Top tips for start-up success in 2018

We asked four business experts for their top tips for start-up success in the New Year

Is your New Year’s resolution to build your own business in 2018? Or perhaps you’re looking to take your current business to the next level? The reality is we’re working in a time of unprecedented change, so we asked a panel of experts from different fields  – business growth expert Royston Guest, digital product guru Jacob Beckett, change Implementation consultant Philip Cox-Hynd and world-leading entrepreneurship researcher Sharon Tal – for their key business lessons to bear in mind for the new year. 

Royston Guest: The starting point when building a new business is to think long and hard about your vision and purpose; what is your unwavering goal for your business, why will it exist in the first place?

You see, a compelling vision and purpose is like infusing work with purpose and meaning! It will give your employees, partners, suppliers, and customers an emotional and intellectual connection with your business beyond its operational characteristics plus it will act as an important reference point to check every decision you make, before you make it.

In a very real sense, your compelling vision and purpose is your North Star; in good times, it can focus the business, reinforcing the goal and ambition; in tough times, it offers an inspirational focal point to keep pushing on, in the knowledge that you’re pursuing a goal worth achieving.

The ability to focus is critical for success. It’s too easy to be distracted by the next opportunity, the next million-pound idea. Most people are better at dreaming up new ideas than making them a reality, and if you’re not focused, there is an inherent risk of being known as a great thinker, or even visionary, who never made anything happen. As the saying goes: Where focus goes energy flows.

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In simple terms, too many businesses set off on a journey into the future without first painting a clear picture of where it is they want to get to. Create your vision and purpose, protect it from becoming passive; promote it so that it becomes active and truly living in your business. I call this your vision and purpose in ACTION.” 

Built to Grow by Royston Guest is out now, published by Wiley

Jacob Beckett: It’s fairly simple; You need to work harder than the next person, keep validating your idea and persist. Have singular focus in what you’re doing. If you’re running a start-up you’ll inherently come up with hundreds of ideas. Don’t let these distract you. Many start-ups with a strong idea have failed by chasing twenty half-baked ideas at the cost of their core idea.

Each addition to your core offering can be very costly in both time and money. Instead you need to keep focussed on your core idea, constantly validating it – particularly in relation to what is happening in similar spaces to your own start-up. You need to be willing to shape and change your idea to respond to the environment around you. Part of running a start-up is accepting that mistakes will be made, to be successful you need to be able to respond effectively too this mistake, adapting your start-up.

No start-up starts with a finished product – you need to focus on your leading edge until it gains traction, and even then, only broaden your horizons if it’s related to the core product. Remember; you’re probably not Elon Musk.” 

Jacob Beckett is the founder of leading digital product design agency Vitamin London 

Philip Cox-Hynd: The joy of being an entrepreneur is the thrill of an idea that excites, and the possibility of bringing that idea to market! The initial enthusiasm is infectious and when two or three people join the entrepreneur on this journey, everyone mucks in.

When the idea, be it a product or a service, starts to take off, it is only human for that small band that gathered around the entrepreneur to keep on doing what they have done so far, but just ‘pedal harder and faster’.

The danger lies when success kicks in. When start-ups start to become a medium sized enterprise , they reach a stage whereby just doing more of what they have already done won’t produce more of the success they have started to enjoy.

So how to avoid this?

  • Ensure that at least one person of that initial group that clusters around the entrepreneur, has responsibility from the beginning for building processes and systems ahead of their full need.
  • Agree where you want the company to be in black and white terms by a specific date in around 1 to 3 years’ time.
  • Be honest with where you are now. True costs, real turn over etc.
  • Work backwards from this tangible ‘vision’ to plot a route from where you are now to achieving the vision. A fancy word for route is strategy.
  • Start the habit from the beginning of weekly operations meetings with clear a timed agenda, and recorded actions ‘to be done by whom, by when’, ensuring that each week those actions have been executed and on time.

Implement these simple tips and there’s a chance you won’t undermine your own success” 

Philip Cox-Hynd is the co-founder of change implementation specialists Harley Young, and author of Mindfulness and the Art of Change by Choice 

Sharon Tal: All arrows point to the same direction: 2018 is going to be a year with major uncertainties. Technological revolutions such as artificial intelligence or blockchain are knocking on our door, aiming to change the world, alongside major local and global regulatory shifts – such as data privacy, for example.

As uncertainty increases, it’s essential to consciously prepare your business for the unknown. In other words – you must make sure to hedge your bets. Surely, as business founders we ought to be optimistic in nature, or else we would most probably not have set-up a venture in the first place. This usually leads us to think about and prepare ourselves for our growth options (that is – once we are successful – what shall we do next?) But when fogginess is approaching, we must also think of, and prepare ourselves for some backup options. 

When you design your game-plan for 2018, make sure to specify not only your growth opportunities, but also your backup options. It will keep you focused and agile altogether- a critical combination for playing in uncertain fields.”

Dr Sharon Tal is co-author of Where to Play: 3 Steps for Discovering Your Most Valuable Market Opportunities (FT Publishing) and accompanying online start-up strategy course

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024