Over the course of my career, I’ve met many start-up business owners who I’ve mentored and supported to become their brilliant best. They typically fall into two broad categories: the product focused individual or the visionary entrepreneur.
Both have their individual skills and qualities and importantly these combined skills are crucial in my view in creating a successful brand. But often, these start-ups are just one individual and occasionally two or more.
And even when there are multiple partners in the venture, there is often a mismatch between the skills they have and the expertise they need.
Going back to the 20 years of running my own branding company, we were often approached by start-ups with an early stage idea who were keen to progress to brand creation and packaging design.
But it repeatedly became evident during initial conversations that whilst they had an idea, they didn’t have a business strategy nor knowledge and expertise to single-handedly turn their idea into a reality.
And consistently, we would also discover that they had limited knowledge of the FMCG sector and little understanding of the key metrics to create a successful venture.
Typically, this was accompanied by limited financial planning and whilst they may have considered to some extent the funding needed to get started, they had not considered the costs involved in transforming an idea into a reality and supporting its launch.
So when I founded Brand Clock in 2018, my focus was to not only help and support clients with all aspects of taking their idea from concept to reality, but also to help them to become their brilliant best – by using innovative techniques within a deep dive to gain an understanding of them as individuals – their strengths, weaknesses, passions, loves and hates.
And in doing so, define the support they needed to ready their business for success, including creating skills profiles of the individuals they were going to need as part of their team as their idea transformed into reality.
The magic combination
Irrespective of the make-up of the founder or founders of the business, there are three, key internal roles:
- The business leader
- Production, logistics and finance*
It is well proven that we are best at what we enjoy most and the tasks that we find most difficult or least enjoyable are those that we put off doing for as long as we can.
But ensuring that a business devotes to focussing on each of these tasks is key to ensuring success.
This week alone, I have mentored two business start-ups who are passionate about their idea, but didn’t feel they had the experience to perform the crucial sales function – and it was also very evident that they didn’t enjoy the prospect of undertaking it either.
Within the overall mix of developing a strategy, I often need to remind entrepreneurs that a business has only one objective – to make money. Depending on their stage of development we may well have a conversation around the fact that they are not taking a salary, that they have invested their personal money into the venture and that they are supporting the venture through working full time in an employed role.
All things that entrepreneurs typically do to get a venture off the ground – and rightly so.
But where this approach may fail, is that once the business strategy, sales approach and commercials have been prepared, it becomes evident that the business will continue to lose money on every sale that it makes – unless a rethink takes place. And not just at the outset, but moving forward too.
And whilst being cash negative at launch is often unavoidable, without an in-depth understanding of the business opportunity and challenges and the vision to ensure that the level of sales against overheads will deliver adequate profitability to move the business to cash positive within a realistic and practical timescale, thus ensuring a bright future is vital.
So how can you give your venture its best chance of success?
1. Ensure that your core team, even during the start-up phase covers the magic combination roles.
2. Hire people who believe in what you believe rather than their supposed expertise – giving individuals the required knowledge to understand your business takes very little time but it can take forever to align people with your thinking and gain their true dedication and commitment.
3. Make sure that you allow yourself to be your brilliant best so that you can inspire those around you to also see your vision and to ensure they understand how you are going to get there.
4. Seek expert help from those who are best placed to help you define the bigger picture and the roadmap from concept to launch by giving you the knowledge and tools to achieve your goals.
And finally, sales are the lifeline of any venture. Without sales, an idea cannot transform into a viable, money-making venture and it must be the number one priority from the outset.