Dandy Marketing Co-Founder Shares How He Successfully Launched a Digital Marketing Agency

Dandy Marketing Co-Founder Shares How He Successfully Launched a Digital Marketing Agency

Welcome to our founder lessons series.

This week, Dan Reeves reveals how he co-founded a digital marketing agency for small & medium-sized businesses.

Tell us about Dandy Marketing

Dandy Marketing provides digital marketing services to small and medium-sized businesses across the globe. Our specialities include Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC), Content Marketing and Paid Social. Our approach is to provide to the point, honest marketing advice and support that gets results.

Why and how did you start Dandy Marketing?

I worked in the digital marketing industry for over 5 years, working in-house for some big UK brands and with some big agencies. When dealing with these agencies, I often found myself thinking “I could do this better”. So I guess the thought of running a digital agency was always in the back of my mind. I just never summoned enough courage to do it.

I was lucky enough to start a new role, and gain a friend that had the same ideas, passion and approach to marketing. One day in our canteen we just decided to go for it and Dandy was born over chicken nuggets and chips.

As we were often in the same meetings, we saw the good and the bad side of agencies. We started because we saw a better way of doing things, especially for smaller businesses. So, we focus on results and transparency, providing the best value for money service can.

What has been your biggest success factors?

It seems everyone is starting a consultancy or marketing agency these days. Combine that with the thousands of digital marketing agencies out there already, and you’ve got a pretty crowded market.

I think our biggest factor has come down to our approach, and if I may say so, just being genuinely good people to work with.

We are completely transparent with what’s working, what’s not. The work we have carried out, and the impact it has had. We also go the extra mile for clients, for example, we picked up a new client, and ended up completely redoing her website for free. 

Some may see that as stupid, and a missed opportunity but that’s our approach. We have already gained that “missed revenue” back from the referrals the client has given us. 

Another factor that has contributed to our success so far is consistent effort. I know now I wouldn’t have been able to do this on my own. I’m very grateful that we have a team and culture with the same mindset and morals. 

What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching and running the company?

As they are only two of us running the day to day operations it was quite a challenge juggling all these new tasks we had to perform.

Not only do we have to deliver for clients, well, we actually need to get clients. There’s also the boring business/accountancy stuff, which I hate doing, and thankfully my co-founder has picked up.

We went from being in-house marketers to business development managers, HR, account managers and accountants!

All of these were new to us, so it was a bit of a learning curve, some of which we are still trying to nail down.

We knew we needed help on the accountancy side so we signed up with a digital accountancy firm. The software and support they provide have been a huge help. 

Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?

These 3 will forever be a key part of any successful business. I think for me and the industry I work in I’d have to say, team.

The biggest part of my role is ensuring we are delivering results for clients. The better the team, the better you can do that. The market will then come to you!

Plus, it’s always good to have a team you can thrive in and enjoy working with. As an entrepreneur, having that support network is invaluable.

Final words for those chasing the startup dream

Self-doubt is normal but you can overcome it by just starting. Doesn’t matter how small. Just start.

Consistent effort is the path to mastery so once you start, don’t be afraid of new things, keep going. Create momentum and you will feel unstoppable.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, look for Facebook groups, old bosses/colleagues. People will be more than happy to share their advice.

Imaginovation Co-Founder Reveals His Team Successfully Launched a Business That Builds Web And Mobile Solutions

Imaginovation Co-Founder Reveals His Team Successfully Launched a Business That Builds Web And Mobile Solutions

Welcome to our founder lessons series.

This week, Michael Georgiou shares how he co-founded a business that builds enterprise-level web and mobile applications, IoT, AI, blockchain, and VR/AR applications for companies of all shapes, sizes, and industries. 

Tell us about Imaginovation

Hello! My name is Michael Georgiou, and I am a Co-Founder and CMO at Imaginovation. We are an award-winning technology and app development company based out of Raleigh, NC. 

At Imaginovation, we provide custom enterprise-grade technology solutions to a variety of businesses in any industry, from funded startups to Fortune 500 companies. 

Our services include building custom web applications, mobile apps, and emerging technologies such as AI development, IoT development, AR & VR app development, and blockchain development. 

Why and how did you start your company?

I started Imaginovation with my friend and brother-in-law Pete Peranzo with an aim to help businesses achieve their true potential through innovative tech solutions.

It all started back in 2011. I had finished my Master’s degree in Australia and came back to the US. But, I didn’t have a job as the Great Recession of 2008 had just ended, and the economy was still in bad shape. 

My business partner and CEO of Imaginovation, Pete Peranzo was working at SAS, at that time, but he wanted to do something bigger, and build something of his own.

Pete and I met through one of our mutual friends years before, but little did we know that we would become such great friends and then 50/50 business partners.  

Pete knew that there’s a hidden entrepreneur inside me. One day, very randomly though, Pete called me and asked if I want to start a company. “Wait. What?” I was both excited, confused and very anxious to know his idea. 

I always had this dream of starting my own business, and put my marketing and creative skills to work. So I was more than excited to implement Pete’s idea, but there was a hitch. None of us knew how to build a business. 

Pete and I were determined to start a technology company helping other businesses with their websites and applications. Some of Pete’s friends, who were software developers and web developers, and also jobless at that time, were happy to join us. They were ready to work for free for a few months until we were able to close some business. 

We came together and decided to set up a full-service web and mobile app development company to help businesses achieve their true potential through innovative technology as well as solve their internal pain points. 

We started mulling over the company name, and I thought a great slogan for our company would be “Imagination turns innovation,” and the name “Imaginovation” quickly popped in our mind. In fact, it was a dream I had the night before, so it felt like fate, to be honest. 

This is how Imaginovation came to existence. 

What has been your biggest success factors

We started our company from NOTHING. Yes, Imaginovation is a 100% organically bootstrapped company that started with a simple Craigslist ad. We built Imaginovation through hard work and dedication. 

Since the very beginning, our aim is to build and improve our brand value and recognition. We aggressively promoted our services through Craigslist ads and other free business directories at the start. 

We would also reach out to hundreds of people every day through emails, and as time went one, we started getting some qualified leads that lead to clients. Those were the leads that helped us kick-start and essentially grow our business. 

We would brainstorm and figure out ways to provide value to all the leads in order to grow our portfolio, clientele, and trust and credibility in this over-saturated market. 

We also attended many local events in Raleigh, Cary, Charlotte, and Durham to connect with potential leads and prospects. Reaching out to local businesses digitally and in-person helped us build momentum, give us a face, and build a presence around our local area. 

When we had a handful of projects after the first six months, we decided to drastically enhance our website and start marketing it across North Carolina. We developed our website, setup the social channels, and started posting helpful and insightful blogs every week, and socializing them. 

Our primary focus was building an SEO-optimized website that would help us establish a valuable and credible online presence. 

I used to research, read, and chat for several hours with my friends and online marketing experts, trying to understand SEO, PPC, content marketing, social media ads, and whatnot. I have also spent countless hours learning Google algorithms, Google trends, and analyzing top service providers and competitors in our domain. 

The learning and analysis allowed us to create SEO-friendly content for our website and improve competitive Google rankings organically over time. Eventually, with our combined SEO strategies, our website began ranking on the top of Google in North Carolina and even nationwide for many competitive keywords. 

This generated thousands of unique visitors per month to the website, which translated into leads, and eventually clients.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching and running the company

Being an entrepreneur is not easy. You have to make a lot of sacrifices and fight your way through some of the toughest obstacles in order to see your business flourish. We didn’t know much about entrepreneurship when we started, but we learned things through tons of trial and error and consistent hard work.

Not knowing anything about how to build a business was the biggest challenge for us. But, as I look back now, I must say that it was actually a blessing in disguise.

Pete and I literally put our sweat, blood, and tears into growing the company, and I mean “literally”. The emotional, physical, and mental struggles that we faced were imperative to our success, but we persevered and never gave up. 

A good example was Pete losing his firstborn child, who was a beautiful premie baby that couldn’t hold on any longer after about seven weeks or so. During that time it was incredibly challenging because Pete had to step away from his traditional work hours, and I had to step in and take on a lot of that workload. 

The lack of sleep and stress during the years caused us to get sick continuously while also working because we had no choice but to continue to work, taking a very little vacation, and times of heavy anxiety were frequent during the mountains of challenges that were in front of us. 

However, as business partners and brothers-in-law, we balanced out each other, picked one another up when the other was down on the ground, worked together, stayed positive, trusted, and made big things happen. 

Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?

I would say all of them are equally important. You need the right team to create the right product and the right market to sell your products or services. 

But above all, I think having the right mindset is extremely important above all. Being an entrepreneur is not easy. You have to make a lot of sacrifices and fight your way through some of the toughest obstacles in order to see your business flourish. 

We didn’t know much about entrepreneurship when we started, but with the right mindset and hard work, we learned things through and performed tons of trials and errors to get to where we are now.

Final words for those chasing the startup dream

For all those who are chasing their startup dream, I would like to say this:

Make sure your idea and concept is something that reflects what you are really good at, such as your skillset, capabilities, and strengths. Most importantly it needs to reflect your life’s purpose, and in my personal opinion, your purpose should be driven and derived by your passion. 

Be prepared for a huge task list, of course, this should come after you have created a well thought out business plan, and ensure you complete and execute one task at a time. 

As entrepreneurs, you would want to get a thousand things done at once, and many times it becomes so overwhelming that you see an Mt. Everest of issues and tasks to complete, which becomes incredibly stressful. 

So, to unclutter your mind, and take it one task at a time, and one day at a time. Make sure you set goals for you and your team to achieve and create weekly tasks that are realistic to be completed. 

As you start to see progress internally, you will start to see progress externally such as generating new leads, closing new deals, building long-term relationships, and scaling your business.

Check out our corporate website to know more about what we do and our journey so far. 

You can also watch our story in the video below:

Don’t forget to check out my podcast website and listen to the success stories of entrepreneurs, business leaders and thought leaders around the world.
Finally, you can connect us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Antibodies.com Co-Founder Shares How His Team Launched a Marketplace That Helps Life Scientists to Purchase Critical Research Reagents

Antibodies.com Co-Founder Shares How His Team Launched a Marketplace That Helps Life Scientists to Purchase Critical Research Reagents

Welcome to our founder lessons series.

This week, Antibodies.com co-founder, Dr Stewart Newlove reveals how he and his partner launched a business that supplies cost-effective antibodies, proteins, and assays for life science research.

Tell us about Antibodies.com

Antibodies.com is headquartered in Cambridge (UK), which is a hub for life science research, and an inspiring place with all the discoveries being made right on our doorstep. We provide research and diagnostic reagents to life scientists around the world, and in this way are helping to accelerate societies’ understanding of biology and the causes of disease. Specifically, we supply primary and secondary antibodies, proteins and peptides, immunoassays and kits, as well as other companion products.

Why and how did you start your company

The reason my business partner and I started Antibodies.com was because we noticed issues with the scientific research products market, particularly with antibodies. Fundamentally, products are sourced from a primary manufacturer, rebranded and sold to researchers at an unreasonably high price, due to the marketing and operational costs involved. This meant that end-users were not getting the cost-effective products they needed to ensure that their lab budgets were used in the most efficient way. In light of this, we decided to set up our own company.

Our products are sourced from the same primary manufacturers, but by operating a lean business model and not altering the branding on the products, we can deliver them at a lower price to our customers. Ultimately, we are trying to change the market to make it more transparent and beneficial to scientists who depend upon these products to carry out ground-breaking research.

What has been your biggest success factors

Persistence has been the key to success so far for Antibodies.com. There are two main scenarios in which persistence is needed. The first being that on some occasions, ideas or approaches prove not to be successful, which can be difficult to accept, particularly if they have required a lot of time and money.

However, these sorts of failures are inevitable, and the key to success is being able to demonstrate resilience through challenging times. The second scenario being that on other occasions, an initiative may not appear to be fruitful at first, but might end up being a rewarding venture later down the line. The only way to determine whether it is or not is to be persistent. 

What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching and running the company

We did not realise how resistant parts of our target market would be to the alternative we were presenting, even though it would be beneficial to them. Over the years we have encountered some very sceptical individuals, who are loyal to other companies which they have been using for a long time. Fortunately, we have been able to communicate the concept of our business to a lot of people, who are largely willing to work with us once they understand how they would benefit from our products. It pays to understand how people will view what you are offering from an outside perspective.

Despite these challenges, it is always rewarding when a customer is pleased with our services, and have saved money, meaning their lab budget will go further. 

Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?

All, of course, are vital to a successful business. If I had to choose, I would say the right product. The reasons being that firstly, if you do not offer exactly what your market requires, you will find it difficult to capture the attention of potential clients. Secondly, if your product does not work well then it will be difficult to retain clients, meaning the business will be unsustainable. Finally, if your product does not stand out as being the best, it will be difficult to build a solid reputation, and longevity will prove to be difficult.

Final words for those chasing the start-up dream

If you have a promising business idea and a positive attitude, do not be afraid to pursue your start-up dream. Often the main limiting factor will be your own self-doubt. A true belief in your product or service will be the driving force towards building a successful business. That having been said, do not expect everything to fall into place immediately. At times it will seem like there are endless obstacles to overcome, but in the end, it is those that persist who will prosper.

Boon Brokers Founders Share How They Successfully Built a Mortgage, Insurance And Equity Release Brokerage Business

Boon Brokers Founders Share How They Successfully Built a Mortgage, Insurance And Equity Release Brokerage Business

Welcome to our founder lessons series.

This week, Michael and Gerard share how they co-founded Boon Brokers, an independent mortgage, insurance and equity release brokerage.

Tell us about Boon Brokers

Boon Brokers is an independent mortgage, insurance and equity release brokerage based in East Anglia. Our independent and directly authorised status (FCA no: 301141) allows our staff to advise and arrange cases on a whole-of-market basis. This means that, where other brokers may be restricted, we can identify the most suitable lender/product in the UK for our clients’ requirements.

Our brokerage has over 60 years of experience in the industry – yet we are always seeking to innovate with new technology/systems to enhance the clients’ experience of our process. A core selling point of the company is that we do not charge any client fees for mortgage or insurance cases.

All mortgage brokers in the UK are paid a ‘procuration fee’ by the lender upon completion of a mortgage application. This procuration fee is sufficient to cover our costs. According to the government’s Money Advice Service, consumers can save an average of £500 on broker fees by using Boon Brokers services.

In addition to this, free home consultations are provided in Norfolk/Suffolk and our staff will automatically review your mortgage options when an opportunity to re-mortgage, for cost-saving or capital raising, arises. 

Why and how did you start Boon Brokers?

The co-founders of Boon Brokers, Michael and Gerard, founded the business with a clear vision. This vision is to offer the cheapest advice and arrangement of financial products whilst simultaneously providing the highest quality of advice in the UK market. A strong driver of our motivation to start the business was that we noticed vulnerable consumers, with limited financial knowledge, consistently being taken advantage of by numerous brokers in our region.

There are many brokers that charge clients a fee (often £500) even if the case does not complete. In our opinion, this is an unethical practice. For this reason, with all of our services, no client fee is ever charged if a case does not complete. No client fee is charged, period, for mortgage or insurance cases.

Another driver of our company launch was our observation of the lack of technological advancement in the industry. Many brokers are still using obsolete technology from 15+ years ago that is now deemed inefficient in many other industries. Our team, which comprises a blend of youthful energy and experience, constantly invests in new technology to enhance our market offering. 

In order to establish a financial service brokerage in the UK, the firm must be approved either directly or indirectly by the Financial Conduct Authority. Boon Brokers, formerly known as Business Matters, was approved for directly authorised status by the FCA many years ago. After directly authorised status was achieved, we invested in: the training of our staff, marketing for lead generation and technology to ensure a high-quality service. We have expanded on those initial investments ever since. 

What has been the biggest success factors?

The biggest success factor, without doubt, is the premium level of financial advice on offer. Our Trust Pilot reviews are testament to the level of service offered by Boon Brokers. The single most important function of our business is to consistently offer the highest quality of advice available in the UK market.

As a result of our premium advice service, we have witnessed an increasing number of client referrals on a daily basis. The vast majority of our business is generated from word-of-mouth referrals. The business is now at a phase of ‘critical mass’ in which growth will be exponential, due to the high number of daily referrals, as long as the level of advice stays at a premium level.

Through various quality control and training tests, we ensure that the level of advice offered by our advisers remains at the highest level. In addition, no client fees for mortgages/insurance, free home consultations and whole-of-market access has significantly increased our enquiry numbers.  

What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching and running the company?

The biggest challenge that we face is setting aside time to focus on scaling the company. As our business, if growing rapidly, all of our staff are functioning at almost full capacity. Therefore, it is difficult to take a step back and reflect on our growth in order to identify the best route for expansion.

However, we have recently allocated time slots throughout the week to focus on our marketing, operations, recruitment and financial objectives. This new time management practice should reduce the challenge of ensuring the optimal scaling of the business. Another challenge is financial.

As we are constantly re-investing in the business, it can take many months for us to see a financial return. However, as mentioned in the next paragraph, we stick by the principle that a focus on adding value is the most optimal way to expand a business. Therefore, we are happy to endure any financial worries that naturally arise from large investments in order to add value to the business. 

Final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

If you are hoping to run a successful business, focus on value creation. Do not “chase the money”. I see so many budding entrepreneurs base all of their decisions on maximising short-term cash-flow.  Revenue figures will organically grow as a by-product of a high-value market proposition.

Many entrepreneurs chase money by, for example, expanding too quickly or significantly reducing their costs. These sorts of rash decisions often lead to a worse value offering for the firm’s target market. Therefore, if you focus only on adding value to your target market, your business will remain focused on its core objectives. Growth is far more attainable with a focused mindset on value creation.

Quintessentially – A Concierge Service Company With $202M Turnover

Quintessentially – A Concierge Service Company With $202M Turnover

Have you ever thought about how a rich man books his luxury vacation? Do they scroll across various websites or go for some inquiry calls? Or do they compare the hotels and flight prices on various sites?  

Do they even have time to surf? 

Obviously not, right?

And this is a place where Concierge came in the picture. A concierge who will perform every task on behalf of you likes scheduling a vacation or meeting, making the party arrangement as per your instructions, reminder of the important events and much more.   

But, what’s this buzzword “Quintessentially” in the market?

Well, Quintessentially is one of the largest concierge companies worldwide. But before having a deep dive in it, first, we will go through what is concierge service?

Brief on Concierge Service 

So, the concierge is about an individual or a company that has specialized in providing personal assistance or any such assistant service. A concierge will handle every single task for yours, and you need to pay them on a monthly or hourly basis as per your niche.  

The main goal here is to save the time of an individual by performing their regular tasks. Every single thing is managed by a Concierge as per your requirement. And the best part is concierge is spreading in every field like medical, lifestyle, hotel, travel, wedding and much more. 

So, now you have a complete idea of what is a concierge, so let’s get through the biggest hit of the Concierge service –  Quintessentially.   

World’s Best Concierge Company – Quintessentially

Yes, it is the most successful concierge company with a turnover of approximately $202 million. 

It was commenced in 2000 and by now, it is one of the most luxurious concierge service platforms globally. The cofounders of  Quintessentially are Ben Elliot, Paul Drummond, and Aaron Simpson. Now, Quintessentially has appointed Annastasia Seebohm as the CEO Globally.    

It has its offices in 63 cities and has 33 sister companies under their roof. Quintessentially is the winner of many popular concierge and prestigious travel awards like World Travel Awards’ Europe’s Leading, Conde Nast’s Best Concierge Company, etc. 

Quintessentially especially works to take care of the demands of users. The only thing which makes it different from other concierge services is its three-level service. These users have three ways to purchase the services as given below.  

General level:

It is a reactive service, where a user needs to write about their requirements to Lifestyle expert. And they will work as per your request. 

Dedicated Level: 

It fulfills a user’s need on the react level as well as reaches out to the user proactively. They provide extraordinary service to the user as per their preferences. 

Elite Level:

 It provides a user with four managers across the globe to manage every single thing asked by a user. And these managers are the most experienced ones.

This way, Quintessentially provides users with three types of Concierge service. And this level is one of the reasons behind its success. 

The personalized service is a major attraction by most of the clients. Here, a concierge will know every single thing about you and accordingly arrange every important event of your life. Something like your kid’s birthday, your anniversary, company events and a lot more. You just need to sit back and relax, everything will be conducted by your concierge. 

The company has various price ranges for this three-tier starting from $5,500 to $45,000 per year. The company has a vast range of clients which includes celebrities, well-known entrepreneurs,  sports person and more.      

Reason Behind Quintessentially Success

So what made Quintessentially such a huge brand and multi-million company? 

The main reason behind it is the high-quality concierge service they provide and making some impossible demands come to reality. Some unachievable demand fulfilled by them are:

  • Setting up a complete James Bond  scene right from the kidnapping on the streets of London
  • This one was the best, that organizing a dinner date on an ice-berg
  • Closing the Sydney Harbor Bridge to let a client propose his finance
  •  Flying a pet in the Private jet

So, these were some of the impossible tasks which Quintessentially made possible. Thus, now you understand the reason behind its success. 

And another reason behind its success is Quintessentially fearless CEO Annastasia Seebohm. She took the company to a whole new level with her efforts and smartness.  

After she joined the company, in a lesser time she became the global CEO at Quintessentially. In 2017, the revenue of the Quintessentially was $100 million. And later, she upstreamed the company’s revenue by $100 million in a short span of time. That means, just in the last two years the Quintessentially turned to be $202 million company. 

Some part of Quintessentially revenue is generated from the Real Estate. Here is a short video to give a short glimpse of Quintessentially’s real estate. 

Wrapping up

So, this was all about Quintessentially’s success. They have fulfilled almost every demand of their clients right from arranging a party at the place Madonna is performing to book a dinner date on a yacht in Southern France. 

The key reason for success is their dedication towards their clients. And high-quality luxurious concierge service they provide. 

Does Your “Coronavirus Free Time” Have You Thinking About Starting a New Business From Home?

Does Your “Coronavirus Free Time” Have You Thinking About Starting a New Business From Home?

Welcome to our founder lessons series. This week Eileen Smith shares her journey from Diplomacy to a Growing Public Speaking Coaching Business.

Working from home? Got extra time on your hands because your events have been cancelled? You might be thinking about a new business you can start from home. Here is the story of my transition from diplomat to public speaking coach, and how I overcame my biggest obstacle. It started with a potential client asking, “Hey, could you do a group public speaking training for us?” My response? “Um, no, I’m a one-on-one coaching specialist.” 

Having just finished my career as a diplomat, I was confident speaking in front of audiences all around the world. I have spoken to advocacy groups and international organizations. I have addressed Members of Congress and the press. When I was Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary of State, I coached her for speeches at the State Department, the United Nations, and the White House. She was the one who suggested I could be a professional public speaking coach in the first place. But the idea of doing public speaking about public speaking struck me as having a great deal of chutzpah.  

To go back to the beginning of this venture, I prepared for starting my new business through extensive studies of my new specialty. Wanting to have an academic grounding for my advice, and not rely solely on my natural instincts, I devoured books and trainings on public speaking, executive presence, and body language. Then I took the best points all of them to develop my own approach.  

This process led me to identify what I thought were the most important points a person needed to know to successfully deliver their message to an audience. On the recommendation of Body Language Expert Mark Bowden and Business Coach Michael Bungay Stanier in Presentation Genius, I made my training materials beautiful and precious. They are professionally designed and printed, invitation-sized cards that neatly sum up my main teaching points and give room on the back to write down your most important take-aways. No big binders to stack on the shelf. Just one piece to pin to your bulletin board or keep in your desk drawer for easy reference.

Crowd-sourcing websites Squadhelp and Design Hill helped me develop the name, tagline, and logo for my business. I took on my first client for free while I was still deciding whether to take the plunge. After my first series of one-on-one coaching sessions with them, I left walking on air. They loved me and I loved them, and I decided right then to start my business. Yet even with this client and my new clients as I started to build my base, people kept asking me to provide group trainings. I was confident coaching one-on-one. But my clients wanted more.

That’s when I realized that providing only one-on-one coaching was holding back my business’s growth. After enough requests, I gave it considerable thought. The key, I realized, was to follow my own advice! I prepared and planned. I practiced repeatedly for the video camera on my phone. Each round, I analyzed my videos and made recommendations and did it again. Engage the audience. Project confidence. Smile. Deliver my Message. Repeat. The book, Executive Presence The Missing Link Between Merit and Success, was indispensable.  

To test myself, I offered a free, small group training to my original client. I learned from that, studied my Presentation Genius training again, and went on to give a proud yes to all requests for group training. This additional offering marked a key uptick in business clients and repeat business. My motivation was demand driven. My ability was a direct testament to the results of my own coaching.

Throughout this process of building my business – concept, product development, test marketing, name, tagline, logo, creating my LLC, accounting, registration, website development, taxes, marketing, client development, and delivery led to the best part. My clients have been profoundly enthusiastic. Public speaking is an area where people can feel particularly unsure.

Clients send heartfelt thank you notes sometimes right away and sometimes several months down the road after they have had a particularly successful event. This response makes all my effort incredibly rewarding. If the shifting landscape created by coronavirus is giving you extra impetus to make a change and start or upgrade your business, it could be the best silver lining of all. 

iFinance Department Founder Shares How He Successfully Launched an Online Accounting Business

iFinance Department Founder Shares How He Successfully Launched an Online Accounting Business

Welcome to our founder lessons series. Today, Anthony Hanson reveals how he launched an accountancy business that supports businesses with cloud technology.

Anthony Hanson is the founder of iFinance Department, an online accountant for small business. They provide a range of services from virtual CFO to online bookkeeping. He founded iFinance Department as he thought small business were missing out on the advisory side as well as paying too much for the bookkeeping. iFinance set out to change that.

Introduce iFinance Department

iFinance Department is a virtual finance department (accounting department) for small businesses.  We provide advisory, accounting and bookkeeping services as an affordable solution because our clients only pay for the resources they need.  This means our clients can have their own CFO as well as a team of accountants and bookkeepers handling all of the financial aspects of the business and advising our client to help grow their business.

Why and how did you start your company

Many businesses starting out will use a bookkeeper to record transactions and an accountant to handle annual compliance work.  When they get large enough, they will leave their bookkeeper and hire a full-time accountant. The accountant will need to be very hands-on as they will likely be a glorified bookkeeper.  Most of the time will be spent doing the bookkeeping, and then the rest will be preparing the management accounts. A management accountant will likely be hired for this role, which means the accountant will not have the experience to give good advisory services, and will also be overpaid for all the bookkeeping services provided.

Having been involved in SMEs of various sizes, from start-up to multinational group companies, I felt that the small business was missing out on the advisory side as well as paying too much for the bookkeeping.

I wanted to create a company that would provide small growing businesses with an experienced CFO managing a team of accountants and bookkeepers to provide a full service solution at a cheaper price than hiring a management accountant.  This means a much better service for a lower price, helping to enable our clients to grow their businesses.

When I had the idea for this business, I was the FD for a group of companies based in the UK with operations around Europe.  I realised that with the advancements in cloud computing, I could provide a full accounting and advisory solution for many small businesses remotely.  Or at least mostly remotely as I meet with my advisory clients regularly for board meetings or just to keep close to the business.

For the first year, I continued to work for my employer full-time and worked on building my business in the evenings and weekends.  It didn’t take long before I used up my free time, so I had to take a pause on adding new clients so that I wouldn’t let down my existing clients.  I used this time not only to work for clients but also to prove to myself that the concept worked and could be a viable business. I developed a business plan that included a cash forecast using the client wins I had achieved over 4 months to project forward over 2 years.  I felt that I needed to allow 2 years to build the business to where it could sustain my family, and then continue to grow from there.

Once I realised that a 2 year plan was viable based on the performance to date of my business, I then looked into arranging the finance needed to allow me to leave employment and focus on my business full-time.

I registered my business as a limited company on the 21st of January 2019.  By October, I had my finance in place and gave notice of resignation to my employer.  With a 3 month notice period, my last day of employment was the 31st of December 2019.  As of the beginning of this year, I have been focused solely on my business and clients.

What has been your biggest success factors

One of the clients I won during those first few months came to me looking for a bookkeeper.  They were the type of recent start-up that had a bookkeeper for day-to-day needs and an accountant for annual accounts and tax returns; however, they are a high growth company that is in the process of raising capital through a series of private equity.  I was able to show them everything that I can do for them, and throughout 2019, they continued to add services until by the end of the year, they agreed for me to act as their CFO and provide all accounting and bookkeeping services for them to help them through their growth journey.

Additionally, when I gave notice to my employer, I treated it as a sales pitch.  Rather than just tell them that I was resigning my position, I started by telling them that I could save them some money.  As much as they would prefer to have a full-time FD, they believed that having me as their part-time FD was better than taking a chance on someone else.  This resulted in gaining my largest client to date.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching and running the company

The biggest challenge has been to get the word out to find the right clients that can benefit most from our services, and then get those people to understand how we work.  Most business owners think of their accountant as someone to avoid. Their accountant is very expensive and is really only used when required for compliance work. I think the accounting industry has promoted this perception as most accountants really don’t want to get involved in their clients’ businesses.  They think it’s too much work and they get paid well enough to prepare annual accounts and tax returns.

Even when I have won a client, it can take a while to develop the relationship and show my client that I actually do want to be involved on a regular basis and there is no additional charge to the client for this.

The reason I do not charge extra for regular contact and advice is that it is priced into my advisory and accounting fees.  I set a fixed price based on my client’s turnover, and other than inflation, my fee never increases unless their business’ turnover increases.  This ensures that I get a fair income based on the size of their business, and it aligns our motivational interests with the client, which is growing their business!

Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?

Businesses in all markets benefit from a good CFO, and I have experience working in various industries, so for us, we are not as concerned with the market.

As our product is a service provided by a team, we cannot have the best service without the best team, so for me, these two are a tie.  As my business is still in the start-up phase, my team at the moment is me with the help of a bookkeeper working on a casual basis. This arrangement suits her as she has children in school, and that keeps her motivated.

As my business grows, and I need to bring in more help, the team will absolutely be my primary focus as they will have regular contact with our clients, so finding the right team and motivating them will ensure we provide the best service for our clients.

Final words for those chasing the startup dream

If you are passionate about your business concept, then find a way to do it!  As long as you can make a sufficient profit, then you will be so happy that you took the leap.  If you need assistance with planning, financials, and how to do it, give me a call. I would love to go on that journey with you!

Pavel Melnikov: A Successful Entrepreneur Shares His Business Tips

Pavel Melnikov: A Successful Entrepreneur Shares His Business Tips

With only 0.01% of companies considered large enterprises, transforming a small business into a powerful corporation could prove to be quite a challenge. 

That said, the real question is – how do some entrepreneurs manage to scale their business?

Pavel Melnikov, an established businessman and investor from Russia, is willing to share his story on how he managed to become one of the leaders in the sanitary and plumbing industry and achieve success in the entrepreneurial world.  

Pavel Melnikov: A short biography 

Pavel Melnikov is an ambitious Russian entrepreneur and founder of many successful Russian companies that are involved in the trade and manufacture of high-quality sanitary products. Moreover, this prominent businessman is considered to be one of the major trademark holders with over 100 patents that helped develop and encourage the Russian sanitary industry.

Born in 1964 in Leningrad (today’s Saint Petersburg), Melnikov graduated from Leningrad Electrotechnical College and went on to extend his education at the Leningrad Mechanical Institute, where he specialized in Radioelectric equipment. 

After completing his formal education, Melnikov changes his focus and starts pursuing his lifelong dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur.  He devotes all his efforts, knowledge, and resources to finding and developing innovative heating, plumbing, and sanitary solutions that he felt were just what the Russian market needed at that time.

Driven by his ambition and outstanding entrepreneurial spirit, Pavel Melnikov established several profitable companies and brands that quickly became leaders in the Russian plumbing and sanitary industry, such as VALTEC, Vesta Regions LLC, Energoresurs LLC, Moscow Region, Minkor, Tenrad, and Brixis. 

So, what’s the secret of his success?

Analyze the market demand and customer needs

Once Pavel Melnikov decided to venture into the business world, the first thing he did was to analyze the market conditions and prevailing trends in the sanitary industry at that time. He was looking for a gap in the market, trying to pinpoint a product or a service that was both in demand and had growth potential. 

The analysis showed that the sanitary market in Russia lacks efficient, modern, and innovative heating and plumbing solutions, so Melnikov invested all his resources into research and development of sanitary products and equipment that was just what the Russian market was looking for.

After Pavel Melnikov realized that modern heating systems are what the plumbing industry was in dire need of, he founded NovaTerm LLC, a company engaged in importing quality radiators from Italy that quickly started to generate profits. Since the market also lacked quality sanitary and plumbing products, Melnikov decided to create another successful brand – VALTEC. VALTEC is one of his most recognizable businesses that focuses on developing high-quality sanitary products and plumbing equipment.

This just goes to show that a comprehensive analysis of the market proved is crucial for business expansion – it is what allowed Melnikov’s business to generate enough revenue to secure its advancement and further growth. 

Develop a feasible business plan and an effective financial strategy 

Another essential step in building a successful business is to take some time to devise a sound business plan and a viable financial strategy that will help you move your operations in the right direction. Planning ahead will allow you to set clear goals you wish to achieve, monitor your progress and make changes if necessary, as well as keep track of your finances by creating a budget and learning to manage your expenses.

Just remember to keep your eyes peeled for any new market trends and business opportunities that may emerge in time, since reevaluating your strategy and making sure it’s up-to-date with current market changes is vital if you want to see your business thrive.

This proved to be true in the case of Pavel Melnikov. With a carefully defined business strategy set in place, and a financial plan that allowed him to manage his finances efficiently, thus avoiding overtrade, Melnikov’s business soon started expanding and he became the owner of several Russian companies that quickly became profitable, such as Brixis, BIS No. 1, Tenrad, and Minkor. 

Keep your offer diverse and adjust to the market

Innovating and updating your product, as well as making sure that you have a diverse enough offer that will allow you not only to satisfy but to exceed your customer expectations, is what will set you apart from your competition and enable you to truly scale your business.

Pavel Melnikov understands the power of product development and, being an innovator himself, constantly works on improving his products and enhancing his offer. With more than 100 patents available on the market, it’s safe to say that he is one of the most remarkable innovators in the plumbing and sanitary industry. 

This visionary thinking enabled Melnikov to offer his customers the most technically advanced sanitary solutions, which in turn allowed him to stay on top of the curve, set the industry standards, gain a competitive advantage, and ultimately transform his business into a large enterprise.  

Takeaway

Scaling your business and becoming an established entrepreneur is by no means easy, but it is possible, and the story of Pavel Melnikov is a great proof of that.

As long as you are determined, hardworking, innovative, and willing to plan ahead, your chances of seeing your business thrive are excellent. Just remember – success doesn’t happen overnight, so be patient, and your reward will come.  

Founder Lessons: How I Grew a Side Hustle to a $200M Valuation

Founder Lessons: How I Grew a Side Hustle to a $200M Valuation

How it All Went Down

It’s 2008, and I just spent the last two hours playing Mario Kart with my childhood friend, Emil. What started as a friendly wager for a single Big Mac turned into several “double or nothing” bets. Eventually, I cut my losses — down 32 Big Macs. 

You see, we were 20-years-old and didn’t have a care in the world. We were both working full-time jobs, and in our spare time, we were collaborating on a new project: a website comparing online bingo sites. 

This was our fourth or fifth business by this time, and we hadn’t really tasted any success — yet.

We would meet a few times a week in his parents’ basement to brainstorm creative strategies and experiment with various digital marketing techniques. We had little experience in affiliate marketing and even less in online bingo, but we were persistent and saw the potential.

Emil ran the website and handled the technical side, and I managed the marketing and content. We tried a lot of new strategies and made a lot of mistakes, but we believed that eventually we would start to find what worked.  And if not, at least we were having fun and learning something new.

As the months went by, our bingo website got better and better every day. However, when we checked the revenues, the numbers didn’t add up. We continued working on it for a few more months but eventually lost focus as we had not generated any tangible return on our effort.

Emil and I went back to the drawing board, and we started brainstorming new business ideas.

For almost a year, we started and stopped several other projects, including a local food guide, a casino software, and a local digital marketing agency. Of all the projects, the web agency proved to be the most successful, and we began putting our energy into building clientele. 

Then, one day, we decided to check in on our old online bingo project. We originally partnered with about 20 different bingo brands, each with their own affiliate software. To check earnings, we had to log into our affiliate accounts for each of those 20 brands. As we expected, the first account had $0. Then, the second and third —nothing. 

Just as we were about to call it quits, we logged into the fourth affiliate backend. We saw earnings of $1,300.

We couldn’t believe it. The online bingo site we haven’t touched in almost a year had earned us $1,300.

As it turned out, this bingo site that we had been building had slowly started to climb in Google search results, and when people looked for bingo or casino terms, they found us, read about the different offers we compared, and moved on to one of the sites we recommended—and we had gotten $1,300 in return for the users signing up at the bingo site.

For us this was the first real proof of concept that something we did could work—and scale! We decided that we wanted to focus on building our own brand instead of continuing to work with other, local businesses. So, we started focusing more and more on building our affiliate business and learning more about SEO. 

Fast forward another year, and we had continued to progress by leaps and bounds. At that time, it was still a side hustle that we worked on a few nights a week. On average, we spent between 20-40 hours a month working on this project. 

There were no miracles happening on the revenue side but we had gone from $1,300 in our first year to about $10,000 our second year and were starting to consistently hit about $3,000 per month. That was when we decided to give this little venture our full attention. So, we quit our other commitments and become full time entrepreneurs.

The third year, we made about $30,000. Two years after that, we took on investors and made almost $500,000. Finally, in 2016, we had 80 employees, multiple offices, and decided to take the next step and list our once side hustle on the Nasdaq Stockholm AB with a $200M valuation.

How You Can Forge Your Own Path  

I could never have designed the blueprint for how we’d build that side hustle to $200M. We were fortunate to have the right idea at the right time which took a bit of luck. 

Ultimately, I attribute a lot of our success to the experience and failures we experienced along the way. While I wish I could tell you the recipe for replicating your own successful side hustle, the reality is — you’ll need to forge your own path and get a lot of good luck along the way.

With that said, I have put together five tips that helped me succeed and which may help you, too!

1. Develop the Right Habits

There’s a saying I absolutely live by: “New goals don’t create new results. New habits create new results.” 

One of the most important things I learned on my entrepreneurial journey is that we idealize the concept of setting and achieving specific goals too much. Don’t create new goals — create the lifestyle you envision for your future. 

Setting goals that you may or may not achieve based on factors out of your control such as luck or being in the right place at the right time is like treating the symptoms rather than the disease. A goal in itself is just meaningless words. 

For example, a common goal I hear a lot is, “I want to have a million dollars.” 

But what does this mean? Why do you want a million dollars? You may think that million dollars will create happiness and freedom in your life, but the reality of the situation is, you are setting a goal about something that you have no idea what it would be like to have or how it would impact you.

So instead of saying, “I want a million dollars”, try instead to create a life that creates happiness and freedom, and instill habits that do just that. You will find that you didn’t actually want the million dollars, you wanted how you thought it would make me feel. My advice is to constantly make today 1% better than yesterday. 

2. Understand How You Learn 

Simply put, if you enjoy something — it feels less like work. This principle applies to learning, too. We all have different techniques and topics which we enjoy more than others, so discover what yours are and use those to grow.

Follow what  sparks your interest. In my experience, the best book is the one you can’t put down, the best healthy food is the one you enjoy eating, and the best workout is the physical activity you want to do. Don’t force your learning to be whatever someone tells you is the best — figure it out on your own.

You learn best when you are enjoying what you are doing. Rather than focusing on one resource or technique, consider trying a few different ones to understand which technique, topic, or resource helps you learn the best.

A common misconception with entrepreneurship is that you should follow your one true passion. Well, if you’re anything like me, you’re passionate about many things. I’m passionate about philanthropy and saving the world, but I’m also passionate about making money and entrepreneurship — I’ve blended these two passions together in my new project Great.com.

Instead of going too narrow with your learning, try following whatever sparks your curiosity. Don’t be afraid to go down rabbit holes and experiment with new and wild ideas. Go join online forums or local meetups, reach out to thought-leaders on social media with questions, and listen to podcasts or read books. 

Try immersing yourself in different topics and resources to understand what works best for you, and when you come out on the other side of it all — you’ll be better for it!

3. Get the Ball Rolling on Social Media

One skill that has helped me substantially is developing a social media presence. When it comes to succeeding on social media, it boils down to one thing: create a lot of great content.

Social media is inherently meant to be social, so don’t treat it as a one-way communication channel. Be sure to engage with followers, comment on other accounts, and start conversations.

Before I really started working on social media, I would spend a lot of time in different online forums. Building your name and credibility in those niche forums is the same process as building your social media presence:

  • Create new and interested topics
  • Participate in discussions by others
  • Provide genuine and relevant values

Social media is a powerful tool at your disposal that is often underutilized by many. You have the ability to reach people like never before. Consider using social media to pitch and prove your ideas, interact with authorities in your industry, and build your own name in your space. 

You need to leave a footprint. If you continuously leave a footprint in your market, people will start recognizing you. This tip is something I believe strongly in. If you want to grow your brand (personal or company) in an industry, start following thought leaders in that industry and liking, sharing, and commenting on their content.

While creating and posting great content on your social media can be difficult and time consuming, if you spend 15-30 minutes every day interacting with posts from people you admire in your space, you’ll start to reap rewards on social media.

4. Become a Great Listener 

If I could give any advice to my past self before I started my business, it would be to better develop my listening skills. It’s a super power to be good at listening. 

People want to be heard and feel understood. In the business world, listening can help you when networking with influential people and when you want to engage with your target audience.

What do your customers want? How can you help them with their problems? By listening more, you can learn what really makes your audience tick, and then tailor your approach to their needs and embrace the correct tone. 

When your audience feels heard, it makes a big difference in how they view you and your brand. 

To get started with developing your listening skills, consider asking a lot of questions. The next time you have an important conversation, try focusing on asking a lot of questions and letting the other person steer the conversation. 

Really listen to their responses, and if you notice them getting excited or passionate about something, try asking follow-up questions about that topic. By doing this, you’ll discover that you can get a lot more information out of the conversation if you’re letting the other person do most of the talking.

5. Good Things Take Time

I realized that life, while seemingly short, is quite long. People often focus on short-term goals and miss the big picture. They sacrifice the future for the moment. 

For example, if you want to get in shape, you might hire a trainer and have them push you in the gym for 6 months. While you would definitely see results, if you hate working out and are only doing it for the end result of being in shape, you may struggle to maintain that lifestyle afterward. Instead, you could spend a few weeks or months trying several different types of workouts until you found something that you actually enjoyed. 

While it might take you a little longer to get the same results that the gym provides, you are more likely to keep it up longer because you actually enjoy the activity. Remember; “the best workout is the physical activity you want to do.

Instead of asking myself, “How can I be as successful as possible in the shortest amount of time?”, I shifted my thinking to, “How can I love something for 50 years?

Try to avoid focusing on the finish line, and instead start enjoying the process. I believe finding joy and trusting the vision is the best way to avoid rushing. I know that I am more patient and focused when I enjoy the task than when I don’t or when I’m too pressured to finish it.

When you accept that good things take time, it helps you reprioritize your activities and stay more committed in the long-run. When you’re rushing to finish a project in a week, you’re more likely to burn out and become disinterested. When you’re patient, you can take time and mental breaks which will increase your longevity and enjoyment.

6 Unpleasant Realities Of Being An Entrepreneur

6 Unpleasant Realities Of Being An Entrepreneur

Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t all fun and games. While it comes with plenty of rewards, you’ll also experience some downsides. Knowing what they are can help you prepare and handle whatever comes your way. 

Don’t get blinded by greed, but instead, let your vision for the future drive your motivation to succeed. The first few years of business ownership are the toughest. Now is the time to lay the foundation for future success. But that process isn’t without plenty of pitfalls and hurdles. 

Here are a few unpleasant realities that come with being an entrepreneur and tips for overcoming them.

1. YOU’LL WORK HARDER THAN YOU WANT TO

Most people imagine business owners as people who walk around barking orders. While this supervisorial role comes with time, it’s not how things start out.

In the beginning, you might be your only employee, and the few others you do have will be your teammates, not your subordinates. While you’ll call the shots, you also need to put in the work.

Get used to working long hours, seven days a week. You need to be available for any questions or complications that arise. No one can make those major decisions but you.

Keep your sanity by making some type of schedule and giving yourself breaks. This will help you handle the stress and responsibility that come with entrepreneurship.

One major stress most business owners face is the uncertainty of income. There’s no guarantee that your revenue will be enough to cover overhead costs. That’s why cutting down on payroll is a great way to save money in the beginning. 

You may need to perform several different jobs until you can hire more staff. Once you do, be smart about delegating work and tasks.

2. UNRELIABLE INCOME

Most entrepreneurs are in it for the money. But that money doesn’t come easy or fast. It’s important that you plan ahead and realize that you may have dry spells along the way.

You also can’t predict monthly revenue from clients and customers. You may not always have a steady stream of income. Some months are slower than others. Plan ahead for these times by setting payment schedules or auto-pay options. You can also require payment before you deliver your product or service.

Even with these precautions in place, it doesn’t mean that late payments or non-payment will be any less unpleasant, it just means that you’ll be prepared. Don’t let irresponsible customers be the end of your business. 

3. IN THE TRENCHES

We already mentioned that being an entrepreneur isn’t all fun and games. Getting your hands dirty is all part of the game – especially when you’re just getting started.

Your team will probably start out small and you’ll be at the center of it all. You may need to perform some less than flattering jobs. Put your pride aside and get to work! 

Although this may seem like an unpleasant inconvenience, it actually has its perks. You’re now in control of all aspects of your business. That means no decision is made without your okay. It also helps strengthen your relationship with your employees, creating comradery and loyalty. Your employees will respect you when you’re willing to do the same work as them.

Then, when your business sees some major development and growth, you can move up to a more administrative role but your employees won’t forget the work you put in.

4. BITE YOUR TONGUE

If your mother ever told you if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all, now is the time to heed that advice. Customers and clients are bound to get on your nerves and downright annoy you. But you can’t say anything! You need to bite your tongue and kill them with kindness.

While this doesn’t mean you should be abused or disrespected by customers (or your staff) it does mean you may need to eat humble pie once in a while. The last thing you want as a new entrepreneur is a bad reputation. Once word gets out that you’re unpleasant to deal with, it could kill your business.

Try to take the high road and portray a positive image as the proud owner of your company – even when things get tough. If you need help in this department, consider hiring a manager to handle the customer service side of things for you. Let them deal directly with customers. Some people just have more patience than others. If this is a weakness of yours, hand the responsibility over to someone else.

It might also be in your best interest to hire a social media manager to handle online reviews and comments with class and professionalism. 

5. YOU MAY HAVE TO TAKE A BACKSEAT

A business is never as important to others as it is to the owner. This is a harsh reality for most entrepreneurs. They don’t understand why their staff is calling out or showing up late or why their suppliers aren’t answering the phone.

The truth is, while your company is important, no one will care the way you do. Don’t take it personally. With the right approach, you can hire reliable, loyal staff that have your best interest in mind. But one unpleasant reality is that you’ll also encounter plenty of people with poor attitudes and even worse work ethic. 

This is especially frustrating when other people’s poor behavior directly impacts your business and income. Whenever possible, weed these unreliable people out of your life and surround yourself with likeminded staff and vendors.

6. GROW THICK SKIN

You can’t expect everyone to love you or your business from the start – or ever, in some cases. Not taking things personally is one of the hardest parts of being an entrepreneur. When you’re fully invested in your business it’s only a matter of time before your feelings get hurt.

The good news is, this means you’re committed to your company’s success.

Negative client feedback can sometimes feel like a punch to the gut and an even bigger hit to your ego. While it may sting at first, understanding your shortcomings is an important part of building a successful business. It highlights what areas need improvement from web design to pricing and even packaging. Try to listen to their feedback before getting offended. 

Put your personal feelings aside and focus on what’s best for your business as a whole.

Here, you’ve uncovered six unpleasant realities that accompany being an entrepreneur. Although it can be a very rewarding experience, you’ll experience many ups and downs along the way.

Keep your head held high and your eye on the prize. With the right amount of planning and dedication, you can overcome these hurdles and realize your dream as a successful business owner.

So, there you have it, six unexpected but irritating hurdles to expect as a newbie entrepreneur. When things get tough and you feel like giving up, remember why you started your business in the first place.