What do I need for my business to succeed?
You’ve come a long way already. You’ve done the hard work to decide yes, you definitely want to go full-time on your business. You’ve got a timetable worked out to manage that transition. Maybe you’ve even launched already, and are steadily building up clients.
What’s going to most useful for you right now is dedicating some time to some areas that many start-ups struggle with, whatever their background. In the book, we’ll cover factors that make the difference between a business that takes off, and the rest that limp along for a few years.
Here are three factors to consider.
1) Get good advice
It’s so easy to get too close to your business. When you’re caught up in the day-to-day stuff, you can overlook some really simple things that’ll make your business run more smoothly – and make more money. You might not be aware of risks of your business, but you might also be missing some brilliant opportunities.
An experienced advisor can see what you can’t. They’ve talked to other businesses just like yours, and bring all of that experience to bear. The challenge is knowing how to find these people – and how to tell if you’re getting good advice.
There’s also plenty of books and online resources out there. You could spend your whole life reading, and not get through it all. So in the book, I’ve distilled a list of resources to get you started.
2) Manage your suppliers
For any start-up, the temptation to DIY your business is strong. Or you may decide to call in friends or family to build that website for you. Let’s face it — when you can save a few thousand dollars upfront, it’s hard to say no.
The DIY or Cousin Dave solution has it’s pitfalls, especially in false economies. You save money now, but it sets your business back big-time.
If you’re outsourcing some tasks to professionals, it’s worth asking the question: are you getting value from this supplier? How do you choose the right people to help you with your business.
3) Get your branding and marketing right
I’ve left this one till last, because it’s closest to my heart. I see so many start-ups with a brilliant concept that shoot themselves in the foot with shoddy marketing. A logo that cost them $5 and looks like it’s worth every penny. Web content that’s just beige.
Why invest in marketing when there’s so much else to spend on? Well, you can only talk to so many people. You’ll land a certain number of clients from your direct sales, networking and sheer bloody hard work. Pretty soon, though, you’ll hit a ceiling. Your marketing can get clients on board, ready to sign up even before you talk to them.
For recovering public servants, that shift from government writing to selling can feel like putting a whole new engine in your car. It gets more confusing, with all of the social media that you get told you ‘must’ do. Take heart. There is a way through.
Need a sounding board?
For people who are earlier in their start-up journey, I’ve got templates and guides to get them started. Your situation is different. You’re already on your way. So you’ll have unique challenges, and very detailed questions. That’s where coaching can be a good option. Someone who can spot what you’re doing well, and to correct your course so your business stays on track.
Tim Hyde's story
Tim’s covered a lot of ground, from a sideline business selling uggboots, to co-founding Canberra’s most successful hyperlocal news startup, the RiotAct and consulting on sales and marketing. Along the way, he spent several years in government. With that blend of experience, Tim knows what it’s like to quit the security of government, and take the plunge — and what businesses need if they’re going to succeed.
Read Tim's story
In 2000, Tim Hyde launched the RiotACT — Canberra’s online news source – with a group of friends. In 2013, the RiotACT won a Smart Company award for best search strategy. Tim draws on this experience to advise businesses on sales and marketing strategies.
Looking back, I’m not quite sure how I found myself coming up on my long service leave as a public servant. I remember thinking ‘Wow. 10 years. How did that happen?’ When I stood in front of the mirror every day, the person I saw was starting to look like a career bureaucrat. That’s now how I’d imagined my life going.
As a kid, I was always running small businesses and entrepreneurial ventures. When I was six, I started a circus for the neighbourhood kids. I charged each 20c admission, and made them dress up and act in it. I took the money I made and brought so many 1c lollies. I was hooked — though it may have just been the sugar rush.
In another venture, I got together with a couple of mates from school and imported ugg boots from China. After which I learned that you don’t need as many size 15’s as size 8’s. It seems obvious now, but unless you learn from someone else its the kind of thing you can only find out through trial and error.
I fell into the public service by accident. I was at Uni at the time, studying commerce and I picked up a few temp roles to give me some spending money. I remember the first year, I made $16,000 and thought I was loaded.
I was lucky enough to move up the ranks pretty quickly. I worked with some great people. And I was hooked on the reliable pay. It became like a pair of golden handcuffs.
The first cracks in the seams came with a project I was leading for the Department of Housing. We were building a balanced scorecard for the Department, which would monitor organisational health and performance. We looked into things like defining the waiting list for public housing, managing debt and staff turnover. What data was important, and what wasn’t? It was something I was really passionate about.
About 9, maybe 10 months into the project there was a change in middle-management and the whole project got cancelled. My perception at the time was that it was all internal politics and empire-building. Players positioning themselves so their project got approved and someone else’s didn’t. I’m sure there was more to it than that, but it seemed so wasteful, particularly cancelling a project on the day it was due to finish.
I always felt like a bit of an alien in the public service. I want to-do the most possible with the least amount of stuff. I don’t think that attitude defines the public service. It felt like management was more intent on spending the budget to make sure we got it again the next year. There’s very little thought given to efficiency.
I didn’t go straight into working for myself. I worked for a couple of large corporates as a project manager for another 8 years, while building the RiotACT on the side. Ultimately I found working for a corporate wasn’t for me either. I enjoyed the work and it paid really well, but there wasn’t that give and take. They wanted me to be flexible — I often had to supervise project work kicking off late at night. But there wasn’t much flexibility on their side when I wanted to take time out to work on my business. So I left to focus on the RiotACT.
After 14 years of doing that and working with clients on their advertising and marketing campaigns, I’ve now moved into sales and marketing consulting, helping other business owners fast track their success through what I’ve learned.
I think we become entrepreneurs for a whole variety of reasons, whether it’s to make a huge change in society, gain freedom, or wealth.
I got into business to have fun. I enjoy the entrepreneurial journey and the mindset people have where they decide “I’m going to create an amazing culture for my organisation”, “I’m going to win that client”, or “ I’m going to change someone’s life.” I love working with entrepreneurs to help them realize their vision. That gives me real satisfaction.
If you’re thinking about setting up your own business, ask yourself, ‘Do I really want to take ownership and control of my environment.’ Chances are, you’ll be better of financially staying in the public service until retirement. But if you really want to make a direct and noticeable difference on the world, do it.
At any moment, there are two choices you have to make. One of those choices is going to lead to being bored. The other one is going to lead to being scared. Which one do you want to take?
If Tim’s story struck a chord with you, you’ll find plenty of other stories to inspire you in my book. Get your copy today.