Our founder Geraint John reflects on the lessons he’s learned throughout his time as an entrepreneur, and which of those he’d wished he’d known sooner.
Six years ago, I was working as a digital marketer for a forklift company. It was my first proper job in digital marketing, and I realised very quickly that I was good at it. So, in 2012 I decided to quit the band and go solo.
I founded Move Digital from my shed in South East London, offering my digital marketing services to businesses. Unfortunately, when you start your own business, there’s not really anybody to teach you what to do, you’ve just got to make your own mistakes, learn your own lessons, and figure it out for yourself. In the five years since, I started Move, I’ve learned many important lessons that I wished I’d known when I started. Here are some of them.
You must keep your costs low
In the fledgling days of Move, before I even had any employees, I made the highly dubious decision of relocating to an office in Fitzrovia, Central London. For those of you unfamiliar with London rental costs, this stellar location comes with a hefty price tag. I didn’t really have many customers coming to visit our expensive office either, with most of our meetings taking place at their offices. Realistically, I could’ve been based in Watford and still made it out and about to meet clients in Central London.
It’s exactly these kinds of unnecessary costs that you need to cut if you’re going to succeed. When you’re just getting started, every penny counts, and anything that’s not essential needs to go. Even though I loved being based in Fitzrovia, it wasn’t essential, and after two years I traded it for the more reasonably priced Kennington.
You have to agonise over every hire
A business is nothing without its people. Good, motivated, ambitious staff will help your company expand, and will be well worth the investment of their monthly salary. On the other hand, mediocre, lazy and unenthusiastic staff will drive your business into the ground, while draining your finances with their salary. This ties into the first point; keeping costs low is everything, and hiring a member of staff is one of the biggest financial outlays you will have every month.
When you run your own business, you’re unlikely to hire someone unless you really need their support. This can mean you’re desperate to get someone through the door, and take a punt on someone, even though you had your doubts about them at the interview stage. While it can be tempting to just get someone in as soon as possible, this could cause more harm than good over the long term. Agonise over every hire, because mistakes are costly.
You can’t be a jack of all trades
I’m an entrepreneur at heart, so when someone offers me work, I’m inclined to take it. It doesn’t matter if it’s SEO (which I’m good at) or painting and decorating (which I’m not so good at), I’m always tempted to take the work on. Over time, I’ve learned to override this instinct. Taking on a job for which you’re not fully qualified is highly stressful, as you’re trying to learn on the job while trying to deliver it well.
You can hire someone to help you carry out the work, but if the task is not your speciality, how can you know that they’re doing a good job? It can be tempting to take the money, but unless you’re sure you can deliver a good job, don’t do it.
You need to refine your offering
This ties into the point above. You can’t be a jack of all trades, but figure out what you’re best at, and master it. The Rolling Stones rarely tried to reinvent themselves, but always did what they did really well. Everyone loves them for it! Be more like Keith and Mick.
At Move, it’s taken me a long time to refine my offering into a concise, well thought out package, but now I’ve got it sussed. There are a small number of services we deliver really well, and over the last couple of years we’ve really mastered them and ensured the offering is providing value for our customers.
If you want to offer a really wide ranging service, that’s fine. Just focus on the core offering first and build up from there. Don’t try and offer everything right away, because you’ll get found out.
You should work out what is worth your time
As an entrepreneur, I’m always looking for the next big thing. Whether it’s a new social network, a new marketing tool, or a startup that wants to work with me, I get really excited by the potential of things that are brand new. However for every Facebook, there’s a Dispora; not everything works out. This is why you need to be stingy with your time, and work out where to spend it.
Working on new projects and using new tools is one of the most exciting parts of being an entrepreneur. Just don’t put all your eggs in one basket by putting all your time into one venture. And if you start to suspect that a venture is going nowhere, get out as soon as you can.