Why I started a business: Tech entrepreneur Sohail Rashid

SmallBusiness.co.uk talks to Sohail Rashid, founder of venture capital-backed property finding app Property Place, which launched in January 2012.

I was a property lawyer for the best part of seven years before starting my own business. Setting up a company felt quite natural for me because I had been given the opportunity by my managing partner to set up my own division in a practice. While it wasn’t exactly a start-up, I gained experience of controlling my own P&L, building a team and all the basics I needed to run a small business.

In 2010 I was looking at social media as an emerging market in the professional service space. It became apparent that you can’t sell a professional service on a social platform, there needed to be something far more transactional and functional in place, and it needed to be a network within the existing framework of something like Facebook.

You can’t do anything [really ambitious] on your own. Me starting up wasn’t a case of not wanting to work for anyone else or desiring independence. I saw it as an opportunity to work with very high-calibre individuals. You have a chance to do something different and the only way to do it is to put yourself out there. If you believe in something, you need to take a shot.

I’ve never questioned my own ability in delivering something I believe in. My management team includes two former chief executives of national profitable businesses which they both exited. I’ve earned respect from them through what I deliver and that gives me confidence.

Any good business will have a plan that shows how it progressed from an idea, to proof of concept, to a breakeven point, to profitability, then scaleability. The earlier you are able to identify the KPIs to get through those stages in a manner that’s going to impress investors the better the chance of survival.

The difference between working for a law firm as I was and doing what I’m doing now is that it becomes your life. You have to make more sacrifices than you had planned. Before I started up I had friends I would go to the pub with, I had my family. When you run your own business your diary is changing, you are constantly unavailable and letting people down. A lot of friends my age have conventional full-time jobs and are used to a nine-to-five routine, but being an entrepreneur doesn’t make you your own man or make you free, it puts more restrictions on you and if you’re not prepared to make sacrifices it won’t work out.

A lot of people have backed me emotionally and financially and that’s what drives me. There’s a reason why people back you so strongly. You can’t afford to let people down.

Interview with Sohail on PropertyTribes

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