Got a good idea for a start-up? That's the first step. Here's some essential advice to turn it into a sustainable business.
Share this article
According to the latest figures from the Centre for Entrepreneurs’ Startup Tracker, 589,000 new companies were established in the UK last year. It represents a huge increase from 2012, when 484,000 businesses were formed. In total, over the past five years, the country has witnessed the creation of almost 3.5 million startups.
Simply put, the UK is awash with new startups emerging at pace in almost every region and sector. However, while the thirst for entrepreneurship is evidently extremely high, the brutal reality is that many of these companies fail, and fast.
The Office for National Statistics’ data shows that in 2016 more than 328,000 companies ceased to exist – 11.6% of the nation’s business population. And it will come as little surprise to learn that early stage businesses are most at risk of collapsing.
The message is clear: while starting a business is relatively easy, making sure it succeeds is far from it. Importantly, there are lessons to be learnt from failure – often more than can be gleaned from success – and it’s vital that any entrepreneur in the midst of starting a business or trying to get a new venture off the ground takes time to understand how they can maximise their chances of success.
As an agency that plans, designs and builds a wide range of tech products, Studio Graphene comes into contact with budding entrepreneurs, young startups and ambitious SMEs on a daily basis.
Consequently, in our four years of helping businesses launch to market and develop commercially, we’ve identified many key pieces of advice that people at the beginning of their startup journey could benefit from.
Understand that a good idea is just the start
Many people who start a business become fixated on the idea – the product or the service – they want to create. Of course, having a strong idea is absolutely essential to any successful business; you need to understand what it is you’re providing, whom you’re providing it for and why they will need it. But that alone is not enough.
In truth, almost no idea is original and almost every concept for a business has already been thought of. The differentiating factors come in the execution of the idea – how well the product works, how strong the branding is and how effective the customer acquisition strategy is.
Whether it’s a B2B SaaS solution, a new consumer shopping app or even a pop-up restaurant, entrepreneurs must do justice to their idea by making sure a huge amount of time and hard-work is invested in the initial phase of getting their proposition functioning and looking as good as possible – without this, even the strongest ideas will amount to nothing.
Building a multi-disciplinary team
An extension of this first point, it’s important that startup founders build a multi-disciplinary team. A business that is fantastic at tech but has no clue about marketing, or vice versa, will struggle to excel; the result is that entrepreneurs can build brilliant products that no one ever hears about, or great brands that struggle to win and hold onto customers.
When confronted with the challenge of developing a well-balanced team offering complementary skills, young businesses should understand that they don’t have to bankrupt themselves by hiring all the top talent in-house.
Rather, by using external agencies, freelancers, part-time staff, and leaning on seasoned investors where possible for their advice and guidance, a startup can access all the expertise it requires. Over time the company can then choose when it makes practical and financial sense to bring specific operations in-house.
Pivot, but don’t lose focus
In the early stages of launching a startup, it’s essential that entrepreneurs remain flexible. If it becomes clear that the initial vision they had for their business is not viable – whether because of financial restraints or technical limitations – they must pivot and reassess what the final product will look like.
However, to pivot means to move around a central point. And sticking with this imagery, a business cannot lose focus of its central point.
Too often entrepreneurs get ahead of themselves and, before their venture is even launched, they are already thinking of what things they can do next: new markets they could expand into, future iterations of the product they could create, or additional revenue streams they could generate.
While a certain degree of forward planning is necessary – after all, you need a long-term roadmap for the business – never let future opportunities supersede current challenges.
Startups must focus on doing one thing and doing it well; once the business has established itself for this central point (pivoting as necessary) they can then afford to think bigger and move towards new objectives.
Prepare for failure
It’s cheesy and clichéd, but the reason everyone says it is because it’s true: entrepreneurs must embrace failure. They must accept that things will go wrong – a lot – and approach these problems with the right mind-set to learn from them and develop accordingly.
The statistics at the start of this article illustrate just how difficult it is to create a business that survives, let alone one that thrives. And while there are hundreds of pieces of advice which startup founders must consider, the core principles listed above will help them in their efforts to transform their initial idea into a commercial success.