three founders ran the company part-time in the evenings, before growing the business organically over a 10 year period. Today, we are a team of 19 with a £1m monthly turnover and a customer base of over 450,000 monthly visitors.Growth is without question one of the most challenging aspects of running a business. What challenges did you face as a business leader, and what strategies did you employ to overcome them?
The landscape of the financial comparison market has shifted dramatically since 2004, but I believe the key to our sustained growth has been the ability of the business to swiftly respond to changes in the market and regulation.
Whether it’s new product innovations, new digital marketing techniques or emerging channel opportunities, we have created a flexible, responsive business that is quick to react to such opportunities. This has allowed Know Your Money to disrupt the financial comparison market and compete with some huge brands within the digital marketplace.
Business leaders should provide an environment where the team has the ability to make decisions quickly and empower the workforce to react to opportunities.
To what extent have external factors (such as changing trends, the financial landscape) affected your business over time? And what can businesses do to future-proof against these kinds of peripheral shifts?Market and regulation factors will always have a huge influence on the financial comparison market.A good example of this is the decline in interest rates in the wake of the financial crisis. We needed to shift quickly from a strong savings and investments channel to delivering a comparison service in loans and mortgages which benefited from lower interest rates.
Regulation is continually changing with regards to financial products and how they are advertised in an ever-changing digital marketplace. Ensuring you have the right skillsets on board and a culture throughout the company to understand, assess and implement these changes is essential.
The landscape for banking and financial services is changing at an accelerated pace, as fintech companies create new avenues for consumers and businesses to access financial products. Choosing the right time to embrace these new tech advancements is key for an SME to succeed.
That said, businesses will always encounter external market forces they are unable to influence; the key to overcoming this challenge is to develop a team and a workflow that are both accustomed to quickly reacting to change.
Can you identify three lessons you’ve learnt in your time as a business leader? And how have they affected your own role as a manager and owner?
I have learned that listening and learning from everyone in the business is key, as it can keep the team engaged. Founders will start a business with a core skillset, but to grow and develop, you need to take on advice and learn from those around you in their sectors of expertise.
Relinquishing responsibility and control is very difficult for a founder to do, but it’s crucial if the business is going to grow. Empowering people to make decisions and giving the freedom to test them out and make mistakes is essential.
Don’t be afraid to look at successful competitors for inspiration either; learn from their success and then try to add to it. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time you start a new idea. Continuously benchmarking your products, performance and customer experience against competitors is not a negative. But be prepared to do the research in order to offer a better proposition to that on the market.
Healthy business growth often relies on several factors. What facets of business would you say have promoted growth in your organisation the most? And what should SMEs look to improve/develop to maximise their chances of success?
We are a self-funded business and grow organically through the profits we create. Whilst this approach has its limitations, we have been able to grow with a more structured approach. Spending your own money keeps you extremely honest and focused on the risks you are taking, creating a steady growth curve instead of the boom/bust approach.
An experienced, motivated team in a good working culture is necessary for any business to succeed. It's easy to say and write down, but getting the right people in the right roles allows you to move faster and accomplish more as a business.
Having the ability to identify opportunities and seize them quickly is essential for any business, but it’s a priority for SMEs who will usually face stiff competition from larger corporations. Being able to move quickly is your one advantage over them - you just need to be able to identify the right opportunities.
What is the one piece of advice would you give you to other business leaders looking to grow their business?
It is vital to keep focused on the core values and drivers that brought success to your business - do not get distracted! Problems can arise if you stretch your operations too far too quickly after initial success. Finally, listening to those that have been there and done it before can be very beneficial.If you were to start a new business tomorrow, what would you do differently and why?
I would have a more relaxed approach to risk and would try to scale the business quicker, but this is down to the experience gained over the past 10 years. It’s hard and risky to do this from the outset when there are various signals to scale and invest, but it’s about choosing the right ones at the right time.
I would certainly look to invest in experienced staff quicker, to stimulate growth as soon as the numbers allowed it.
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We’d like to thank Jason for taking the time to contribute to the Growth Stories series. To read the first instalment, click below.
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