Five secrets for successful start-ups

Starting a business can be both exciting and daunting, but in a country that prides itself on its ‘No. 8 wire’ mentality, and whose economy is comprised of 97 percent small businesses, it’s also somewhat a part of our DNA.

From humble beginnings and with just $200 in my pocket, Pure SEO has grown to span three countries and employ more than 50 staff in just seven years. However, this hasn’t been without some blood, sweat and tears. This month, I’ve reflected on some of the key things that have got us from a one-man band to being a thriving business.

1. Validate your market

You may have an idea for a business, but how do you know it’s a good one that’s worth acting on – as opposed to a hair-brained scheme that should stay the domain of speculative conversations over a few drinks? First, you need to test your market.

What’s important here is that you make sure there is a legitimate problem you are solving. Not only must there be a need, your product or service also needs to provide a viable and welcome solution. Talk to a handful of people in your target market and road-test your idea with them to see what response you get. Not only will they let you know whether your idea has legs, they may also clue you in to other aspects that you hadn’t yet considered, which can be hugely valuable.

2. Be nimble

You may very well believe your idea is the best that anyone has ever come up with, in the history of ever – but don’t be so wedded to it that you can’t adapt too. When you’re starting a business, trialling a market and testing what will fly, you have to be nimble. Until you have a proven concept that is succeeding, stay lean and agile, with the ability to respond to market moves and pivot quickly. This is going to be important throughout your business journey, but especially so in the early days.

3. Be prepared for a marathon

While I’d love to tell you that business is a short sprint to victory, I think we both know this isn’t the case. Those that truly succeed in business are prepared to put a marathon effort behind their idea, and weather all that comes with doing so. There will be triumphs and successes to celebrate, but – make no mistake – you also need to be prepared for putting in long hours, probably enduring more than a few sleepless nights and slogging away pretty hard on the way to getting there. After all, if it was easy, everyone would do it.

4. Delegate, delegate, delegate

Your business is, in some respects, your ‘baby’ and you are – without a doubt – the best person to take your idea and run with it, especially in the early days. However, don’t get caught in the trap of thinking it’s all up to you. If you want to truly achieve scale and grow a really successful business, you need to delegate. Consider the parts that you’re best at, and where you can have the most impact. Focus your energies there and, as much as you can, delegate the rest.

5. Employ people who are better and smarter than you

Following on from the point above, I remember once hearing that life would be pretty boring if we were always the smartest person in the room. I apply that sentiment to my business and actively look for people who are smarter, or even better than I am at doing what we do. They’re the ones who will add the most value and truly lift the performance of the team, so make sure your ego can get out of the way in the pursuit of finding other superstars, and letting them shine!