How to grow a successful startup — from the people who’ve done it

We speak to business leaders about how they turned their startups into successful ventures.

02 October 2018

The path to start-up success can be difficult to navigate. False starts are something of a common occurrence, and you could well expect a breakdown or two along the way. However, setbacks are merely part of the process and shouldn’t deter budding entrepreneurs from building a successful business.

You’ll get to know trial and error as you progress, but with the right know-how, there are plenty of ways and means to ensure healthy growth for your startup. With the help of some successful business owners, all with useful first-hand experience, we’ll present a handy how-to for those looking to give their startup a kick start, whatever business they’re operating.

Manage money properly

Erring on the frugal side is important in the early stages of a startup when money may be tight. You won’t be in a position to afford luxuries or anything other than essentials, so taking care of your cash, and funnelling it into the necessary areas of your company, is hugely important.

Tessa Clarke, co-founder & CEO of surplus food sharing app, OLIO, says: "Given that more capital provides more runway, and more runway generally equates to a greater probability of success, make sure to carefully scrutinise every expenditure you make.”

 business meeting

And in the early days, you might have to learn how to make money go further in other ways. Tessa adds: “It’s surprising how much you can achieve with so little when you get creative. And if you have the chance, raise more capital than you think you need.”

Likewise, James Woodall, founder and CTO of data management software business Intoware, suggests this approach should extend to your own salary: “Always monitor cash flow and costs, and pay yourself as little as you can get away with. Cash management is critical as, more often than not, the money you pay yourself can go to something more important in the business.

“This is especially the case for young entrepreneurs and startups who land investment. It’s easy to see the bank balance skyrocket and immediately reflect that in your salary, but resisting that urge and putting the money to work in the businesses is a much more effective strategy.”

Invest in people

No matter the business or the sector, startups rely on people, and the network you build could have a huge impact on the long-term success of your business. Makaela Richardson, founder of student essentials subscription service, Free the Fresher agrees, adding: “Get a good support team around you because growing a startup is incredibly difficult without the right people.

“If you’re in a position to hire, a workforce of talented, intelligent people is fundamental to business growth. If you opt for people who aren’t right for the role, lacking in experience or don’t share your startup’s vision, then you’ll find progress will halt as a result. Though it may be tempting to settle for anyone, do take the time and care required to hire people who have the drive and desire, with a personality to match, that gets your business booming.”

 

Focus on the things that matter

In running a business, you have to decide what you want to focus on. Getting side-lined by distractions that lead to unnecessary expenditure is a waste of your hard-earned time, money and effort.

Del Folkes, founder of natural dog food startup Wolfworthy says: “As a startup entrepreneur, you have to wear a lot of hats; product development, marketing and fundraising for example. It’s very easy to lose focus and spend time on the wrong things that don’t progress your business, or send you in the wrong direction.

“Pareto’s 80/20 principle states ‘we get 80% of results from 20% of the cause’. This means you should focus on the 20% of your feature set, marketing effort and sales channels that deliver 80% of the benefit. This will help you weed out the low priority tasks and allow you to super-charge your progress.”


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Even if you don’t subscribe to any such ideologies, Tessa adds: “Time is your most precious asset, and so you need to guard it incredibly carefully. It’s very easy to get distracted by non-value-add activities, and so the power to say no is a very important one.”

Be prepared to put in hard work

“It’s no secret that hard work is the key to becoming a successful entrepreneur. As a fledgeling business, you must complete all the tasks yourself”, says Andy Fitch, director and co-founder of full-service digital agency, Parallax.

“This means working long hours to complete your client work, but also spending time learning how to sell, bookkeep, deal with difficult clients, human resources, communicate well – the list goes on”.

That hard work may be tough, but use what you know and have learned to your advantage when it comes to winning new business. On this point, Andy says: “You will already have unique selling points, so work to your strengths. You’ll likely be cheaper than your competition due to your lower running costs, have a more personal touch as clients will mostly have your undivided attention, and you’ll have a willingness to work as hard as necessary to keep them happy – clients love this. They’re human after all and many of them will forgive the odd mistake, so don’t be afraid to be assured and confident in your demeanour, but humble and willing to rectify issues when things go wrong.”

 

 Make some time for yourself

While hard work is important, ensuring you don’t burn out is perhaps more integral to growing your business. You can’t do your best work when you’re tired, over-worked and stressed, so make sure you’re putting some time aside for yourself to recharge.

Tessa agrees, adding: “Although entrepreneurship can be the most fulfilling thing in the world, it is also an incredibly long, tough journey, so make sure to carve out some time for yourself to preserve your health and sanity! It’s time well spent.”

Makaela makes a great point too, saying: “It's better to find ways to work smart not just hard. It's better for your mental and physical health.”

 

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The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Gazprom Energy accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.


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