Rich Rosser and Nick Patterson are a couple of ex-McKinsey strategy consultants who have started MoveMeOn.com (connecting successful professionals with the right headhunters in London).
We love Rich & Nick’s story and can relate to them on multiple levels. Firstly they were both consultants and secondly they are building something to help people transition away from their jobs. They also have some great advice!
1. Ask your customers
Don’t be scared to ask people for their honest opinions. After spending many months researching, designing and developing “your baby”, it’s tempting to assume that he/she’s perfect. But some aspects of your service will be better than others.
2. Get out and about.
No meeting is a waste of time. In our hero profile we spoke about how we tested our idea and shared as widely as possible. It’s important to keep this up! The entrepreneurial community is hugely supportive and bright people are always full of good ideas.
3. Make changes – react as quickly as possible
We were recently invited to exhibit at Cambridge University’s Technology Venture Conference. Ted Shelton, a seasoned Silicon Valley entrepreneur, argued that the slower a business is to react, the greater the likelihood of them going under.
Sounds obvious now that I write it, but it’s all too easy to plough on with a strategy even though all the signs (from your customers and advisors) are telling you to change direction. Where you end up will not be where you envisaged – but that’s OK!
4. Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity
I recall a Dragon’s Den Dragon stating something like: “anyone can sell a million quids worth of stuff for a million quid. But that’s not a business. A business is selling a million quids worth of stuff for far more than a million quid”. If you have a profitable business plan, you put yourself in a strong position – you can: invest in business development, pay yourself, hire staff and bargain harder with investors. Unless you’re founding a not-for-profit, chase the £s – even if that means evolving your original concept.
5. Be patient and stay positive
It will undoubtedly be clear to you that your business is the best thing since sliced bread. However it’s very rare for a business to be an instant big hit. You’d be surprised about how long some of the businesses you’d recognise now, were in existence way before you heard of them (I was surprised to learn that Moonpig.com has been going since the late ‘90s).
You’ll get knock backs almost every day. So it’s important to smile, have a laugh and keep going. If you have conviction in your idea and it meets a genuine need, then you’ll get there in the end (that’s what we hope anyway!).
6. Celebrate small successes
If you, like us, are doing your first start-up, you’ll reach many milestones along the way: your first user, your first paying customer, the first credit in your bank account. Running your own business is hard work, so it’s important to take time off and have fun in celebration of things going well.
7. Target your market
I know this is a business 101 rule, but when you’ve been slaving on your idea, it’s really tempting to try and tell absolutely everyone about it. The reality is that only a small proportion of ‘everyone’ will want your product or service. In businesses such as our own – which are designed for a specific type of person – attracting the wrong type of customer can actually be detrimental.
8. Set up partnerships
There will be a set of organisations that will be happy to promote your business to their members / customers for free. Your business adds to their offering and in turn makes them a more attractive proposition. Brainstorm which organisations work with your target market and approach them proposing a partnership. You’ve got nothing to lose!
9. Define your roles
If you’re part of a team, it’s important to divvy up responsibilities. Otherwise you risk constantly ‘checking up’ on one another and over analysing everything. This will slow your progress. If there’s a clear difference in your skill sets – the most common being techie vs. technophobe – it’s an easy task. For us, it was less clear cut. Go with what excites each of you most. That meant marketing for Rich and sales for Nick.
In our hero profile we advised starting simple and getting a product to market as quickly as possible. After launch, things don’t change – there’s a million and one ideas in your head and things you could do. Unless you work out what’s most important and focus on getting that done, it’s easy to be busy achieving nothing.
In a start-up you have to do everything, and 50% of these tasks will be the mundane things that get sorted for you in a big corporate (accounts, invoicing, scheduling meetings, fixing your computer etc.). So it’s important to spend the other 50% of your time on only the most important things.
We think this is a pretty cool cartoon summing up lots of lessons for entrepreneurs: http://steveblank.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/true-ventures-founders-camp-2.jpg
About the authors…
“We run a website, www.MoveMeOn.com. We realised that “networking sites” don’t give the power and control that good candidates deserve. MoveMeOn lets you contact the best headhunters without sharing your identity, and you can join even if you’re not looking to move at the moment – just hide your profile and come back when the time’s right.
When we wanted to leave McKinsey, finding good headhunters was slow and painful. We were also fed up with being contacted at work by random headhunters pushing roles we weren’t interested in. Yet, as 80% of jobs are never advertised, working with headhunters is a necessary evil. So we built MoveMeOn to deliver where “networking sites” fail you:
You are in control: stop the wrong headhunters cold calling you at work; don’t wait and hope for the right headhunters to contact you. Approach the headhunters you choose based on their profile and reviews from other candidates.
You keep your privacy: your name and contact details are not on your profile. You don’t need to upload a CV. You can only be found by headhunters; never by your boss or colleagues.
You save time: you know all the right headhunters’ names, and can contact the ones you choose – all in a few minutes.
You don’t pay!”