Entrepreneurs share where to focus critical effort to make sure your business succeeds

Disrupt HQ is a comprehensive series designed to give Australia’s new generation of innovators the advice and guidance they need to successfully grow their business. Proudly sponsored by Braintree, which has been powering payments and helping thousands of next gen businesses like Uber, Airbnb, and Github grow from their first dollar.
Sophie Jillings, Head of APAC at TruRating

Time is the most precious resource when you’re running a young business. You’re juggling a whole bunch of things, begging for more hours in the day. Being a successful entrepreneur requires balancing all of these priorities, and knowing what to really focus on.

We consulted a raft of successful entrepreneurs to find the critical areas that lead to business success.

Balancing your resources

John Winning, CEO of Appliances Online

“The balancing act of having enough resources to support the growth, but not over resourcing​,​​ ​is something that needs constant focus,” says John Winning, CEO of Appliances Online. Doing so requires focusing on both sides of the ledger. You need to know how much demand exists for your product, and have the flexibility to meet that with the appropriate resources. Grow your capacity too fast, and you risk incurring some drag. Grow capacity too slowly and you won’t be delivering the best for your clients, which can also come back to hurt growth.

“Ensuring that you can maintain a high level of customer service throughout high growth periods is essential, as if you don’t this could​ ​​stifle​ ​any future growth.”

Knowing where the cash is coming from

Jason Titman, COO of Neto

Speaking of resources, you need to have it all lined up long before you need it, says Jason Titman, COO of Neto. “Growing quickly is going to suck up cash in staff, technology and inventory.”

Titman advises you start networking long before you ever need an influx of cash. Investors need to know who you are, that you are there for the long haul, that you have a solution that is gaining traction.

“Get to know potential funders or investors – If you spend some time getting to know potential investors or sources of funding this can be really valuable when your business gets to the point it needs more cash quickly or you are presented with an amazing opportunity that you need cash to fund the growth.”

Culture

“Peter Drucker said ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. I totally agree,” says Tony Ward, APAC Manager Director of Survey Monkey. “A big focus for me is hiring the right people that fit our culture.”

Culture can be a nebulous concept at the best of times, and hard to get right. But the key may be to identify your business goals and then create a culture to those ends. Are you creating a business built on low overheads and big volume? How about a business that is going to out-innovate the competition on product?

Who is going to meet those goals for you?

Knowing when to expand

“Knowing when it is right to expand is different for everyone,” says Kristin Harris, General Manager at Deputy. There are loads of different metrics that can be used as a sign you need to invest in growth. At least as many as there are businesses — a manufacturing company with long lead times may use growth in a certain segment, while a cloud-based company that can just add more servers may use user trend figures, for example.

The key is to identify what your metric is and focus on it.

“We look to expand when we identify a new market opportunity or have significant customer growth which warrants further investment by the business to capitalise on the opportunity.”

Understanding your customer

“It’s no surprise to retailers (and particularly online retailers) that they exist in a supremely competitive market,” says Sophie Jillings, Head of APAC at TruRating. “Customer expectations are high, and it’s so easy for them to click away to another site, or decide not to complete that credit card form. So understanding what customers do and don’t like about their experience with you is vital to making improvements and identifying those opportunities to help you build a flourishing business.”

This is why, Jillings says, you need to invest in understanding your customer. Really figuring out how they experience your products, pricing model, and the usability of your site. You need to invest in figuring out your customers so that you know what needs fixing, what opportunities are out there.

“It’s incredible how many opportunities become evident for businesses when they start capturing customer sentiment and linking this to spend – finding out what your happy customers are happy about and how much more they’re spending can mean big things for your bottom line, so listening to your customers is a very worthwhile investment.”

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