Last week I had the privilege of presenting to a group of entrepreneurs at York Butter Factory, a Melbourne-based collaborative workspace that is home to some of Australia’s most innovative startups. This year will be ten years since I first launched Rising Tide so I jumped at the opportunity to talk to business owners who are just starting out, and share some of the things I have learned along the way.
If you weren’t there, don’t worry. I’ve put together a summary of my presentation below.
Don’t have time to read? You can listen to a full podcast of my presentation here.
Phase 1: Kick Start
- Do the doable deal
When I first set up Rising Tide, an industry colleague of mine was also setting up his own financial services company. He had a clear idea of what sort of client he wanted to target. In his mind they were in their 30’s, from Melbourne and working in the PR industry. I, on the other hand was just desperate to get anyone as a client and made sure my doors were wide open to everyone. My advice for businesses early on is to sell to anyone who is willing to buy what you’re selling. Don’t limit your customer base. A few years down the track when you’ve got some decent and steady profits you can maybe start to get a bit more picky if you want to. In case you’re wondering, my mate’s business went belly up because he didn’t have enough clients.
- Dot your i’s and cross your t’s
Make sure you get some professional advice on how best to structure your business. The best type of structure varies depending on what sort of business you are running so there really is no one size fits all recommendation. The two key things to remember when considering company structures are minimising your tax liability and protecting your assets.
- Begin with the end in mind
Have a clear idea of where you want to go from day one. When I was starting out I wrote down my own ‘vision’ for Rising Tide and the same words are plastered on the wall in our office to this day. Our ‘Vision Board’ includes our purpose, our team values, our strategy and key indicators of success.
- Track your success
In this day and age there really is no excuse for not tracking your progress as a business because there are so many helpful tools available to help you do so. Xero for tracking your financials, Survey Monkey for tracking staff and customer satisfaction, Expensify for tracking your expenses, Google Analytics to track your website traffic and Hootsuite to track your multiple social media channels – the list really is endless. Educate yourself on the tools available, work out what works best for you and USE THEM.
Phase 2: Evolve
- It’s not just what you know, it’s who knows you
You know you’re good at what your do, your customers know you’re good at what you do, but what about the rest of Australia/the world? Spend money on PR and marketing in the early days and get your name out there. Consider hiring a part-time resource to manage this area of your business or spend money on paid social media advertising.
- Be known for something
Marketing and PR shouldn’t just be about getting your brand out there, it should also be about getting you, the Founder and face behind the business out in to the public domain. Do what you need to do to become known as the expert in your given field.
- Evolve – Think smart
Read Timothy Ferris’s book, The 4-Hour Workweek. The key message to take from the book is to think outside the box about how to make your business work. Ferris set up an online business in the United States and then packed his family up and moved to South America so he could live cheaply while growing his business.
- Great teams win premierships (invest in your team)
A happy and fulfilled team means a successful business so make sure you invest in your employees and continue to better the daily experience they have working for you. This can be achieved in a number of ways whether it be by team bonding events, funding further education or making sure that you provide an enjoyable office environment for your staff.
Phase 3: Next Gear
- Many eggs in many baskets – Diversify
Now that you’ve mastered one thing well and you’re making bucket loads of profit it’s time to start going after a bigger part of your market. Consider what else you can do in your space in order to diversify your offering. At Rising Tide we began with offering financial advice and have evolved to offering a full suite of services including lending, tax consultant, super, investments, insurance and wills.
10. Buy a home for your business
Eventually, you’ll need to find an office for your growing team. Something worth considering is buying a property through a self-managed super fund. The super fund provides the deposit you need and then the company pays the repayments as rent back in to your fund. For more information on this, send us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action” (Herbert Spencer).
So go out and do!
To listen to the full podcast of my presentation click here.