Partnering with the voice and data channel means we get to work with a lot of entrepreneurs. They are usually straight-talking, candid individuals that have a passion for their company, customers and staff. Jola Partners are unapologetic about calling me up on evenings and weekends and the conversations we have are often as much about our businesses as they are about customers and products. Working everyday with entrepreneurs is inspiring and I always encourage people thinking about starting up on their own to consider the business communications sector (and to partner with Jola).
2016 marks the 30th anniversary of my career in Telecommunications and Business IT and 20 years ago I started my first company. Since then I have been directly involved with eight start-ups as a director and/or investor. Recently I was thinking about these ventures and found myself growling over the mistakes I had made. These are summarised below and you can download the full paper for free.
1. “Don’t go dancing when you’re ugly” - If you really need to raise capital from professional investors make sure you don’t run out of money before the deal closes.
2. Don’t just trust – Trust is the contract of last resort. If it matters to you then get it agreed in writing and for big decisions use the best professional advisors you can afford.
3. Don’t just plan, you actually have to do it – You are more likely to attract investment at a good valuation if you have put money in yourself and can demonstrate traction.
4. Don’t do it on your own but don’t choose a clone – An invested management team is usually better than flying solo but make sure you have complementary talents.
5. Don’t be shy, talk to people – There is no shame in asking advice from people that have built businesses in your sector. You may be surprised how happy they are to help.
6. Don’t get hung up with inventing something new – Bleeding edge technology is difficult. Consider instead picking markets and products you know well, and do it better.
7. Don’t assume all sectors are the same – Consider sectors with the higher P/E ratios in which to build your business.
8. Don’t go native – Maintain your intellectual honesty and be prepared to change direction completely if you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
9. Don’t think your plan is just for raising money – Your business plan becomes your budget. Stick to it and re-forecast every quarter at least.
10. Don’t underestimate your competition – Research your competitors thoroughly and objectively. Never tell investors there really is no competitor to what you do. They will run a mile.