Stephen O’Brien, CEO of Pure Technology Group
Stephen O’Brien, CEO of Leeds-based IT solutions and services provider Pure Technology Group, shares his top tips on how to successfully grow a business from a standing start.
Business growth is a key objective in many corporate strategies, but when you’re at the very beginning of your journey, how can you guarantee success from the word go?
If you’re confident that you have a product or service people want, don’t allow the lack of capital to deter you from achieving your goals.
By persevering, getting creative, seeking support, and differentiating yourself, you can successfully start and grow a firm that will stand the test of time.
Use services to generate cash flow and fund a product-based business
Starting a service-oriented organisation is easy. First, you provide services - then you collect funds. However, a product-based company often requires significant up-front capital to get it moving. If you’re in this situation, consider selling services to generate cash flow and to build up funds.
Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and be tenacious
The only real way to start generating revenue for your business is to roll up your sleeves and set to work straight away. There’s no easy shortcut to profit. But, if you’re confident you have a product or service people want, you can propel your way to the top.
During the first two years of business, I knocked on doors, worked the telephone, closed my own deals, delivered the goods, and as a result, collected the cash! Over that time, I paid myself the absolute minimum, but I – and the team – believed that what we were building would be successful. I was, as billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk once said, “hell-bent on making it work”, so the hard graft eventually paid off.
Get creative with funding sources
Traditional entrepreneurship philosophy dictates that to be successful, you should stick with one thing and not deviate from it. But desperate times call for desperate measures. If you’re having trouble finding access to funds, be imaginative!
Why not use current resources in new ways? Don’t worry if you enter a cash flow crunch at the start – this happened in my first business, Pure Data Solutions Limited. We had around 24 employees, and I wanted to protect everyone’s jobs. So, we looked at our departments and employees’ skill sets to see where we could generate revenue. We invested in the team – training, technology and new recruits – to ensure we had a catalogue of expertise to complement our suite of products and services. From this, we landed new business deals with Betfred, Swinton Insurance and Sony Music, to name but a few.
Why not get a credit line? It’s not uncommon for most start-ups to rely on a line of credit. Some banks or financial institutions offer credit designed to allow growth in the early stages of business, but a word of caution. To prevent getting bogged down in debt when you are trying to expand your firm, keep purchases to a minimum.
Don’t compromise on the big Cs – culture and customers
Vision. Purpose. Core values. Write these things in stone and never budge, because they’re pivotal for creating the right working environment and culture. Many entrepreneurs I see fail to ‘bend to the market’ and adapt to what their customers are telling them. Listen to your customers and keep an eye on market movements!
It’s a marathon, not a sprint
Building a business is neither for the faint of heart nor the speed demon. Devise systems for the long-haul and focus on small-connected phases. It takes 26,364 steps – of 7 inches each – to climb Mt. Everest, and that’s starting from half-way up at Basecamp. Share your goals and strategy with the team, so they can see the piece they represent in the wider puzzle, and always communicate progress. Be humble but celebrate the successes, be honest in your appraisal of the areas that need work, never get complacent, and never ever give in.
Build your business and the brand as if you’ll own them forever
Maybe you’ll look to cash in and sell your business one day. Should that be the sole reason you are building it? Maybe, maybe not. When you start to create a company based on passion and customer-driven purpose, you build a far more valuable enterprise. Those in it to make a quick buck rarely succeed in realising the true value and in many respects, seldom succeed at all!
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