A startup cushion: Securing business support while maintaining an entrepreneurial mindset
6 min read
24 April 2017
Some of the greatest risks to a small business in its early phases are not the lack of ideas, ambition or market knowledge, but the business basics.
Indeed, while leaders may have an entrepreneurial mindset, HR capabilities, invoicing, cash flow and ability to make good hires are just some of the things that keep the business up and running and allow its talented founders to get on with growing the operation and helping it to thrive.
This kind of framework doesn’t spring up overnight – so what if you could draw on existing resource in these important areas? What if your business had access to experienced teams who can act as trusted colleagues to support a firm business framework?
Many new companies seek backers but what I sought was more specific – an experienced support team to draw on. A startup cushion. Not to do the legwork but to help behind the scenes.
I’ve been lucky enough to find this within a communications group – the right level of support, not stifling and no blind handouts but help in specific areas when it’s most needed, while I can maintain my entrepreneurial mindset.
I’ve found the support of a group invaluable in many ways:
The excitement of driving a business forward is always tempered by another emotion: fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the daunting legal challenges, fear of taking a wrong move when recruiting a high value team member. While fear is a very real emotion for a business founder an experienced group can help alleviate at least some of this pressure.
While nimbleness and an always-on mentality might be your core approach, you quickly learn that set structures need to be put in place for paying wages, suppliers, bills. They can help with this so you’re not constantly trying to reinvent the wheel with your entrepreneurial mindset.
Support can allow for bolder risks to be taken at an earlier stage. This helps to fast track the speed of your business growth and allow you to be in a stronger position much earlier on.
I’ve quickly learnt that talent is the springboard a business needs in its earliest stage, support can allow you to:
- Hire a game-changer on a wage many small businesses couldn’t support
- Recruit multiple people in at once – hiring in packs. Not only does this minimise training time it’s also great for company culture and allows people to buddy up when settling in.
I strongly believe in the value of mentors. Having more experienced entrepreneurs and founders to draw on has been hugely beneficial for developing the entrepreneurial mindset.
So, how do you persuade a group to support your startup?
I was working in another part of the business when I came up with the concept for Viga. I went to my senior team with a business plan and asked for some flexibility to explore the idea for a set time. It was important I kept those above me in the loop at all times so I was never off-grid, even when travelling.
My new business started as a one man, one-stop shop – selling it, doing it, making the contacts, going to meetings, following-up etc. By using one person to prove there was potential the investment wasn’t too large upfront.
Taking an entrepreneurial mindset in starting Viga meant entrepreneurialism is in our DNA. The company has been allowed to stay nimble because those were the principles we founded it on, and team members have always been recruited along these lines.
Don’t rely on charisma alone. While personality and enthusiasm may be a strong draw in a new business meeting, no group will get on board without firm proof of concept. Demonstrate the model works in reality, not just in principle.
It’s important to show your companyp’s potential at key times – don’t push too early. Businesses will have peaks and troughs – it’s often three steps forward, one step back, so be realistic and demonstrate the potential of the upsides.
Provided you’re pitching in a complimentary service, it will benefit the group. It’s your job to show them how. And this doesn’t just mean financially, it also means bringing with you a fresh influx of talent and ideas.
On the condition that you share the group’s ethos and are given the right amount of flexibility, this approach can offer the best of both worlds. You’ll have the ability to expand more quickly, hire the best talent and take more calculated risks than a business of your size usually would.
A year down the line – six months of sell in and set-up, six months of operating – and a lot of hard work later, we’re seeing great results so far. The founder fear may be still be ever-present but it’s now a motivator rather than a spoiler and the entrepreneurial mindset remains intact.
Lewis Reeves is MD and founder of Viga