Half of start-ups fail within five years, here's how to ensure yours grows beyond its infancy.
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Launching your own business is an incredibly exciting – albeit daunting – prospect. And what better place to launch a startup that right here in the UK’s flourishing entrepreneurial scene; last year, 660,000 new companies were registered across the country.
But there’s a darker side to launching a startup; according to the Small Business Association, half of all businesses fail within their first five years.
Having launched Studio Graphene in 2014, I’m pleased to say that we have avoided this fate; indeed, we have just celebrated our 5th birthday in August, having overcome many of the challenges that were thrown our way during the challenging formative years.
Upon reflection of this journey, there are many valuable lessons I have learnt along the way that I believe could help budding entrepreneurs lead their business to success.
Building the right team
A good team and positive company culture are at the very heart of building a successful startup. This is something I was aware of when I set out to assemble a team of people, and who I would eventually come to regard as my co-founders.
At almost 50 employees, Studio Graphene has grown successively over the past five years. Much of this comes down to building a tight-knit and determined team who share the same vision and drive for success.
What factors should founders keep in mind when choosing who they want to take on board? It’s a difficult question, and partly informed by the industry in which they are based. However, I would encourage all founders to take a step back, look beyond the specific skills, and consider more broadly what values lie at the core of their business.
For me, this was empathy and honesty. I wanted to build a transparent and supportive culture, whereby the team could collectively overcome any hurdles, support one another in overcoming unforeseen challenges, and not feel pressured to hide bad news.
Aside from this, I realised that while CVs can be valuable in determining whether a candidate has the right skillset, founders shouldn’t overlook their general attitudes towards work and their drive to creatively achieve results. After all, it’s far easier to teach someone a new skill than to change their cultural attitude.
By following these principles and amassing a team of creative individuals, Studio Graphene has blossomed to become a leader in the development of app and software solutions for businesses and organisations of all sizes.
Like any other fledgling company, at Studio Graphene we have faced our fair share of obstacles. The first, and perhaps the biggest of all, was overcoming the fear of failure and taking bold risks.
Many founders are filled with self-doubt, worried that their idea could potentially fail. A fear of failure isn’t in and of itself the biggest concern; instead, it is the fear of taking a blow financially or damaging their own reputation amongst family, friends and colleagues.
This is something I faced personally. I wasn’t used to being in a position where I didn’t draw a regular paycheque, and this was a reality during the early stages of the startup. However, I made a conscious decision to stick my head down and remaining committed to the business, knowing that one day the investment of time and money would pay off.
Budding entrepreneurs need to realise that failure is not the opposite of success, but part of it. Young companies will naturally encounter challenges that will test their determination and ability to resolve problems. However, each of these will offer an invaluable lesson that will ultimately help strengthen the business.
To offer another practical illustration, at Studio Graphene we initially struggled to onboard customers. This was natural, given we were just starting out and had very little work to showcase.
However, we took on this challenge by taking on projects at a discounted rate while still delivering products to the highest quality and standard. Eventually we were able to build up a portfolio of successful work, and to date, we’ve completed more than 100 projects.
Gearing for the future
On a final note, I want to stress the importance of celebrating your milestones as you expand your business, however small they might be. Since our launch, Studio Graphene has achieved a number of notable triumphs that have encouraged us to work harder and aim higher.
One of the first significant achievements for Studio Graphene was moving into our own office in London Bridge. This happened only a year after our launch, and signified how far we had already come in such a short space of time. Having established a client base that was gradually expanding, this was also the time that we began investing back into the business.
This ensured we continued to develop our offering and hone our skills, and were ultimately equipped with the right resources to meet future demand for our services. For the team, this was a moment of great pride and it meant we were now looking at ways to scale our business, rather than simply focusing on generating revenue to keep us going.
The lesson I want to share with budding entrepreneurs is this: while it’s easy to get carried away in the day-to-day tasks and challenges, it’s important to take time out to reflect on your achievements and realise how they can help you set your next business goals. Beyond this, celebrating these successes does wonders for boosting team morale.
The first few years will no doubt feel like a rollercoaster. But launching your own business and watching it grow is one of the most rewarding things you can do. I would encourage founders to learn to ride the waves and take the ups with the downs.