Keep INVESTING Simple and Safe (KISS)
****Investment Philosophy, Strategy and various Valuation Methods****
The same forces that bring risk into investing in the stock market also make possible the large gains many investors enjoy. It’s true that the fluctuations in the market make for losses as well as gains but if you have a proven strategy and stick with it over the long term you will be a winner!****Warren Buffett: Rule No. 1 - Never lose money. Rule No. 2 - Never forget Rule No. 1.
Life as an entrepreneur is like being on a roller coaster that just won’t stop. There are breathless, stomach-churning twists and turns, and you can go from feeling like Richard Branson to Del Boy in the same day. Much of the time it can be hard to feel like you are in control, certainly when your business starts to get noticed and momentum gathers.
Since I founded Huddle, the leader in enterprise cloud collaboration and content management, back in 2006 with Andy McLoughlin, I’ve felt like that on numerous occasions. In just over four years, Huddle has grown from a bedroom start-up with a team of just two – and, yes, that was Andy and me – to a 100-strong business with offices in London and San Francisco that competes (and wins) head-to-head with Microsoft.
Getting to this point has been exciting, exhilarating and exhausting at times, but all the more rewarding for it. Setting up your own company comes with its fair share of trials and tribulations and can be massively daunting here in the United Kingdom. The UK is an incredible country in many ways, but I’m not always convinced that it is as supportive of entrepreneurs as it could be, particularly when compared to the US. That’s not a criticism of government, but more a general observation about the culture surrounding start-ups and entrepreneurs.
In the US, and in San Francisco especially, people are encouraged to become entrepreneurs; there is a support network for people to tap into, ask questions of and get advice from. Even the biggest and most successful entrepreneurs take the time out to pass on their experiences and act as a mentors.
So, in the spirit of sharing the entrepreneurial wisdom, here are the 10 most useful tips I’d like to impart to all the aspiring young entrepreneurs out there.
1. Spend as much time as possible researching your idea
You need to look at what is out there already, what might be in the pipeline and see if there really is a market for your idea. Your friends and family might not necessarily be the best people to bounce an idea off either – unless you come from a family of entrepreneurs, of course. Try and find a mentor in a non-competing business that can give you a steer in the right direction and some objective advice.
2. Concentrate on building the best product that you can – be uncompromising in your vision
There are too many bad products in the world, so do your utmost to make sure yours isn’t one of them. Take feedback on board from as many trusted advisers as you wish, but don’t dilute your vision too much. Andy and I set out with the clear goal of helping people work better together, and that remains the foundation of what we do to this day.
3. Get customers involved early
They can provide good feedback, the comfort factor for prospects and proof that there is something tangible to your business for potential investors. Whether it’s an in-depth case study, press release to send to the media or just a quick one-line testimonial for the website, having a customer willing to say “we use this and we love it” is as powerful a marketing message as one could wish for.
4. Be ruthless from the off
It’s not a problem to give away a chunk of your business as you get started – but be mindful of how much it is worth and be ruthless from the very first day. Even at the beginning, you need to be firm and strong when negotiating and doing deals. If you let people walk all over you, you’ll set a precedent from that point onwards for people to take advantage of you and get the upper hand in any negotiations.
5. Go big or go home
I’m a massive believer in reaching for the skies, both in life and in business – who on Earth wants to set up the sixth most successful company? So you need to be convinced that your business is going to be successful, otherwise convincing other people of that fact will be an uphill struggle.
6. First impressions can only be made once
You can’t underestimate the importance of a successful launch. If people perceive you to be a successful, on-the-up and a business with a buzz about it, then more often than not that will become a reality. Use PR, social media, analyst relations (for techie businesses), DM, email and Google AdWords; copy elements of other successful launches you may have seen; and do not be afraid of spending money to get the desired results – it will be money very well spent.
7. Take advantage of all your connections and network, network, network
Your network of contacts is extremely important and will prove invaluable when you’re looking to expand your team and gain feedback on your product or service. Take advantage of every single connection, as help can come from the most unlikely places. My first boss was Huddle’s original angel investor, and this initial funding helped us get started. Online networking has never been easier, with Twitter, LinkedIn and others, but that should be in addition to, not instead of, face-to-face networking. There is no substitute for meeting people in the flesh.
8. Surround yourself with the very best people
I know about marketing, have some experience in marketing and have very strong ideas about marketing my business. But I am not a marketer. I soon realised that as Huddle grew I needed to get the very best people in their respective disciplines to help maintain that growth. So whether it is PR, marketing, HR, accounting or other, don’t try and wing it yourself and only hire the best.
9. Raising money is a job in itself
When you are out and about, pressing investor flesh and running through your “show me the money” presentation for the umpteenth time, who is running your business? Raising cash from investors can be a full-time job, and you can’t afford to take your eye off the ball when it comes to the day job. So don’t – use external resources where you need to.
10. Keep the faith
It’s an oft-quoted fact that most companies that go out of business do so in the first year of trading. Once you’ve survived that, you’ll be in a position to build and grow. But don’t worry if things are taking twice as long as they should be and you think cash is running out. It probably is. But that’s normal - ride it through, don’t get distracted from your vision and everything will turn out ok. And even if it doesn’t you’ll be in for a hell of a ride.