There are so many things to think about when you’re starting a business, including your company name, your target audience, how you’re going to fund it and pay yourself – the idea of entrepreneurial success or failure is enough to keep you awake at night. But strip all that back and start from step one: the idea that got all of these questions whirring around your head in the first place.
A good, solid idea is the foundation to any business, and one which may make or break you as an entrepreneur. But, and this may be slightly controversial here, you don’t need to know everything about the market you’re going into before you “set up shop,” so to speak.
I certainly didn’t when I came up with the concept of Yü Energy, an idea that was formed while I was running my previous business. I had no experience working in the energy sector, but I was so frustrated with my former company’s energy suppliers, and the below par customer service that was being provided by the “Big Six,” that I knew I could do something better.
Take a risk
Risk is a word that’s mentioned a lot in business, but I truly believe that you need to embrace risk in order to see your company grow. Yes, stepping into the unknown is scary, but how do you know how something is going to pan out until you’ve taken the initial leap of faith?
If a lack of knowledge is what’s putting you off starting your own company, then let me assure you that you’ll learn as you go along, and you’ll learn fast. This sentiment was echoed by another entrepreneur I spoke to recently for our Meet the Disrupters Q&A. Michelle Wright, CEO of Cause4, a social enterprise which supports charities, philanthropists and other social enterprises to change and grow through strategy development and fundraising initiatives, told me it was the secret to her success.
“We learn as we go. We do lots of work supporting young entrepreneurs through mentoring and developing and creating opportunities for other people, so that gives us plenty of opportunity to reflect on our own business and how we could do things better,” she said.
A good, solid idea also involves having a unique selling proposition; something that’s going to give you a competitive edge and make you stand out in a market which may already be dominated by larger firms. All of the entrepreneurs I spoke to for our Q&A had no problem telling me what makes their business unique and their approach different from their competitors:
“We’re different to others in our industry because we don’t charge dealers or private sellers to advertise,” Alastair Campbell, founder of car search engine Carsnip, said. “The way we combine big data and machine learning to deliver personalized search results is something that than none of our competitors can offer.”
Once you’ve got your idea nailed down, you need to act fast to bring it to market. If you don’t, someone else will! This was something that was echoed by all of the entrepreneurs I spoke to, including Henry Bennett, co-founder of Yourwelcome, an app-based tablet software that enables property owners to create host-generated welcome videos and instructional guides for their guests. He said speed was the secret to his success.
“We only launched last August and within three months we had a prototype platform and 100 customers. We’re working quickly because we know we’ve got to be the first to market if we’re going to make this work,” he added.
But the hard work doesn’t stop there – there’s always going to be someone one step behind you. Clare Joy, of peer-to-peer lending company, Landbay, summarized this perfectly:
“As companies like ours grow, they start to shake off the startup label, but that doesn’t mean they have to lose their disruptive mentality. Add to that the fact that success breeds competition, which we definitely see as a good thing, and it’s clear that no firm can ‘rest on its laurels.’”