During the latest session of our regular Start-up Kitchen, a workshop designed to bring together well-established entrepreneurs to mentor young founders, we focused on multiple areas for building a business with specific focus on talent, culture and space. Often some of the hardest areas to crack.
For any start-up, getting the ‘basics’ right will go a long way, and while you may be a one man band or a pack of three; it’s never too early to be thinking about these things and getting them right from the start: what do you need in place when you hit the big time? What processes will help you get there? What team will help you grow?
I was joined at the session by mentors Mayank B. Patel OBE, a former entrepreneur of the year from both the BT and London Business Awards and Chairman of Azibo Holdings; and Alex Bard, development manager at the Estate Office Shoreditch. Together we sat down with four young companies at different stages of their development, who sought solutions and advice to problems both current and future.
Here are three key learnings that came out of our session, start-ups, take note:
Act like a business, to be a business
One of the challenges faced by our start-ups was that they often weren’t taken seriously by brands or suppliers they were trying to work with, due in part to their experience or age. When I founded Albion in 2002, one of the first things I did was set up a small advisory board. I convinced two people to become advisers and meet with me once a month to help solve problems. A board can help build trust and credibility around what you are doing – indeed you can borrow their brand to make you look good.
To be a successful businesses you must first act like a business and creating a board can do just that. Start small and bring in people who are relevant to your industry, have the skills you don’t necessarily have and who have the time to dedicate to your business.
One key area for development was how to build a great founding team, which is passionate and believes in what your business is trying to do. One company in particular was looking for the perfect co-founder to build their business, but was struggling to map out exactly what he was looking for. The more we spoke with him and explored what he thought was needed, the more we realised he needed to work on his self-awareness for the benefit of his business.
As a founder you need to know the skills you are lacking, and find a co-founder or team that covers those gaps. The clichéd start-up will have a hustler, a designer and an engineer – you pick one, and find the other two. If you’re not the complete article, or not sure where you fit, then go away and learn those skills on someone else’s dollar. You need to be able to acknowledge what your weaknesses are and turn them around by finding a complimentary team with clearly defined roles.
Bigger isn’t always better
Another issue was how to build a profile. Two attending companies were working in the entertainment and events industry, and for them, they felt that they needed a big free event in order to make themselves famous and memorable. But the problem with a big free event is how do you manage something on a mass scale with limited resources and have other suppliers and acts buy into the event.
We say flip it around. You can create very small things that can be very famous. Rather than focus all your energy and resources on something big that can carry more risk if it doesn’t pay off, focus instead on something unique and small.
A free event is great at attracting a crowd, but if this acts as a taster for future events, how do you convert those that attended into a paying customer? Charging people for things is good. For both setting the benchmark for the value of your product, and simply getting cash in the bank.
Jason Goodman is the CEO and Founder of Albion. The Start-Up Kitchen is gearing up for its autumn programme of events and workshops. For more information, visit the website to see how to get involved.
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