Building a business from scratch can be challenging at the best of times, but breaking into a new and unfamiliar industry takes the challenge to a new level.
Working with numerous start-up's ranging from fintech (payments and challenger banking) to SAAS and e-commerce, I have been fortunate enough to see many exciting and disruptive businesses develop at a rapid pace. With the emergence of so many ground breaking technologies and the genuine opportunities to disrupt existing sectors, it is unsurprising that so many people are excited by the prospects of taking the plunge and landing their own start-up.
To understand the drive and sweat it really takes to launch a start- up, I met with highly experienced Executive and founder of Red Zebra Analytics, Attul Sehgal. His journey is one of success having launched, funded, scaled and exited but it didn't come without its challenges. Recalling on his experience Attul states, "despite some major successes, the whole thing was a constant battle."
Taking the first steps
Attul believes there are three key ingredients to being successful: passion, belief and the ability to learn from mistakes.
The first step is to ensure the foundations of the business are in place, you need to have the determination and drive to assert yourself into a highly competitive market. If you can't assert yourself operationally it's unlikely you are going to succeed.
You then need to have the right people around you, make a conscious effort to network, raise your profile and reach out to relevant industry leaders. Attul used LinkedIn to grow his network and connect with the people he knew could add value to the business. But learning the hard way, he realised he had made a lot of wrong decisions about the people around him; one of his biggest regrets was choosing to work with friends. Attul soon discovered the strain this dynamic can put on friendships and the negative impact it inflicts on business results.
Funding plays one of the most critical roles in the process and investors are vital contributors to success. So, even if you have a significant amount of personal savings you should not invest them all, after all "80% of start ups fail." Instead, work with investors to execute your ideas into reality and map out the next steps.
To attract funding you need to have passion, hunger and demonstrate strength of character. An investor doesn't look at a CV, they look at passion and it is critical to demonstrate that. You must also be able to sell your idea and sell it well.
Hires are critical
The most impressive CV's aren't always the best hires and making hiring decisions based purely on years of experience in the industry will not necessarily produce results. Someone with a pair of fresh eyes, who understands the digital age and wants to learn is key to success.
For example, you may think you need a CFO who has worked for a number of blue chip organisations but there are certain things they can't do. Attul recommends hiring graduates for certain projects because they are dedicated, ambitious and eager to learn.
When you hire experienced industry leaders your expectations are that they can do the job you've hired them to do, but this isn't always the case. The ability to be hands on and have the right cultural fit should not be ignored. On numerous occasions the teams that were tasked to do things never followed through and Attul repeatedly found himself finishing the work himself, working into the early hours to get things done. His expectations of the experts were let down by the sheer lack of results and advises any start- up to "bring in young people who want to learn."
The most successful people are good at generating innovative ideas, proactively knocking on doors and accepting that failure is not an option.
Attul's three top tips to succeed are:
- Be resilient and always keep your eye on the market as it is continuously changing.
- Always accept rejection and turn it into a learning, this can be a great opportunity to crystallise ideas.
- You must be able to sell. "The best sales guy with the worst product will always beat the worst sales guy with the best product."
As you take the first steps and begin to adapt to the market, it is critical to keep your eye on the customer and ensure they are satisfied.
Executives Online are currently working with a number of the fastest growing businesses in the UK, so if this article is of interest to you, or you are looking for guidance on how to place the right level of individuals into your business, please get in touch at: email@example.com or 01962 893307.
About Attul Sehgal