Client Case Study – funding a software dream

Client Case Study – funding a software dream

Onur Simsek is both smart and technically capable. So, although he had all he needed to build his game-changing hospitality business solution, when it came to seeking the Start Up Loan funding to fulfil his dream, he was quick to seek out expert financial help from Helen Steel at Streamlion Consulting.

Atlacarte is a hospitality business solution that is now attracting significant interest from major brands. Its founder Onur Simsek, originally from the Netherlands, had followed opportunities around Europe for some years, including running a Benelux business for a large technology firm from their base in Dublin.

It was in a bar in Dublin during a 2012 business trip that the original idea for Atlacarte was born. Hungry and frustrated with slow waiter service, Onur conceived the idea for a platform to improve customer service speed and experience. He registered the domain name but did no more.

A few years later, work brought him back to Dublin – and he decided the time was right. He began to digitise the hospitality customer experience by building a unique software solution based on a messaging platform – an ideal medium for the highly social world of eating out.

Atlacarte found immediate success with restaurants, pubs and takeaways who loved its chat-based ordering and reservation capabilities – but then the pandemic shifted the market. By 2020, a slew of new apps and appless solutions had emerged to serve this space. There was real danger that his platform’s wider potential might be lost in the morass. He was determined this wouldn’t happen.

Finding fast funding for growth

Development takes time and money, so Onur now needed funding. Having bootstrapped the original build with his own funds, he needed a loan to invest in making the solution a fully appless and web-based enterprise hospitality CX solution for big chains and international brands.

Moving quickly is essential in the tech business. Moving at speed with finance depends on having a deep understanding of the process and every fact and document at your fingertips – especially when it comes to gaining a Government-backed Start Up loan.

A friend recommended that he speak with Helen to get advice – and things moved smartly along from there. Onur recalled that “Helen was really approachable and professional. She was able to take everything out of my hands! With her help I applied for the Start Up Loan I needed to take Atlacarte forwards.”

Virtually effortless application experience

Financial applications and banking procedures can be complex. With Helen’s help, Onur had no need to navigate these. He acknowledged that “I really didn’t have to do anything, as Helen created the business plan, cashflow, and dealt with all the application paperwork. She went above and beyond what I expected and really surprised me with her depth of knowledge. She always knew exactly what was required – and she needed only the minimum from me to get the deal done.”

He continued: “It ended up being easy for me because Helen did everything. This kind of Government financial help seemed quite far away, but through her it was easily reachable. She simplified the process completely – basically saying to me what was needed, what to fill in, and what to get for her. If you give her everything she asks for, she can make an amazing case for you.”

“Without her help I am sure we would have got there eventually, but it might have failed along the way and would probably have taken three or four months. Thanks to Helen it only took one month to get approval.”

With his Start Up Loan in place, Onur was able to shift Atlacarte development into high gear. He has created the market’s only true all-in-one hospitality business solution that uses the vast power of chat to help businesses sell, showcase, and promote themselves by creating conversations between venues and their customers and between customers themselves – wherever they are.

Sharing opportunity with new entrepreneurs

Onur has built a strong relationship with Helen through the loan application process. “She’s so nice to work with. She even surprised me with a gift of brownies, which happened to be from the small town in Wales where my girlfriend comes from – those personal touches matter” he remembered.

Small wonder perhaps that he has been quick to share the benefits. Because Onur did not originally have an office of his own, his Uncle had offered him space within his accountancy practice, which supports the local Turkish community.  In the months following lockdown, Onur became aware of many people that wanted to start their own businesses after experiencing job losses and employment uncertainty. With his Uncle’s support, Onur referred several of these to Streamlion Consulting.

Helen has helped several businesses this community unlock access to funding – including, so far, a furniture designer and maker, two mobile car washing firms, and a mobile dry cleaner. She has also helped find funding for a kosher chocolate start up for a member of the nearby Orthodox Jewish community.

Onur has become a regular referral partner for Streamlion. His advice to other entrepreneurs: “I know so many struggling entrepreneurs – although I will only get to do the Start Up loan process once, I will continue to refer others to Helen for help. People who have a dream need to be helped to do it now – because if they wait, they will regret it”

Want to become a referral partner? Find out more here.

You can download this case study here: Streamlion_CaseStudy_Atlacarte_FINAL[16]

4 things to consider when you evolve your business

4 things to consider when you evolve your business

It is fair to say that the last two and a half years has brought about plenty of change to our country, indeed the world.  Whether you are a business owner or not, we all had to adapt and change to a ‘new normal’ as the pandemic spread.  And even in the present day, the merry-go-round of British politics and the cost-of-living crisis is leaving a continual wake of changes that we need to embrace and adapt to.

Adapting to change is of course nothing new for business.  Market conditions rarely stay the same for long and failing to react to changes in the market can be a dangerous game for a business, particularly in the current climate.

So, if this rings true for you, I would encourage you to consider the following four points as you evolve your business for success:

  1. Always include change in your strategy

This first tip is inspired by Intel’s Andrew Grove statement that “only the paranoid survive”. That might sound a little extreme, but the sentiment is sound: A business should always be checking for new developments and competition and then planning how to beat it and continue to grow. Make sure this is a conscious activity whenever you are strategising for the future.

  1. Take your people with you

Winning hearts and minds among your team is so important. In some ways it’s up there with winning business and that’s because these are the people who make things happen. If you create a barrier between your plans for the future and your people, you’re setting off on an uphill struggle. Set a strong culture of adventurous thinking and communicate it clearly to your people. Set them up for success and they will reward you with buy in and enthusiasm.

  1. Bring in some new thinking

If you are a fast-growing business, it can sometimes be hard to accept you’re changing. What was once your baby, a precious and unique startup idea, suddenly starts to look a lot like a million other medium-sized businesses out there as more people, bureaucracy and process threaten to choke your agility. It always pays off to take a step back in these situations. As owner-operators, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees so ask a trusted, external source to join your brainstorming and help you to think more laterally.

  1. Just say no

Perhaps this is controversial, but businesses need to get comfortable with saying no. Let’s assume you’ve struck out in a new direction as a response to the changes in the market and a client comes along wanting some of the old stuff they’ve always bought from you. You should only accept their business if the old stuff remains part of your strategy. Don’t be afraid to say no otherwise you risk becoming a hybrid of old and new.

 

Client Case Study – One good idea plus good finance advice helps Mum of five become a businesswoman

Client Case Study – One good idea plus good finance advice helps Mum of five become a businesswoman

Mind and Bodee is a natural supplements company focused on supporting wellness through food and gut health.

Nazia Begum never imagined she could have a business of her own. When she dared to dream of turning her beauty therapy knowledge into a makeup sales business, she started on a journey – although it was less smooth than she first imagined.

She recalled: “I decided I wanted a business at the age of 40, because I thought it was now or never. I naively thought that I would be able to start the business off with my own savings

Very soon, Nazia realised she wasn’t fully prepared for all the potential costs of starting a business. She had chosen a product brand to distribute but explained: “As I started to do my research and get samples, I realised I would need a cash injection to get it started. To start up, I would need to buy 1000-2000 units up front to get them at a reasonable price – this was more than I had planned for.

Her first step was her high street bank. She not only faced the issue of having no previous business history but realised that the language of finance and the detailed business information requests would be a challenge. She briefly considered a personal loan – but realised that these carried interest rates that would be far too expensive.

One good idea is enough

After a recommendation from one of Helen’s previous clients, Nazia got in touch with her. She was very pleased that she had. “When we reached out to Helen, she was absolutely fantastic. She talked us through our idea and vision and held our hand through the process.

Nazia was delighted to find that Helen considered her a candidate for a Start Up Loan, with a viable business concept and a good credit history. It came as something of a surprise. In my mind I was just a Mum of five and part time therapist who could probably never have a business of my own. After speaking to Helen, I realised you just need a good idea. And if you’ve got a good idea with the right support, you can actually become a businesswoman.”

Building proper foundations

Helen and Nazia began working together to improve the original business plan: “Helen helped rewrite my business plan in a language that the Start Up Loan company would understand and acknowledge – I couldn’t have done that on my own” she said.

Putting together a cashflow forecast was something about which Nazia had been particularly nervous. The cashflow aspect was a minefield, but Helen walked us through it all. Because how do you know what to put in a cashflow forecast if you’ve never been in business? I didn’t know what numbers to put in, or the number of units to say that I could sell each day. It’s hard to know what to put in for a new business, and it is quite daunting.”

Helen handheld her through the process, ensuring that all the costs were considered – not just for inventory but for import duties, warehousing costs and customer post and packaging.

Within six weeks of the application, Nazia was delighted to receive approval for her Start Up Loan.

New concerns sowed seeds of change

The advent of COVID and the lockdowns that followed in April 2020 put things on hold as new concerns arose. Among these were Nazia’s husband’s health as a diabetic and asthmatic since both emerged as risk factors for COVID. Her response was to get proactive: “I became really interested in immunity. We helped boost my husband’s immune system with vitamins, minerals, and supplements. My kitchen cupboards were full of them! When he did get COVID he was able to recover quite easily.”

Nazia could also see that makeup wasn’t necessarily a smart market to get into at a time when people were wearing less of it than ever before. This, coupled with her new interest drove a change of direction. “I realised: I love this area of wellness. So instead of waiting until we could see what the economy was like after the pandemic, I would pivot the business and go into supplements.”

She realised the business model and plan created for the original business could easily pivot to one that focused on selling a natural supplement brand. Nazia did some further research, and by October 2020 had identified the brand ‘Love Your Gut’, bonding with an Australian influencer who was proving its success in that market. The die was cast, and she decided to bring it to the UK.

Facing the final hurdles as a family

All the business plans were still valid – but there were some extra costs to consider, such as meeting the requirements for UK food labelling standards and new marketing advice, branding and social setup, which took significant time.

The delays and additional costs were quickly absorbing the funds from the Start Up Loan. When Nazia asked Helen’s advice again, she learned that there could be additional loans for the company up to a total of £100,000 with the involvement of new directors.

Her adult daughters had already started to become involved and enthused about the business. So, armed with this new information the decision was made that Anisa and Anila would join as directors. Helen helped them build a clear case for additional Start Up Loan funding, which was granted.

Although the business has taken a little time to get off the starting blocks, Nazia believes Helen has played a pivotal role throughout the journey. When asked why, she said: Helen is not just supportive, but empowering and empathic. She is knowledgeable and relatable, and always pushes your business not her own.”  

She continued: “Helen understands that business finance can be scary, especially if it’s new – and that people with aspirations don’t always know business. So, she is always asking what you need, and where you are on your own journey, educating and helping you all the way.”

Mind and Bodee has now become a truly family business. Today, the products are in stock and ready to roll out into the UK market. It has a family management team on a mission to help improve the UK’s gut health through natural supplements and healthy living. Nazia is sure they have a good opportunity: People who want to get healthier, even if they are diagnosed with illness, always have a choice – they can help themselves, improve their gut health, and have many options they can explore. Mind and Bodee plans to help them.”

You can download this case study here: Streamlion_Case_Study_MindBodee_FINAL

Client Case Study – Streamlion helps female entrepreneur secure successive loan funding for her rapidly expanding portfolio

Client Case Study – Streamlion helps female entrepreneur secure successive loan funding for her rapidly expanding portfolio

Entrepreneur Hafsah Jamil has all the business vision she needs to succeed – but found the information demands of bank loan applications for funding a challenge. Helen Steel from Streamlion Consulting provides the ongoing financial advice, guidance, and practical support enabling her to secure the funding she needs to expand her portfolio.

Securing funding for an entrepreneurial business is often more complex than people expect. When Hafsah Jamil set out to invest in a workwear embroidery business opportunity in October 2018 her first stop was her high street bank.

Hafsah was already an experienced business owner, but she found she wasn’t fully prepared with all the information she would need to apply for an Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) Loan.

She explained “I already owned Janz Tailoring, which consists of two local tailoring businesses I purchased about five years ago. When I asked my bank about funding my next purchase, they referred to Helen because I needed a quality business plan and financial forecast to make an EFG loan application through NatWest.”  

Helen provided both plan and forecast, but also conducted an Operational Due Diligence report on the workwear company – and Hafsah decided not to proceed with the purchase as a result.

Laying foundations for a successful purchase

The introduction was to prove a turning point, giving Hafsah support and a relationship that she would rely on again and again. She soon identified an even better business opportunity as her third acquisition target. Her uncle and aunt wanted to exit their successful newsagent and convenience store business in Witney, Oxfordshire.

She recalled “I turned my eye to this purchase because I have many years of experience in this type of business. Helen valued the business for me based on my uncle’s financials, and we agreed a purchase price. Helen then did the detailed business plan and financial forecast for an EFG loan, and it was approved by NatWest.”

Although she knows what she wants and has a clear determination to succeed, having Helen to turn to for advice and help gave Hafsah the extra financial confidence and capability she needed. She said: “Helen is such an expert in this area she took all the concerns and issues away from me, by working closely with the lenders for a successful result.”

Building a business portfolio step by step

Hafsah was glad to receive the funding to buy the convenience store, but she was already looking towards the future. She said “I also needed more capital for the business, which I had renamed Newzlink, in order to expand further. Helen helped secure me this funding through the Startup Loan Scheme.”

Hafsah used these funds to purchase a similar store nearby which she could incorporate neatly into her operation. She had already worked with Helen to explore whether Newzlink could offer Post Office services, but this wasn’t possible because a sub–Post Office was already operating in the Maham’s store nearby. Her response was direct “I approached Maham’s and asked if they were open to selling their business to me – and they said yes. It was a quick sale.”  She purchased Maham’s from the McColl’s convenience store chain, marking her fourth business acquisition.

The secret of success lies in preparation…

In addition to clear business plans and detailed financials, strong and sustainable cashflow is one of the strongest assets in demonstrating fitness for further funding.

In preparation for the Startup Loan application, Hafsah knew that Newzlink needed to get in the best possible financial shape. She said that “One reason I bought Newzlink originally was its really strong news distribution and local delivery base. When I first bought it, too many customers were in arrears of 3 months or more. Helen had direct experience, having owned and managed a newspaper distribution business in South Africa. She knew exactly what to do to turn our cashflow positive. News distribution is still growing – though there’s a growing challenge from online news, so every part of the business needs to pull its weight.”

… and never being deterred from goals

With no personal assets or access to family funding, working with banks and financial service providers is often the only route to goal for aspiring entrepreneurs. It can seem particularly overwhelming to female and BME entrepreneurs who have ideas and determination but are a little uncertain of their financial ground or the barriers they may encounter.

Hafsah certainly didn’t always find this an easy process. “I could easily have been knocked back many times, dealing with various organisations and individuals. It is true that a female business owner has to work twice as hard at business relationships and arguments to get the outcomes they want. Helen helped me learn that anything is possible if you have the right advice and are backed up with the detailed, accurate, quality information and documents you need.”

With the experience of multiple funding cycles, Hafsah now has all the financial confidence she needs “I don’t need to be scared of the ‘red tape’ and prospect of complicated documents and numbers, because Helen handles it easily and efficiently.”

Her advice to other entrepreneurs who may experience similar feelings is very simple: “Don’t waste time – pick up the phone and call Helen. She’ll help if she can, but even if she can’t help, she’ll say so and suggest other avenues. It’s so worth having that conversation with her.”

On the team and part of the family

As Hafsah’s small empire has consolidated and grown she has continued to turn to Helen to support her efforts to invest in and expand her operations, treating her very much as part of her senior team.  “Helen has become my ‘go to’ for all sorts of business and funding advice during the pandemic – if I needed any documents completed for CBILS or Recovery Loans, she was always there to help, and she also helped me get a BounceBack loan for Newzlink.”

As she continues her entrepreneurial journey Hafsah truly values having such deep financial knowledge and advice to call on.  She stated: “I knew early on that Helen was a valuable advisor on finance and funding – but I did not expect her to become my friend – she is really now part of the family, highly respected and completely trustworthy.”

This family feeling was only reinforced when Helen was able to help Hafsah’s uncle find his own next step, after selling Newzlink to his niece. She helped him to apply for and gain his own Startup Loan to purchase a takeaway business in Birmingham, which is now doing extremely well.

Learnings pave the way for future success

Hafsah’s original convenience store is now not only serving customers and delivering strong profits but has become the foundation for a small chain within an expanding entrepreneurial business portfolio. She recognised the instrumental role that Helen has played: “I really don’t think I could have done all this without Helen – she has become my expert in this area, and we work very well together. I’ve learned that you don’t need to be an expert in every area to be successful.”

Asked about her biggest learning about how to create entrepreneurial success, she said: “Above all, you must be determined and persevere. I have succeeded because I trusted my gut instincts and believed in my own feel about different entrepreneurial situations – and I was never derailed by other people’s opinions.”

Hafsah’s clear business vision and sheer determination to succeed, along with having the right business backup, means that the future looks bright indeed. She hasn’t finished yet: “I am now looking to expand my tailoring business, so of course I have approached Helen for help with that too. And I am looking for my next business purchase!”

 

You can download this case study here:  Streamlion_Case_Study_HafsahJamil_FINAL

Collaboration for the Hospitality Sector

Collaboration for the Hospitality Sector

The first blog in our guest series has kindly been written by Dave Plunkett from Collaboration Junkie.  Dave specialises in helping brands get high quality referral leads on a consistent basis by building a strategic partner programme.  Today, Dave has focused his expertise on how collaboration can achieve this specifically within the hospitality sector.

Collaboration for the Hospitality Sector

It’s been tough times for many sectors over the last year or so, but one of the positives that I think we can take forward has been how much more collaboration between businesses we’ve seen – with new or improved services being offered that has enabled businesses to not only survive, but in many instances thrive, despite the climate.

That’s the great thing about collaboration and partnerships, you can create something far greater than the sum of its individual parts, meaning the long-term benefits are huge.

But one of the hardest hit sectors has clearly been hospitality, they’ve had to jump through more hoops then most, and yet have still had the harshest restrictions placed upon them.

And they’re not traditionally great collaborators.

So, whilst I’m doing my best to support my local (I’m sat in the beer garden while I write this actually), I thought there’s maybe more I could do, and so I thought I’d come up with a few practical tips for pubs, café’s, restaurants, and takeaways on how they can leverage collaborations and referral marketing.

So here goes

Refer a friend

So, this is one that everyone can take advantage of, but I’m always gob smacked by how few establishments do.

There’s nothing more powerful than a word-of-mouth referral, so why not encourage more of them into your business?

A simple way to do this without seeming overly salesy is to offer something to everyone involved.

How about giving out a raffle type ticket after your customers pay the bill. The prize can be whatever you wish – a free glass of wine with each main course ordered, or a free desert if 2 courses are ordered, whatever you choose and is right for your own business.

If the ticket’s redeemed by the friend of the customer who referred them then the customer in turn gets the same offer when they hand over their stub.

It means you’re not only attracting a new customer but encouraging repeat business from the original one as well – all at a cost you’ve been happy to cover.

It can be a really cost effective marketing strategy and one I’d encourage everyone to utilise in some form or another.

The drunken kebab

Who doesn’t love a cheeky takeaway after a couple of drinks?

So, if you’re a running a takeaway and there’s a pub local to you who doesn’t serve their own food (or even if they do but the kitchen closes early) why not see what you can do?

I’m not talking about just dumping some flyers on the bar though, that’s not really adding value to anyone.

Remember, the secret of any successful partnerships is value all round.

So, can you run a special offer for people who have come via the pub?

For those pubs that don’t offer food maybe even run a priority delivery service?

You could ask them to personally recommend, leave the special offer flyers on the bar or at table, or maybe even see if they could include your details on their receipts?

And of course, see what you can do in return.

Can you promote them in your premises or maybe include flyers when you bag up orders?

The customer gets some much-needed grub and feels special because of the offer. The pub looks good in their eyes because of this so builds customer loyalty, and you get extra business.

Winner!

Cabbie collaborations

Especially relevant if you have the opportunity for a good amount of transient trade, your local taxi firms could be a rich source of customer referrals for you.

Again, a simple offer (think if it as a marketing cost, but one that guarantees you a paying customer) can be the reason why it’s relevant for the driver to mention your establishment by name when they’re asked, or maybe even have your materials displayed somewhere in their vehicle.

You might need to sweeten the deal with firm themselves on this on this one, be that in cash or a tab, so make sure there’s a way of tracking their referrals, it could be as simple as a bespoke flyer, card or code to quote to claim their offer.

Yes, there may be a cost to it, but it’s business that you may otherwise have never had had, so as long as it’s profitable for you why wouldn’t you explore this avenue?

Go where your audience goes

I’ve given a couple of specific examples, but the same principles apply to any business or organisation that has contact with your target market and is an appropriate match.

Offer something of value to the audience, and something of value to the organisation making the referrals and you’re well away.

Café owners – why not approach your local primary schools or nurseries? Most of them have some kind fund that requires donations so can you offer a small % of orders over a certain size for anyone that comes through their recommendation? They may be able to include you in their newsletter on social media channels – which is great exposure for you, without any upfront fee.

Time waits for no man

Any service where the customer has to wait for a period of time could also be a great source of new business.

I know I’d rather sit somewhere nice with some refreshments then in a garage waiting room while my tyres get changed.

Who is local to you where you can capitalise on their captive audience?

In it together

So, my final suggestion is to look at where you can collaborate with similar local businesses to take advantage of one or more of the above suggestions more fully.

It takes a bigger leap of faith sure, but people have different tastes and preferences on any given day, and by combining your efforts where you may lose out on an individual customer on a given day, the overall impact will almost certainly be a more positive one.

So, there we have it, my starting suggestions for how look to leverage word of mouth referrals for your business. I hope you find them useful, and I hope the summer is a successful one for you!

Dave Plunkett

Founder | Chief Collaborator

07904 330628

Connect on LinkedIn

collaborationjunkie.com

PS: If you’ve found this useful why not connect on LinkedIn.  Or if you know someone who this might be useful for, do them a favour and let them know.

How to Think Big and Create Sustainable Business Growth

How to Think Big and Create Sustainable Business Growth

Creating sustainable growth for your business is a goal shared by all business owners.  But sometimes we can lose sight as to how to achieve this.  ‘Thinking Big’ is an incredibly powerful strategy, but only if it’s done in the right manner; with clarity and with quality.

Clarity is Key

One of the secrets to business success is to ensure that your audience knows and understands what you do. By picking a market or a skillset and sticking to it, you create a much stronger brand and you can then grow your business under that brand in such a way that the goodwill you generate will extend to everything you offer.

By moving between markets or offering random services that aren’t linked together by a common skillset, you risk confusing your target market and the confused mind always says ‘no’.

Think Quality, Not Quantity

If you find you get the biggest buzz from the ‘new’, you need to hear the story of Rand Fishkin, founder and former CEO of Moz. Today, Moz is one of the most successful SEO companies in the world but that wasn’t always the case.

Fishkin describes his obsession with ‘the new’ as “one of Moz’s most consistent, most pernicious failures” under his leadership of the business. Instead of continually improving and refining his offering by focusing on what Moz was good at, the entrepreneurial founder was continually chasing the next big discovery. He wanted to repeat his original experience of finding a problem, solving it and becoming a huge success.

However, this chase led to many new product or features being launched, marketing and then promptly forgotten about. There was no support, no upgrades (both of which are essential in the tech industry), until everything came to a head with severe product failures and what Fishkin describes as “nightmarishly bad customer feedback”.

It was at this point that Moz’s growth rate plummeted from 100% year-on-year to just 20%.

A Lesson Learned

In the end it took years to turn Moz around, something which happened under new leadership. But the lesson was learned by Fishkin, who says he plans to carry it with him for the rest of his career.

In my experience, a successful business is something which needs strategic thinking.  Make time today to stop and consider why you are successful.  Then plan to deliver more of the same rather than diversifying or over-expanding and risking the whole business.  ‘Think big’ but with clarity and quality.

 

5 top tips on how to scale your business successfully

5 top tips on how to scale your business successfully

Your start-up is successful.  Business is good.  Another idea is brewing.  The inkling to start your portfolio has begun …

But before you can launch yourself into that initial phase once again you need to know how to successfully scale your existing business so it can continue to fund your future adventures in business.

Scaling a business is about more than just growing your sales and employing more people. To successfully scale, your business needs to be based on the right foundations which ensure it is equipped to deal with a continued higher volume of transactions. It will undoubtedly involve further investment and a good amount of time invested in strategizing for future success.

At Streamlion, we work with clients at all stages of building and scaling businesses so we thought it would be useful to capture our top 5 tips on how to scale your business successfully.

Top Tip #1: Start at the beginning

It’s all too easy for excitable entrepreneurs to leap over the initial stages of scaling a business and move straight to the increase in marketing or selling. Before that, it’s essential to ensure your business is equipped to handle this extra throughput. Not doing so could result in disappointed customers which, in turn, could seriously damage your reputation and put paid to any future plans for growth. Premature scaling is cited as one of the leading causes of startup failure.

The beginning is planning. Scaling a business is not the same as growing it. Scaling involves innovating your business model as well as your product or service. You need to invest time in working out potential new markets, back-office automation and funding.

Top Tip #2: The price of growth

Scaling a business effectively is never cheap. In fact, one of the most common reasons that startups fail to scale is down to funding. And funding a scale-up is an entirely different prospect to funding a startup so it’s essential to work with experts who can help with creating a sustained growth plan as well as helping you understand the transformations that need to happen to set the business up for a successful future.

Like scaling, finding funding is down to putting in the right preparation and demonstrating that your business is ready for change and growth.

Top Tip #3: Optimisation is key to transformation

To quote Einstein “If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.” Scaling a business needs the same approach; success is all about understanding how things work and how they need improving to cope with a larger volume.

Achieving automation and integration, which are the likely outcomes of optimisation, will likely involve technology. The happy fact is, there’s no shortage of packages, apps and products that can help make things easier. However, finding the right one for your business is critical.

CRMs, automated marketing, accounting and your overall IT network all need to come under the microscope at this stage.

Top Tip #4: A change of pace

Your business goals might be clearer but it’s a well-documented fact that change management needs careful handling.

As well as any team members involved, it’s well worth getting under the skin of your customer experience journey. Plotting out every touchpoint between you and your clients will help to identify any areas that might need attention prior to scaling. We use Customer Journey Maps to help our clients to see any areas of friction which might cause problems when scaled. Additionally, you can identify areas for investment, which could be wrapped up with the other areas that need funding in order to create the very best version of your business.

Top Tip #5: It’s not all about you

Creating a business is a little like having a baby, you bring it into being, nurture and help it to grow and, inevitably, you eventually leave it to stand on its own two feet. This time is now.

For a business to scale, it needs to be able to operate consistently based on the policies and processes you’ve spent so long on assessing and improving. You have options as to whether you outsource some of the regular activities, or whether you hire a team to run things for you. Either way, taking a step back for the first time can be daunting.

The key thing to remember is that you’ve invested time in getting things right, so your business is ready for this, even if you aren’t. It’s also really important to hire the right people – people you know share your values and will continue to inject enthusiasm and innovation into the business.

Finally, as with most things in business, successful scaling is also a mindset. By working with a strong team of advisers and having faith in your own ideas, scalability becomes infinitely easier.

How to drive footfall to your business 

How to drive footfall to your business 

You’ve got your loan agreed and the money is in the bank.

You’ve set up your business, but now you need to drive the sales into the business.

Unfortunately, much as we would all love it to happen immediately, often it takes a bit of time for people to get to know that you now exist.

Having said that you don’t want to spend lots of money on marketing, that’s completely understandable.

So, here are some tips to help you to drive footfall into your business without breaking the bank.

Google my business:

Google is key to you getting found.  So make sure you’re listed on Google my Business.

What’s more it’s free to use.  And often Google will send you a voucher to use for Advertising.

To make it work even harder, get your customers to give you a review.  That way when people find you online, they can also see what a great service you give.

Social Media:

Running a social media account can be hard work.   Having said that social media is a great alternative to having a website and has no cost associated with it, only your time.

Local noticeboards are great places to start to get your name out.  And if you prove popular, are also a great way of getting people to spread the word about you.

Use the platform that you are familiar with and like using and post updates to on that.  People like to be nosy so think about:

  • Behind the scenes
  • Customer of the week
  • News

Flyers:

Key to getting customers is people knowing that you are there.

Using services such as Vista Print allows you to design and print a leaflet at a reasonable price.

Once printed, it’s worth walking around the local area delivering the leaflets through the doors of residents.

Also give them out at key traffic points, for example.

You can also use them as posters on Parish Noticeboards, in the local library.

Board outside the shop:

Create intrigue or stand out with an A board.

This is particularly important if you are up an alleyway and people don’t automatically pass your establishment.

But it also works to get people to notice you.

Get a blank blackboard one which you can attach posters to, or which you can change depending on what is going on.  You can also use this to highlight why people should come & visit.

Just one thing you need to be aware of.  You may need the local council’s permission to put this board out depending on where you are located.

Local Newspaper:

The local newspaper is always looking for stories.  Why not approach them with yours?  Why have you set up, what you’re wanting to offer the local community.

Use your business plan that was developed for your loan to help you.

Incentivising people to come in and come back:

When you’re starting out, it’s worth adding a small incentive to get people to try you out.  Think about giving value, rather than discounting.

So, offering a side dish with any main meal or similar.  Whatever you decide to use, don’t forget to do the maths to make sure it’s not costing you more than it needs to.

To get people coming back, it’s worth thinking about a simple loyalty card.

Do work out what you can give away without impacting the bottom line.  But a couple of examples are:

  • Buy 5 meals, get a free side
  • For every £10 spent, get a stamp. Once you have 10 stamps, get a free meal.

Whilst we recommend using incentives, they should only be used sparingly.

Running special offers all the time creates an expectation for customers that they don’t have to pay full price.  Something you want to avoid.

So there we go, just a few tips to help you on your way.

If you want any further help, do get in touch as we have several partners who can guide you in the right direction.

The Ultimate To Do List For Successful Business Startups

The Ultimate To Do List For Successful Business Startups

Most business ideas are borne out of a desire to change something; to do it better, faster, cheaper (or more profitably).

The energy around a start-up is always tangible and there’s no lack of enthusiasm when it comes to getting things ready for launch. But, it’s important to take the time to check your idea is sound and to take careful steps to ensure you build your dream and not a nightmare experience.

Building a business is one thing. Creating something that is likely to be successful and sustainable is quite another.

We saw, during crisis-hit 2020, that you never know what’s around the corner and your business needs to be carefully thought through and constructed to weather the storm.

Read on for my Ultimate To-Do List For Successful Business Startups.

  1. Build Solid Foundations

This is a little bit about planning and a little bit about investing. For many entrepreneurs, the idea itself is the key to success and, in their mind, hard work will get them there. However, as with anything new, first impressions count. That’s why branding and messaging is so important.

Don’t skimp at this stage. The temptation to rush something to market may be strong but getting the wrong brand – or a weak look and feel – could well be the difference between success and failure. Jumping into the business world is a big decision. You need to be completely convinced you have a great idea.

Additionally, sound foundations and a deep understanding of why you’re doing what you are will stand you in better stead for meeting future challenges.

Invest in a proper study, work out your avatars, understand your market and consider what your brand needs to be synonymous with. Ask yourself what problems your brand is solving; have you got a unique proposition?

  1. Know Your Network

Often in business, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Who has the expertise that you need to tap into? When it comes to startups, the journey from concept to funding, finding expertise and needing to expand can happen rapidly. If you truly believe your idea has legs, you owe it to yourself to spend some time researching how you will achieve each of these stages in the journey. Ask yourself:

  • What sort of funding do you need and where can you get it?
  • What does your initial team look like? Are they in your network or do you need to find them?
  • Have you got the business-wide experience or acumen to drive launch and expansion quickly or do you need to buy this in?

Experience of significant interruption to normal processes has highlighted the importance of business ecosystems and being well networked to survive. No business is an island and your support network comes into its own when the going gets tough.

  1. Focus on Value

I’ve blogged before about how to create a unique value proposition and this concept is so critical to any business startup, even before the proposition takes shape.

With any new idea, you must be able to determine and communicate what value it is adding to the existing offerings in the market. If you can’t identify this, you will struggle to convince potential customers as to why they should do business with you. It is key for gaining the attention and buy-in of investors but also so important in ensuring growth. To grow and scale in as short a timeframe as possible, you need a frictionless business. One of the trickiest things to overcome (and therefore the biggest generator of friction) is competition and a lack of USP so make this one of the first things you think about alongside your new idea.

  1. Be Specific

It’s often tempting for inspired and enthusiastic entrepreneurs to come up with lots of ideas and continually increase their scope. However, the business world these days is much more of an ecosystem. For true success, it’s better to be specific and excel in one area rather than trying to be the expert across a spectrum of areas. Creating a niche and then building a strong presence within it is critical to success.

There are several areas where it pays to be specific. One is in creating and understanding your ideal client avatar. By being clear about who you want to do business you will be far more likely to attract those people. Saying you want to focus on female entrepreneurs is woolly. Saying you’re keen to work with female entrepreneurs in the finance sector who are aiming to exit their business successfully within 5 years is really going to speak to the right people.

  1. Get comfortable outside your comfort zone

Building a successful business was never meant to be easy and it seems the world in which we operate is becoming more complex. Risks are harder to see and assess, yet still need to be calculated and assessed. As an entrepreneur you are highly likely to need to make judgement calls here and there without necessarily having the clarity that you’d like as to what the future holds.

During the COVID crisis, businesses that were able to pivot quickly – to revive and thrive – were those who knew their brand and purpose inside out and could therefore visualise where they sat in the ‘new normal’.

 

Exit Strategies and why the end should start at the beginning

Exit Strategies and why the end should start at the beginning

When it comes to success in business, there’s a chapter people rarely consider. The art of the exit strategy is the part of the business journey which stands entrepreneurs apart from the crowd.

Some would argue that you’ve only been successful if you’ve exited with a return on your investment, ready to move on to the next bigger and better opportunity.

This is the third and final blog in my three-part series about how to Aim Big, Think Big and Act Big. These are the three essential steps to guaranteed business growth that I spoke about in my first blog of the series.

So, how do we Act Big? I’d like to take you back to my little dog, Baxter, and his very big stick. I guess Baxter has the luxury of not needing to worry about where his big stick journey goes. To me, there’s a clear failure coming, when he realises that half a tree isn’t the best thing to decide to carry on a long walk. But, he’s living in the moment, and very happy to do so.

When it comes to business, we can’t afford to set ourselves up for failure. Which is why, oddly, one of the first questions I ask a business founder is “What happens at the end?” I’m not for a minute suggesting their business won’t continue, very successfully, for many years. But I am suggesting that they might not always be a part of it.

Unlocking the door

There are lots of choices when it comes to an exit strategy, the four most common are:

  • Management Buy Out (MBO) – when an executive team combines resources to acquire some or all of the business they manage;
  • Outside Sale – a straight sale to new owners;
  • Merger & Acquisition (M&A) – either merging with a similarly sized company or being bought by a larger one;
  • Initial Public Offering (IPO) – essentially floating on the stock market and raising capital from external investors, not as popular as it once was, following the bursting of the dot-com bubble;

There’s no ‘best’ option as the right strategy will be the one which fits your business and personal goals. It’s this framing and planning stage which should come at the start of the business journey to enable you to structure your business for ultimate success in the exit strategy you choose.

Determining the right balance between personal and business goals as well as honouring any investments needs careful planning. The key point of the strategy is to optimise the value of the business so planning from an early stage provides maximum flexibility and opportunity.

By acknowledging and actioning the need for an exit strategy, not only are we fulfilling the need to Act Big, we are giving ourselves the opportunity to grow yet more in the future as we have the chance to move on to greater challenges or more business opportunities.

 

Seven Simple Questions to ask before Starting your own Business…

Seven Simple Questions to ask before Starting your own Business…

Yesterday I was chatting to someone at the pool and they asked me what I did for a living.

I said “I have my own business”, to which they replied “That’s great, I would love to be my own boss”.

But is that all it’s about?

Definitely not – jumping into the start-up world is a big decision and you need to be completely convinced that you have a great idea you are passionate about.

Even with this belief, you risk a great deal getting started and there’s no guarantee you’ll succeed.

There’s loads of advice online and in start-up workshops, but basically you need to ask yourself seven simple questions before you take the leap:

1. Why do I want to start my own business?

If you simply hate your job, or you’re following a trend, it probably won’t survive. You need to solve a problem in an industry you love and this passion will help you succeed.

2. What problem(s) am I solving?

You need to provide something unique that will solve a problem for someone else. If they can do it themselves then there is no need to buy from you!

3. What lifestyle sacrifices am I willing to make?

It’s a big decision to give up a high-paying job to follow your entrepreneurial idea. You need to be brutally honest with yourself and ask what kind of lifestyle you would be comfortable with.

4. Will my family and friends be supportive?

The small business rollercoaster takes you up and down, and as you veer from ‘busy excitement’ to ‘tumble weed depression’, you need to have supportive people around you.

5. How much money will I need?

It’s good to have some savings to use in the early days, but don’t stretch yourself too thin. Cash flow can be a killer so make sure that you have loans or access to more cash if necessary.

6. Should I grow quickly or take my time?

If you have a great business idea, you should seize the moment and grow as fast as you can. This is best with funding so that your investors can realise quick and profitable returns. However, if you’re going it alone with your own money, you can take a little more time.

7. Am I in the right place to launch my business?

You need to either know, or get to know, your industry and make contacts by going to lots of networking and start-up events. Hearing about the experiences of other people is the best way to learn. This can help you work out whether you’re in the right place geographically to launch your product.

Remember it’s great to be your own boss, but it’s your passion and belief in your business idea, plus a strong and stable support structure that will give you the best possible chance of succeeding.

Why cashflow planning is the secret to business success

Why cashflow planning is the secret to business success

The UK is known for being highly entrepreneurial, with over 99% of all domestic businesses being classified as SMEs.

However, research carried out in 2019 showed that 64% of the British workforce has entrepreneurial dreams but an incredible 41% of those are put off setting up their own business by money fears.

In 2016, Hiscox and Bloomberg carried out research showing that 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start a business fail within the first 18 months. Cash flow is listed as the number one reason for failure.

Cash Is King

No surprise then, that my latest blog is all about cash. That four-letter-word which proves so critical to everything we do in business. At Streamlion, we help businesses to find funding for their entrepreneurial dreams but to do that effectively, we need to really focus in on cash.
Love or loathe the saying, but cash really is king.

Creating a cashflow forecast

When entrepreneurs work with Streamlion to arrange a business loan, we take a detailed look at cashflow forecasts, plotting out how and when they expect to make their sales.

Often, simply by undertaking this task, business owners give real thought to the incomings and outgoings of their business for the first time. It’s easy to think in ‘big handfuls’ when planning a business concept or launch but getting down to the finer detail will quickly expose unsafe assumptions or gaps in your business plan.

Doing a cashflow forecast at an early stage in the life of the business is also a great way to get into the habit of continually updating it. Cashflow isn’t something we glance at now and again. As a successful business owner, you need to have a clear view of your cash situation at pretty much every given moment.

That’s because, even if you have the funding you require to start the business, your cash can also be affected by late payment of invoices. This is an ongoing problem for the majority of Britain’s SMEs. In fact, during 2018, accounting software business FreeAgent found that just 58% of invoices were paid on time or within a 3-day window of their due date.

Gary Turner, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Xero puts this problem into sharp focus:

“Late payments don’t just damage business finances and relationships, they compromise personal finances and relationships. Our research illustrates how getting paid on time can have a dramatic effect on a small business owner’s happiness. When small businesses struggle, the whole of the UK struggles.”

Clarity of cashflow is key to decision making

Having a medium-term view of your cashflow is critical when it comes to business operations. When you run a business, you continually need to make sound decisions, often quickly. Whether your biggest customer goes bankrupt and can’t pay their latest invoice, or emergency investment is needed, you need to know whether the business can cope with the situation financially.

A sudden interruption to cashflow can be catastrophic for SME businesses. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, combatting late payments could keep an additional 500,000 businesses open every year.

The statistics are compelling. Positive cashflow is key to survival unless you have the funding you need to ride out the tricky times. Funding is always at a preferable rate if applied for in advance, so having the information you need, at the click of a button, gives you and your business a distinct advantage.

As recently as 2018, the government committed to improving the late payment situation by affording protection to smaller businesses, who are the main sufferers when larger companies take too long to pay. So, the issue has been recognised, but we’re yet to see any firm legislation. Let’s hope our leaders can see the benefit of supporting entrepreneurship and work harder to ensure the UK retains its reputation as one of the best countries in the world in which to start a business.