Alec Dobbie, CEO and Founder of FanFinders, owner and operators of Your Baby Club.
How does the average person with a family start a business? And by average person I'm talking about those with families, bills and routines to stick to. Someone with very limited free time. How do you go from humble beginnings to a million pound turn over, an office, staff - a fully functioning business? It's a dream for many and yet it doesn't feel like something that can actually be done, who has the time?
Without blowing my own trumpet too much, this is exactly what I have done, and I am not the only one. Far from it, today, I think most people know someone who has started a business from home and it's gone on to charge their life for the better. So what is the key to this success and freedom?
After the light bulb moment.
Once you have your idea, you need to act. Sitting on an idea will get you nowhere very fast. It's cliché to say, but Rome wasn't built in a day, set yourself realistic goals and expectations, otherwise you will overwhelm yourself and burn out pretty quickly.
I remember sitting in my conservatory after putting my children to bed and giving myself 2 hours to complete specific tasks, I had to be very strict with my time management and use 'leisure time' or time I really should have been sleeping to get things off the ground. It's not easy and you run purely off sweat
One of the earliest lessons I found is that you should build a team around. You do not possess all the skills you require to make a success of this business - that is a fact. At FanFinders, everyone from director level though to our support staff have different skills and we all bring to the table.
It started with two of us - friend from a previous employer. Over the period of a year we recruited 3 others to work with us, all on sweat equity to allow us to start pulling in one direction together. Without anyone of these 5 we would not be in the place we are today. I used job sites, discussion boards and other free resources to meet my business partners and paid them in equity in the company. These people are your life blood, you need to do this well and pick people you can work alongside for this isn't an easy ride. It's a lot like a marriage, you will argue, disagree and come around to each other's way of thinking on many occasions. This can be seen as a partnership of equals, but do make sure someone is the boss, you will need this for tough calls in the future, don't put this off.
Use quality kit
You can't prepare fully for the bumps in the road but you can make sure you are on a good footing to start. Move away from piles of paper, lose the filling cabinet and use good quality "cloud" products. We have our email with Google, our team messaging with Slack, tech issues with BaseCamp and finance stuff with Xero. Equally hire people where you can for the necessary but dull stuff, find a good accountant and have a chat with lawyer at some point as you never know when you will need one. To this end make sure you sort your paperwork, do incorporate your company, making it real helps focus the mind. Do have a shareholders' agreement - you don't mean to fall out with the great team you founded but it happens.
Don't sweat the small stuff but do test the big stuff
On your journey you are going to have to make some decisions, it's easy to drown in opportunity. Some decisions can be made on gut feeling but the best decisions are made with information. You need to understand that a huge portion of what you think now is likely incorrect - and that's ok. You are starting on a learning journey and the place you will end up is not the place you are in now.
You have to be willing to test as much as possible and to find the correct answer using your results. We try to test as much as we can and then let the data drive our next step, for us this could be to find out if our users like video or image. Or in the real world like the boys at innocent with their bins (http://www.innocentdrinks.co.uk/us/our-story), testing drives the way forward better than gut feeling alone. Try two solutions, mark and measure them then see what you learn. Without the data you are guessing and going forward blindly and more likely to make mistakes.
It's not easy otherwise everyone would be doing it...
Lastly for this piece, you will need perseverance. As I mentioned this isn't going to be easy, there will be ups and downs, high and lows. However if you build the correct team with the correct people it will make this a lot easier. Make sure you can step back sometimes and take a view of issues, there is always a solution it's just sometimes a little hard to see, for me I take an hour walk my dogs and think. The time away from it can pay is self-back immeasurably.
One last thing, we have a moto and I think it works across the board "be smart, nice and get shi*t done".