Launching a start-up: Key lessons learnt along the way

Rebecca Kelly discusses the learning experiences she has taken away from the early days of running her venue booking platform business.

Coming up with a great idea is the crucial first step in building a company

Coming up with a great idea is the crucial first step in building a company

As any entrepreneur will know, launching a start-up is a total rollercoaster, but it’s also unparalleled to anything else. For me, it’s been the greatest challenge and steepest learning curve I’ve ever gone through, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Here are a few of the lessons I have learned along the way.

Know when you have gone past proof of concept

You’ve come up with a great idea and you’re ready to launch it to the masses, start raising investment and hire hire hire. Hold on. You’ve got to prove your concept first, so work out what that looks like in your market.

For me, there are three metrics that have helped us establish that our concept works in the venue and event booking space. One, we’re starting to get repeat bookings. Two, users are subscribing organically, without us actively pursuing their business. And three, we are seeing month-on-month growth – inbound enquiries are going up and our cost per acquisition is going down. When all your metrics are pointing in the right direction, you know you’ve proved your concept.

Get your first hire right

You’re gaining traction among your target market and you’ve reached the point where you need to bring extra support on board. Great. But what next?

As well as ensuring you’re financially stable enough to guarantee a salary (if you are asking people to take a leap of faith and get on board with your business, you need to be able to compensate accordingly!), you need to work out what support you actually need. What are the gaps in your own knowledge and experience and who do you need to plug them?

But the biggest thing you need to look for in any new hire is an ‘all hands on deck’ approach. Positivity, a can do attitude and proactivity are the essentials you should look for in your first hire.

Don’t rush into securing investment

Don’t think about raising investment until you really, really, need to. Ensure you know exactly how much investment you need and what you will spend it on.

Speak to your own network – friends, family and business contacts – as a first port of call. And while the banks are risk averse, there are now multiple options available for start-ups, particularly in the tech space, to raise finance. You just need to do your research and find the best fir for you. We decided to pursue angel investment because as a young founder, I value drawing upon professionals who have experience in growing companies like mine and can offer me guidance as well as investment.

Get your team organised

The life of a start-up can be manic so get organised and put systems in place. There are a whole host of technology tools available to support the operational side of your business, so use them! We use Trello for team collaboration and task management and Slack for team communication but there are so many available. The important thing is to have a system in place, then roll it out across the business and make sure everyone sticks to it.

Keep your team motivated

Never forget that your people are the most important part of your business. You can achieve ten times more when you have a happy, motivated team behind you. That’s why our mantra at Venuescanner is ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’.

But keeping your team motivated takes more than that. You need to set clear targets, ensuring everyone in your team understands your business objectives and how their role helps to achieve them.

Be sure to celebrate success, but even more so make sure you make mistakes and learn from them (and there will be many!). We have a ban on asking for permission – if someone has an idea, run with it! It’s empowering. Yes, we’ll make mistakes and things won’t work, but the most important thing is to understand where we went wrong and learn from it as a team.

Prioritise

As the founder and leader, the buck stops with you. You’re responsible for product development, sales, marketing, HR and everything else in between so the ability to prioritise is absolutely paramount. I always define a two-week plan for myself, categorising tasks across the different areas of the business and then prioritise them. Your job is to focus on the tasks that will drive the business forward; stay focused and never lose sight of that no matter how busy and chaotic your days may become!

Running a business is exhausting, but so rewarding. Different things work for different people, but stay focused, prove your concept, think carefully about what type of investment you need, build a great team around you and you’ll be on the road to start-up success.

Rebecca Kelly is CEO and founder of Venuescanner.

Further reading on starting a business

Nominations are now open for the British Small Business Awards 2017, the leading event celebrating the brightest stars in the SME sector. Click here to enter, and make sure you get involved today using the hashtag #BSBAwards. Good luck!

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